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(zămbē`zē), river, c.1,700 mi (2,740 km) long, rising in NW Zambia, S central Africa, and flowing in an S-shaped course generally E through E Angola, along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, and through central Mozambique to the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean, near Chinde. The upper Zambezi flows over part of the great basalt plateau of Africa; the middle Zambezi is entrenched in the plateau (Victoria FallsVictoria Falls,
waterfall, c.1 mi (1.6 km) wide with a maximum drop of 420 ft (128 m), in the Zambezi River, S central Africa, on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border. The falls are formed as the Zambezi plummets into a narrow chasm (c.
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 and Kariba Gorge are there); and the lower Zambezi flows through a wide valley. Many rapids interrupt the river's flow, making it unsuited for navigation; however, its navigable stretches are used for local traffic. Kariba Lake, impounded by Kariba DamKariba Dam
, hydroelectric project, in Kariba Gorge of the Zambezi River, on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, S central Africa; built 1955–59. One of the world's largest dams, it is 420 ft (128 m) high and 1,900 ft (579 m) long.
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, and Cahora Bassa Lake, behind the Cahora Bassa Dam, are among the world's largest human-made lakes. The Zambezi's banks are fertile and well populated. The river has great hydroelectricity-generating potential; there is a small power plant at Victoria Falls, and much larger ones at Kariba Dam and Cahora Bassa Dam. The name is also spelled Zambesi and, in Angola and Mozambique, Zambeze.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a river in Africa. Length, about 2,600 km; basin area, 1.33 million sq km. Its sources are in the Congo-Zambezi plateau of Zambia, 1,100 m above sea level. The rivers and lakes of the Zambezi basin lie in the territory of Zambia, Southern Rhodesia, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, and Botswana. The most important tributaries are the Lungue-Bungo, Luanguinga, Linyanti (Chobe; in the upper and middle reaches, Cuando), Umniati, and Leungue on the right and the Kabompo, Luena, Kafue, Luangwa, and Shire on the left. In isolated years and seasons the Okovanggo (Cubango) River is united with the Zambezi basin. One of the largest African lakes—Lake Nyasa (Malawi)—belongs to the Zambezi basin.

In its upper reaches the Zambezi flows through the Barotse Plain, with a small drop (averaging 0.2 m per km over 1,200 km). There is a series of rapids and waterfalls, including the Ngonye Falls, 100 km below the influx of the Luanguinga River. Below, the Zambezi again flows over the flat, very marshy Sesheke Plain. The Victoria Falls are 75 km below the Linyanti (Chobe) River’s influx into the Zambezi. Lake Kariba (area, 5,200 sq km) stretches to Kariba. Between Zumbo and Chicoa the valley broadens; below Chicoa there is a section of rapids (particularly, the Kebrabassa rapids).

In its lower reaches the Zambezi has, as a rule, a broad valley and a broad river bed (5–8 km with the exception of Lupata Gorge). After receiving the Shire River, the Zambezi flows across the Mozambique Plain. The delta begins 120 km from the Mozambique Channel, where the Zambezi empties. The sole navigable arm is the Chinde; the port of the same name is on it.

The Zambezi’s water source is primarily pluvial. Spring high water, often extending to autumn, is typical. The rise of the water begins in December, reaches maximum flow in March and April, and then begins to decrease. The maximum monthly flow in any year can be more than ten times as great as the minimum. The average discharge at the mouth is 16,000 cu m per sec; the sediment discharge of the river constitutes 100 million tons a year.

The rivers of,the Zambezi basin have enormous reserves of hydroelectric energy (137 million kilowatts with the complete utilization of the flow). In the early 1970’s only an insignificant part of these reserves was being used (the only major hydroelectric station is at Kariba, on the border between Zambia and Southern Rhodesia, 705,000 kilowatts). The construction of a hydrotechnical complex on the Cabora-Bassa was begun in the lower reaches of the Zambezi (in Mozambique). A number of hydrotechnical projects have been elaborated for the Kafue, Shire’, and other rivers. Little use is made of the waters of the Zambezi basin for irrigation. Navigation is complicated by the presence of rapids and significant seasonal fluctuation in the water flow, and it exists only on separate, isolated sections. The main navigable sections are in the territory of Zambia. There is fishing in the rivers and lakes of the Zambezi basin, expanded by the creation of the Kariba Dam.


Dmitrevskii, lu. D.Vnutrennie vody Afriki i ikh ispol’zovanie. Leningrad, 1967.
Dmitrevskii, lu. D. “Zambezi.”Uch. zap. Vologodskogo pedinstituta, 1959, vol. 24.
Wellington, J. H.Southern Africa: A Geographical Study, vols. 1–2. Cambridge, 1955.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Zambese
a river in S central and E Africa, rising in NW Zambia and flowing across E Angola back into Zambia, continuing south to the Caprivi Strip of Namibia, then east forming the Zambia--Zimbabwe border, and finally crossing Mozambique to the Indian Ocean: the fourth longest river in Africa. Length: 2740 km (1700 miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Following a settlement with the government of Portugal in 2005, the 2,075MW Cahora Bassa scheme on the River Zambezi in Tete Province is now controlled by the government of Mozambique.
19 Which falls on the River Zambezi in Africa were named after a British queen by the explorer David Livingstone?
A group of European and South African investors decided to build Cahora Bassa on the River Zambezi in Tete Province when Mozambique was still under Portuguese rule and Maputo was still known as Lourenco Marques.