Snapshot: the Niger River, our next door neighbor

Our family lives next to the Niger River. Literally, just on the other side of our compound walls, is about 25 yards of marshy riverbank leading up to the dike which keeps the waters of this principal river of West Africa from flooding our part of the city. And though I have mentioned this river many times, I imagine that most of you don’t know much about this important body of water.

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Photo credit: Deborah Knight. We call these the “pumpkin boats”, for obvious reasons.

The Niger River is the third longest river in all of Africa, coming in behind the Nile and Congo Rivers. (4,180 km or 2,597 mi long) It begins in the Guinea Highlands and flows into the Atlantic Ocean’s Gulf of New Guinea.

niger river map

Image credit: wikipedia

The Niger river takes a highly unusual path through West Africa. Although it begins just 150 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, this important source of water flows inland. From there it flows north into Mali and then south through Niger, Nigeria and then eventually spilling into the Atlantic.

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Photo credit: Deborah Knight. These boys are walking through a riverside garden.

There are 36 families of freshwater fish and 250 species living in these waters, 20 of which are found nowhere else on earth but right here in the Niger River. For example, The West African Manatee, which now faces extinction, lives here.

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Photo credit: Nikki Gray. These un-friendly hippos live dangerously close to the city.

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Photo credit: Deborah Knight. Washing clothes in the river is common, though one must be on the lookout for those hippos!

For a country that is 80% desert, this river is a life-saving source of water! Some of you remember the flood of 2012, when the Niger River overtook it’s banks and displaced our family (as well as thousands of others!). That was the first damaging flood in 100 years, though every year, in August and September, those who live near the River’s edge are on “flood watch”.

So that is a little glimpse of our next-door neighbor, the Niger River. I hope you learned something new and interesting!

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photo credit: Deborah Knight

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