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Matt Rosenberg

Do All Rivers Flow South?

By June 28, 2006

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It disturbs me how often I'm asked why "x" river flows northward or for the name of three rivers that flow north. Most of these questions come from Americans who, for some reason, must presume that since the Mississippi flows south, all rivers on the planet flow south. Thus, to hopefully educate the world about the goals and desires of rivers, I've written a new article called, Rivers Flowing North. Cheers!


June 28, 2006 at 12:45 pm
(1) Nick Greene says:

Gee, Matt, I thought water was attracted to the South Magnetic Pole. ;-)

Seriously, great article. I’ve been frustrated by this as well, just as I am by Americans who think New Mexico is in another country.

June 28, 2006 at 10:58 pm
(2) STEPHEN HAYS says:


June 29, 2006 at 1:48 am
(3) Matt Rosenberg says:

Hi Stephem

For the most part underground rivers also flow via gravity although there are underground springs and the like that are under pressure and can flow uphill and create such things as geysers.

June 29, 2006 at 11:11 am
(4) jim says:

nile flows north

March 21, 2007 at 4:19 pm
(5) Princess Mari says:

Mr. Rosenberg,
I find you lucky to be a smart man for I also find you pompous.

September 7, 2008 at 5:44 pm
(6) demex says:

Wow, good job of making yourself look like an ass. Instead of assuming that most people think rivers flow north to south is because they never saw the reverse you think it is because they only saw one river. Most people think rivers have to flow north to south is because most rivers DO flow north to south. The percentage of rivers that flow in the opposite direction is small at best.

September 15, 2008 at 7:53 pm
(7) hennef says:

Wow! Most rivers flow south?

Must check the Rhine again next time :P

I guess in Germany we have to think that all rivers flow north then… because they do?

I wonder if it has something to do with those hills everywhere “down” south. Crazy thing how I can constantly travel “down” when I drive from bavaria to my hometown in the “lower” north :D

I seriously have NEVER heard of anyone thinking that all rivers would flow south – I love that!

October 20, 2011 at 5:08 am
(8) antihennef says:

If most rivers do indeed flow south, then at least one must flow north. Invoking the Rhine, ONE RIVER, does nothing to detract from the initial claim. The ignorance is reinforced in the last line of the post, in which an original “most rivers” becomes “all rivers”. I wonder, are you a politician?

November 10, 2008 at 7:29 am
(9) a teacher says:

people believe this because the media tells them. (reference this weeks edition of “first news”, the weekly paper for the younger reader) it is left to the unsuspectiong classroom teacher to try to dispell this myth, however with the constant repetition of this myth from so called reliable sources, few believe us!

January 28, 2009 at 11:28 am
(10) Melissa says:

I have been trying to find this, I told my son all rivers flow south except one, the Nile, this is what I was taught in school, he told me to prove it! I stand corrected, most rivers flow south, but a few do flow north, I will direct my son to this article and the one that rivers flow north , wonder what they teach the younger kids in school today about rivers?

March 20, 2009 at 10:17 pm
(11) Angie says:

Rather than looking at a map, look at the globe which is the true shape of our earth. Rivers can flow in any direction but it always flows DOWN…towards the larger source of water.

May 17, 2009 at 8:38 am
(12) steve says:

I am sure there is a reasonable geological answer to all of the comments above. “All” is a big word. Where you live shapes your paradigms. I was tought the same thiing. I believed the age of the river was related (I.E. the mountains grew up around the river). Lets all be friends.

February 6, 2010 at 9:15 am
(13) Russ says:

I didn’t even know rivers flowed, so this is very enlightening for me.

February 12, 2010 at 10:04 am
(14) Nick Greene is from New Mexico! says:

Nick Greene, you seem like the typical anti-American American. You found this article by some sort of inquiry regarding rivers that flow north. I have never heard of someone thinking New Mexico is a country, aside from tee-shirts mocking idiots like yourself.

