After Yellow Sea facts, it is time for Yellow River facts. Yes, there is an yellow river too!. The Yellow River and the Yellow Sea are closely related because the river drains into the sea and is party responsible for the golden yellow color of the sea. Let us take a look at 30 facts about Yellow River and find out a few interesting things about it.
Before we start with our list, let us take a quick look at some facts in a tabular format.
– River of Sorrow
– China’s Sorrow
– Sorrow of China
– Scourge of the Han People
|Passes through 9 provinces|
– Inner Mongolia
|Left tributaries||Fen River along with several other small rivers|
|Right tributaries||Wei River and Tao River along with several other small rivers|
|Source of the river||Bayan Har Mountains in Qinghai’s Yushu Prefecture|
|Drains into||Bohai Sea – innermost bay of Yellow Sea|
|Length of the river||3,395 miles or 5,464 kilometers|
|River basin or drainage area||290,560 sq. mi. or 752,546 sq. km.|
– Min: 1,030 cubic meters per second
– Average: 2,571 cubic meters per second
– Maximum: 49,000 cubic meters per second
Yellow River Facts: 1-5 | Length, Location, China’s Sorrow
1. How long is Yellow River? It is approximately 5,464 kilometers long and is China’s second longest river. In world, it is the 6th longest river.
2. Where is Yellow River located? The Yellow River is in China and flows through 9 provinces to eventually drain in Yellow Sea (more specifically in Bohai Sea).
3. Why is Yellow River called China’s Sorrow? This is going to get pretty interesting. So, buckle up! The Yellow River is known by several similar names like ‘China’s Sorrow’, ‘The Sorrow’, ‘The Sorrow of China’, ‘River of Sorrow’, ‘Scourge of the Han People’ and more.
4. The reason behind such names is its tendency of frequently creating devastating floods. Some of the floods it causes are so devastating that they kill millions of people. Here is a quick list of some of the most devastating floods it caused (not counting the other floods that killed many more):
|Year of Flooding||Number of People Killed|
|1887||Between 900,000 and 2,000,000|
|1931||Between 1,000,000 and 4,000,000|
5. The table above lists only three floods. However, here is one of the most interesting Yellow River facts: Chinese people started keeping records of the river starting 602 BCE. Between 595 BCE and 1946 CE, the river has flooded a whopping 1,593 times!
Yellow River Facts: 6-10 | China’s Sorrow, Reason for Floods and Course Change
6. What makes it so extremely devastating is that the river actually changes course. Since recorded times, the river as made 9 severe course changes and 26 noticeable course changes. No wonder, it keeps killing people and is called China’s Sorrow.
7. Now the question – why does the Yellow River flood so much? Now this is also interesting. The Yellow River is known for collecting enormous amounts of loess (a type of fine-grained sediment) from the Loess Plateau.
8. This sediment that the river collects gradually gets deposited in river bed, creating slow-accumulating subaqueous natural dam that remains undetectable and unpredictable. There are a few things that happen here.
9. First thing that happens is that the river bed rises slowly because of the vast amounts sediment deposit. This eventually leads to a situation where the water overflows and floods the surrounding regions, which stays low compared to the risen river bed.
10. When the water flows out across North China plains, its carves out new routes to reach the sea, and in the process, destroy everything that falls in its way. From towns to cities to farmlands – the water from the river just destroys anything that comes across its path. However, if there is some resistance in between, the river will then take the path of least resistance. This means that when a new course is etched, it is very difficult to know exactly which way it will flow.
Yellow River Facts: 11-15 | Reasons for Floods and Course Change
11. In olden times (including ancient), Chinese people used to build levees along banks. They used to make these levees higher and higher in order to prevent the river from overflowing.
12. There was a problem with this. The river anyway overflowed because the amount of sediment it deposited on river bed eventually used to raise the river bed level and the water flowed out and when it did, it could not drain back because of the levees (usually after rivers flood, the water recedes back into the river gradually).
13. Here is something important to understand. The levees were more responsible for increasing the height of river bed. The higher the levees, the higher the river bed and hence, flood water receding back into the river was a technical impossibility.
14. The levees were primarily the reason for the Yellow River to dramatically change course before draining into the Bohai Sea. Sometimes, the river would as far as 300 miles or 480 kilometers.
15. Usually the Yellow River drained into Bohai Sea at Shandong Peninsula but such dramatic course changes would mean that sometimes the river drained into the Bohai Sea some 300 miles north of Shandong Peninsula and sometimes 300 miles south of the peninsula.
Yellow River Facts: 16-20 | Purposeful Flooding (War Time)
16. In 1642, the Yellow River caused a flood. But this time, it was man made. The Ming governor of that time of the place called Kaifeng wanted to crush peasant rebels who were led by Li Zicheng. The governor asked his soldiers to break the dikes so that the river could flood the rebels.
17. The exact opposite happened. Instead of flooding the rebels, the Yellow River flooded the governor’s city and destroyed it. Of 378,000 residents of the city, 300,000 died either by drowning or by plague and famine that followed the flooding. The city was then abandoned.
18. 1938, June 9, during Second Sino-Japanese War, Chiang Kai-shek-led Chinese Nationalist troops broke the levees of the river and held back the Huayuankou Village. The reason they did this was that they wanted to prevent the Japanese soldiers from advancing.
