How do Cataracts in the Nile River make Transportation Difficult?

Alex Williams
9 Min Read

Different countries have distinct physical features that are unique in themselves. Like the mountains in the Andes and volcanoes in Hawaii. There are numerous such places in the world where you can see the beauty and uniqueness of nature. But what could be the feature of one of the longest rivers in the world that is both beneficial and disruptive? I am talking about the river Nile where the cataract create along the Nile River. Today you will get to know about the reasons why cataracts in the Nile River make transportation difficult. And even when they are disrupting, why are cataracts important feature of the Nile?

1. Where is Nile?

One of the major rivers in the world that flows towards the North and into the Mediterranean Sea is the Nile River. Historically, the Nile has been considered the longest river in the world, and its drainage basin covers about 11 countries, namely, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Republic of Sudan, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda. Other than this, the Nile is the major water source for countries like Egypt, Sudan, and South Sudan. (See What are the Rivers that flow South to North?)

2. What is meant by the Term Cataract?

Image by WaSZI from Pixabay

You must have heard this term in the context of eyes but in rivers, it is a heavy rush of water over very steep rock, cliff, or stone. In short, it is like a waterfall with a heavy rush over a precipice. However, the Nile River has the most cataracts that are often considered disruptive, but they are not regarded as waterfalls. These are the extremely shallow regions combined with obstacles that make navigation difficult. Must see What causes Breaking Down of Rocks into Fragments?

3. How Cataract create along the Nile River?

The Nile has been a source of life for everything on its banks from the historical periods. But over the long years, things changed within the Earth which considerably changed its terrain. Why don’t you take a look at the changes before knowing how cataracts in the Nile River make transportation difficult? According to Geologists, the northern Sudan region is more tectonically active than other regions. This activeness is credited for giving the river some youthful characteristics. The course of the river is diverted to the west by the Nubian River, but the shallowness is maintained which led to the formation of cataracts. (See Why is Egypt called the gift of the Nile?)

4. How many Cataracts does Nile River have?

Image by WaSZI from Pixabay

Cataracts in the Nile are located between Aswan and Khartoum. There are a total of 6 cataracts, out of which some cataracts are controlled by the water from the White Nile but at other places, the water flows smoothly but are still shallow and dangerous. It will be interesting to know about all cataracts before moving towards how these cataracts in the Nile River make transportation difficult. Must see How has the Removal of Wetlands Impacted Rivers and Streams?

Here I have mentioned a brief description of the 6 cataracts of the Nile River out of which only the 1st cataract is located in Egypt and the remaining are in Sudan.

  • 1st Cataract: The Aswan Low Dam was the first dam built across the river Nile and the first cataract cuts through this dam. However, Egyptians count these cataracts from the Mediterranean Sea and not from the original source of the river.
  • 2nd Cataract: This cataract along with the 1st cataract is now submerged in water but is under Lake Nasser in Nubia. This region surrounds the 1st and 2nd cataracts.
  • 3rd Cataract: Tombos or Hanek is an island and archeological site in North Sudan where the 3rd cataract forms. It has rocky formations and the location marks the north region of the Kingdom of Kush which was an ancient kingdom.
  • 4th Cataract: This is the place from where real disruption begins because of the Rocky Granite formations that follow one another with the Nile flowing among them. The 4th cataract is located in the Manazir Desert, which is the region of the tribe Manazir. Till today transportation has been impossible due to the cataract and people take the route of the sandy deserts. However, this cataract submerged under the Merowe Dam reservoir but still, the shallowness is continuing the disruptions.
  • 5th Cataract: The north of Atbara City is a location of confluence (the point where two or more water bodies join and form a single channel) where an ambiguous river flows into the river Nile. These are the Atbarah Rivers and this cataract has nice sandy beaches that are considered as its main characteristics.
  • 6th Cataract: The location about 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Khartoum is the point of the 6th and last cataract. At this place, the river Nile cuts through the Sabaluka pluton located near the Bagrawiyah, an ancient city on the East bank of the river Nile. From there, the river Nile flows through a granite canyon and then rounds off the rocky formations that flow into the desert. This path forms the Sabaloka, which are several kilometers long gorges.

5. How do Cataracts in the Nile River make Transportation Difficult?

The overall region of the river Nile through which these cataracts are distributed is termed the Great Bend. These cataracts in the Nile river make transportation difficult in many ways. However, this region has made navigation through water limited for a long time. People from ancient civilizations used to get out of their boats and drag them along the rocky riverbed carefully avoiding the boulders and islets. So, cataracts in the Nile river make transportation difficult? It affects people and their businesses because they are afraid that their goods or lives are in danger. (See What are the 7 Types of Transportation?)

6. Is It Possible to ever cross these Cataracts?

Traveling through the cataracts is only possible if the river is flooded. There are instances when people traveling in their boats found it a lot easier to get through cataracts without damaging their boats during the flood season. Due to the raised water level, the boulders are submerged, and flow is managed, making navigation possible. Check out When can Navigation Rules be Overlooked?

7. Why are Cataracts Important Feature of the Nile?

Image by DEZALB from Pixabay

Cataracts in the Nile River are considered an important feature because the entire cataract system works like a natural boundary between Aswan and Egypt. Thus, it separates Egypt from Nubia, that is towards the North. Large granite outcroppings (the portion of the rock appearing above the land) made the flow unpredictable. Various ancient African civilizations were not discovered and remained uninterrupted due to these cataracts. With limited navigation, several civilizations were able to survive and stay safe from strong competitors.

So, these are the reasons why are cataracts important feature of the Nile. I guess it was interesting to discover how cataracts in the Nile River make transportation difficult. Did you understand how do cataract create along the Nile River and how many cataracts are there? (See What is the Importance of Turnover in Temperate Lakes?)

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