Though some might take it for granted, water has played a profound role in the development of civilization. As one of the necessities for life, many early civilizations sought their locations near water and it should not come as a surprise that those with ample access to water saw tremendous growth as a community. Ancient civilizations established by water often grew in power. Egypt had the Nile River and the ancient Chinese were established by the Yellow and Yangtze Rivers. Oceans and rivers became an important means of travel and during the exploration periods, access to water was crucial. Water is more than the thirst-quenching liquid that keeps the body hydrated. It is a source of economic strength, an important route for travel and is an important aspect for a nation’s wealth. Here is a listing of some of the most important water landmarks worldwide with information regarding how each has shaped world culture.
As the second largest river in the world, the Amazon River is revered for its vast size. Stretching across the top part of South America, much of the Amazon River traverses through tropical rainforest before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. The river flows through Brazil and Peru and is the main water supply for a wide array of wildlife. Its tributaries stretch through other countries such as Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia. It is estimated that more than 1/3 of all animal species worldwide make their home in the Amazon Rainforest and many species continue to be discovered. Several animals native to the Amazon include the Amazon River Dolphin and Amazonian Manatee. No bridges stretch across the Amazon River.
The Nile River is the longest River worldwide and flows through Africa. Stretching throughout Egypt, the Nile River continues to wind its way through the Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania. The Nile River has been recorded since antiquity, as it was the primary location upon which Ancient Egypt was built.
There are two main tributaries associated with the Nile before the river pours into the Mediterranean Sea. These are the White and Blue Nile. As the Nile flows through many countries, it has been the source of contention between Egypt and the nations that comprise the Horn of Africa. This includes Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Uganda and Kenya have also joined in the debate, resulting in the Nile Basin Initiative, which seeks to develop peaceful sharing of the Nile’s resources.
Although the actual construction of the Panama Canal dates back to the 20th century, the original vision for the bridge between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans dates back to the 16th century. The idea for the canal originated as a way to make transport between Spain, South America, and Asia simpler. As European travel was an expensive and sometimes grueling undertaking, the idea of the canal seemed a solution to making trips between the powerful nation and the lands of South America easier.
It appeared Europe would be the one to create the canal; however, those plans ended. Once France successfully built the Suez Canal, which opened in November 1869, the United States began to realize they too could create an amazing water passageway. The United States bought France’s interest in the canal for $40 million and after great contention with the people of Panama; building on the Panama Canal began on May 4, 1904. The canal opened for use on August 15, 1914.
Five freshwater lakes compose the Great Lakes that stretch across the United States and Canadian border. They are Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior, and Lake Erie. Collectively, they are known as the Great Lakes and comprise the largest body of freshwater lakes worldwide. The lakes are so vast they complete 21% of the earth’s freshwater located on the surface. The lakes cover 95,000 square miles. Of all the lakes, Lake Erie is the smallest.
Situated on the Niagara River that empties into two of the Great Lakes, Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, is Niagara Falls. The Falls consist of the larger Horseshoe and American Falls and the smaller Bridal Veil Falls. As the voluminous waterfalls are located on the Canadian and American border, they are found between Niagara Falls, New York and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a large body of water that is situated between the lower parts of the southern United States, Cuba, and Mexico. The Florida Straits connect the Gulf with the Atlantic Ocean and Yucatan Channel connects it to the Caribbean Sea. U.S. States located on the Gulf of Mexico include Florida, Louisiana, and Texas. The Gulf of Mexico is home to much marine life, and was the location for the April 20, 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill.
Also known as the Gulf of Arabia or the Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea stretches through Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Yemen, and Somalia. The Red Sea is an Indian Ocean inlet and can trace its uses as a travel route back to Ancient Egypt. The sea is home to numerous coral and marine life and is known for having a well-developed coral reef system. The sea is known for its rich diversity.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth and is known for its extreme mix of salts and minerals. Due to the salinity of the sea, it is referred to as “dead” as it is difficult for marine life to survive in the waters. It is believed that the Dead Sea has a salinity of 33.7% making it more saline than other oceans. The high mineral and salt content has made this body of water one of the oldest known therapeutic and rejuvenating spas. The water has attracted visitors for thousands of years, as many believe the water’s mineral content brings healing to the body.
The Mississippi River is the largest in the United States and flows through ten states including Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. Due to its vast size, the river is categorized into three areas: the Upper Mississippi, the Lower Mississippi, and the Middle Mississippi. Numerous communities settled along the Mississippi and those cities and towns continue to thrive. Evidence shows that before settlers came to the United States, the Native Americans had established trade routes and engaged in the cultivation of agriculture along the river.