March 13, 2010 at 7:26 pm
(15) Ivo R. says:

@demex: Most Rivers DO flow south? Strange how then the Nile flows north (guess even the so called “stupid americans” know the name of that one … since it is the biggest one on earth), the Ob River (another 2000+ miles river though maybe not known by the same people, since it is located in the enemy zone (Russia)

Not to mention the Ohio River (Mississippi may flow south, but that one does not and it is the largest tributary of the Mississippi River) and so on and so on …

I guess, the easiest way today to find the answer is to google for north-flowing river lol :)

Btw, was joking with the “stupid americans” … was kind of sarcasm (for the ppl who did not get it .. )

March 25, 2010 at 10:57 am
(16) Christie says:

Surely, if Americans were so stupid, they wouldn’t be citizens of the richest country in the world. Just in case there are those who didn’t know, The United States of America is THE richest country in the world, governed by Americans. So if Americans are stupid….what exactly does that make the rest of the world who obviously aren’t nearly as rich as the stupid Americans? Should a new word be established just to describe these people? Hmm, I’m beginning to think being called stupid could be a wonderful thing if no other country can be described like this, seeing how Americans are doing significantly better than any other country in the world. I mean if we weren’t, why are we the richest? Why is it that America is the land of opportunity and not somewhere else? I don’t know the answer to that or the answer to the river flow question. But that would be expected of a stupid American right? :D

December 2, 2011 at 6:48 am
(17) Really? says:

I just have to say our national debt to other countries is over 15 trillion (YES that’s right I said TRILLION) dollars. We will never pay off all of that and since most of it to China because we have gotten pretty much everything from over since NAFTA was passed, they will probably own the united states in the next hundred years, if not less.

April 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm
(18) Not an American says:

Christie should be ashamed of herself for those comments. She ranks #1 as the most pompous American I’ve ever heard.
P.S. I’ve met a lot of great people from the U.S.

April 13, 2010 at 8:14 am
(19) frustrated teacer says:

I am so frustrated by kids insisting that rivers flow south as it is downhill and their mum says so!
Recently reinforced by Joanna Lumley’s ITV programme on the Nile (at least this is what one smug student has just used as evidence against me.
I am going to use your srticle as backup as apparently seeing it on a map isn;t good enough!

May 14, 2010 at 11:24 am
(20) Michael VanGilder says:

I always thought it had something to do with centrifugal force. As the earth turns, the equator will move faster (since it is further from the axis of rotation.) But, according to my theory, all reverse should flow north, in the northern hemisphere, and self in the southern. However, this obviously is not the case. This centrifugal force thing is probably part of the equation. This, along with different elevations, and something else which I cannot find the yet, is probably the answer to that direction that Rivers flow.

July 14, 2010 at 8:22 am
(21) Philip says:

The Niagara River flows Northward.

August 9, 2010 at 12:25 am
(22) Adam says:

In West Virginia, we’re familiar with the New River, which flows northwards all the way from North Carolina.

Then again, the park officials and tour guides all seem to tell us that only the New River and the Nile flow northwards. Clearly they don’t get out much, lol.

September 1, 2010 at 9:33 pm
(23) Wildlife Lover says:

While naturalist guiding in Yellowstone, I had a guest who insisted that all northern hemisphere rivers flow south because of the centrifigal force of the earth. I was explaining to her that Yellowstone Lake, over geologic time, had drained into the Pacific and the Arctic Oceans. She didn’t think it was possible for it to have ever drained to the north. (It now drains into the Atlantic).

September 14, 2010 at 7:57 pm
(24) Tom 3:16 says:

The Fox River in Green Bay WI flows North into The Green Bay … and then Lake Michigan.

October 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm
(25) Student says:

I have never had any generalizations been taught to me about rivers flowing, but many sites said that the Nile was the only one that flowed north. This article was very enlightening and so was another one I found that had a list of over 20 rivers longer than 100 miles that flowed North. Also, Christie is one of the most pompous stupid, and arrogant people I’ve ever seen. You know why America is better off than other countries? Because we weren’t under brutal colonial rule for hundreds of years. We have had corrupt governments, and we are getting stupider, as test results have shown. Yahoo answer questions asking how many continents are in the U.S. only serve to reinforce my point.

December 12, 2010 at 2:32 am
(26) RO says:

What about west and east, are these not legitimate directions for rivers to flow? Do people really think the earth is flat? To think water runs in one particular direction for some fantastical reason suggests a lack of knowledge of gravity for a start…

December 23, 2010 at 12:03 am
(27) Mike says:


More than just the Nile River and the New River that flow North.