19. Because the levees were broken, the Yellow River flooded an area of 20,800 sq. mi. or 54,000 sq. km. The result was that anywhere between 500,000 to 900,000 Chinese people lost their lives. Yes, many Japanese soldiers were also killed.
20. The Japanese Army failed to capture Zhengzhou located on river’s southern banks but the flood couldn’t stop the Japanese from capturing Wuhan, which was the prime target because at that time, it was Chinese government’s temporary seat.
Yellow River Facts: 21-25 | Naming and Geography
21. Why is Yellow River Called Yellow River? There is a reason for this. The water of the river is actually yellow in color. There is no such thing called yellow water because water only turns yellow when something of yellow color is added to it.
22. So, what makes the water of Yellow River yellow? It is the loess sediment that it picks up from Loess Plateau. The loess gives the typical yellow color to the river. The loess is extremely nutrient rich.
23. Are there different stages of Yellow River? Yes, of course! The river has three distinct stages that are named as Upper Reaches, Middle Reaches and Lower Reaches. The table below gives a quick snap shot of each segment.
Upper Reaches of Yellow River Facts:
|Starting Point||Source: Bayan Har Mountains.|
|Ending Point||Hekou Town (Inner Mongolia).|
|Length of the Segment||3,472 kilometers.|
|Flows Through||Knolls, Swamps and pastures that lay between Bayan Har Mountains and Anemaqen Mountains.|
|Basin Area||386,000 square kilometers or 149,000 square miles – constitutes 51.4% of total basin area of Yellow River.|
|Water Type||Clear water and this segment is characterized by crystal clear lakes.|
|Elevation Drop along the segment||11,470 feet or 3,496 meters.|
Middle Reaches of Yellow River Facts:
|Starting Point||At Hekou Town, the river takes a sharp south turn creating what is known as Ordos Loop [this is as per official record].|
|Ending Point||It ends at Zhengzhou, Henan [this is as per the official record].|
|Length of the Segment||1,206 kilometers.|
|Flows Through||Passes through Loess Plateau. This is where 92% of the river’s silt is picked up.|
|Basin Area||133,000 square miles or 344,000 square kilometers – constitutes about 45.7% of total basin area.|
|Water Type||This is where the water gets muddy and silt-laden and takes its characteristic yellow color.|
|Elevation Drop along the segment||2,290 feet or 890 meters.|
Lower Reaches of Yellow River Facts:
|Starting Point||At Zhengzhou.|
|Ending Point||It ends at the mouth where it drains into Bohai Sea. The mouth has actually changed several times because of change in course of the Lower Reaches.|
|Length of the Segment||786 kilometers.|
|Flows Through||Flows across North China Plain.|
|Basin Area||23,000 square kilometers or 8,900 square miles – constitutes about 3% of total basin area.|
|Water Type||Water is still yellow in color because of the silt. The silt is deposited in river bed and because of the levees, the river bed rises creating what is called ‘River Above Ground’.|
|Elevation Drop along the segment||307 feet or 93.6 meters.|
24. How many tributaries does the Yellow River has? There are many. Here is a quick list of the major tributaries of the river:
- Black River
- White River
- Huang Shui
- Datong River
- Tao River
- Qingshui River
- Zuli River
- Daxia River
- Kuye River
- Dahei River
- Wuding River
- Fen River
- Wei River – it is the largest tributary of Yellow River
- Qin River
- Luo River
- Kuo River
- Dawen River
25. At the Lower Reaches, the Yellow River flowing through Kaifeng has an elevation of 33 feet or 10 meters above ground level. No wonder, it is called the ‘River Above Ground’.
Yellow River Facts: 26-30 | Silt Volume, Drying
26. Yellow River is dubbed as World’s Muddiest River. The river carries 1.6 Billion Tons of silt every single year. This amount is collected right at the Loess Plateau. This is what makes it world’s muddiest river. About 1.4 billion tons of this silt gets deposited into the Yellow Sea through the Bohai Sea.
27. In case you didn’t know, there are times when there’s so much of silt that the river’s water looks very much like chocolate milk! One estimate says that the Yellow River carries 34 kilograms of silt every cubic meter. Compared to this, the Nile carries only 1 kilogram of silt every cubic meter and Colorado River carries only 10 kilograms of silt every cubic meter.
28. It is hard to believe that such a river can actually dry up! Well, not the entirety of the river though! This happens a few hundred miles before the river can drain in the Bohai Sea. This phenomenon started back in 1972.
29. The primary reason for the drying is basically increased amounts of water diversion. Yes, a number of dams have been built across the river and they are used for diverting water to other places of China for a number of purposes including irrigation, industrial use etc. There is another reason as well. The global warming and droughts in Tibetan Plateau have also drastically reduced the water levels of the river right at the source.
30. Here are the major drying events of the river but remember that since 1972, there are more than 30 instances of drying:
|Year||Number of days it stayed dry|
|1972||Not known – dried for the first time in history.|
Additional Yellow River Facts:
- The Yellow River is known as the Mother River of China.
- The Yellow River is also known as the Cradle of Chinese Civilization. Yes, this is where the Chinese Civilization actually started in antiquity. Civilization started way back in Neolithic Age.
- Ancient Chinese believed that the Yellow River was actually a continuation of Milky Way and that it descended right from the Heaven.
- The Yellow River is also called China’s Pride because it is where Chinese Civilization started.
- Yellow River is sometimes simply known as The River.