March 21, 2011 at 8:19 am
(28) Jeremiah says:

Wow Christie, I think you’re about as ignorant as they come. Governed by Americans? Give me a break. And it’s “easy” to get rich when you steal all your money. The Federal Reserve is owned by foreigners. I bet you thought it was owned by Americans too, didn’t you Christie? Please jump back on and defend yourself, I’m sure I’m not the only one in awe of your ignorance…

May 5, 2011 at 1:40 am
(29) Jesse says:

All of America’s money was from theft, huh? I guess it had nothing to do with trade and industrialization. Now, assuming you are correct, when exactly did this begin and from whom exactly was it stolen? Oh, here is a neat fact: I don’t know where you are from, but I can almost certainly say that your ancestors at one time, whether recent or not, were marauders of some sort, murdering for land and wealth. Even regarding only recent events I could go on and on about things each country in the world did or neglected to do that are inexcusably shameful. There is no country that has a clean slate, so don’t pretend that your country is so wonderful. Also, the U.S. hands out money to almost every country in the world, many because its government can’t properly take care of its citizens. What has your country done recently to help another country?

April 20, 2011 at 1:43 pm
(30) Kay says:

I understand that some people may not know that some fivers flow north, but what does that have to do with being American? I’m honestly getting tired of that kind of attitude. Just because someone is American they are ignorant? That’s not only an arrogant assumption, it’s an ignorant one itself. A little something called a sweeping generalization. People see what they want to see, so when anti-American oriented people look at Americans, they’re only going to see the ignorant and the uninformed, despite the fact that all around them are perfectly well-educated Americans as well. Those ones don’t get any notice because they don’t fit in to the predetermined bias. What a bad mode of thinking, it’s like being willfully blind.

May 5, 2011 at 1:18 am
(31) Jesse says:

It saddens me greatly that a supposedly educational article would make such a reference to the general level of intelligence of a nation’s people, even if indirectly. That being said, I believe that the article ends with a false presumption: that all rivers flow downhill. While this may typically be the case, I believe subglacial rivers/streams can flow upwards due to pressure from the overlying glacier.

May 20, 2011 at 10:24 am
(32) Brian Cooper says:

It also reads as a general put-down to all those poor schmoes who haven’t “traveled widely across North America and has visited or studied in Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.”

July 5, 2011 at 11:50 am
(33) non-stupid american says:

This may come off as a little ignorant and arrogant but most of the people I know are genuinely stupid. And most are american. But being rich has nothingto do with being smart as we are easily becoming the dumbest country. Common sense has gone out the window let alone knowledge. I know there are smart Americans out there, bit most of the world thinks we’re stupid because all they see are the dumb ones.

July 10, 2011 at 8:45 pm
(34) paddy says:

I’m Irish and live in England my sister is American and my brother is Australian. Having served in the navy for 10 years and visited many countries I can report first hand that there are many many really nice wonderful intelligent people on the blue marble and some wonderful dumb stupid nice people as well. Now can we all agree that water flows from high elevation to low elevation and meanders in all directions of the compass. Please don’t point out capillary action osmosis or evaporation we’re talking rivers here. smile.

November 11, 2011 at 9:22 pm
(35) ryan says:

Was taught in (american public) school that the nile was the only river in the worl that flowed north. That was just many things I remember from school and church that, even as a kid, made me think “That doesn’t make any F@#&ing sense!” That’s why it is considered a dumb American thing, because it is taught in our geography books.

Dumb isn’t quite the right word. Ignorant is more suiting. In our defense, America can be a hard place to get accurate information about the outside world due to the media monopoly. A lot of times the sweetet people are the ones who seem to be most misinformed, because they are the most trusting.

November 12, 2011 at 9:05 pm
(36) Jason says:

It’s always lovely reading comments from such intelligent people who live in other countries. We Americans wish we were as smart as you! Seriously! We are all idiots here. That’s why we’re the most powerful country in the world. And it’s also why you’re here, on a website created by Americans on the Internet, also created by Americans, typing your comments on your American made and designed computers to educate us idiot Americans!! Hey, how about since you’re so smart and your country is so great you stay there and off of these stupid American sites on this stupid Internet these idiot Americans created for you to leave your intelligent answers?!! That would be lovely!!:-) thanks!

An American Idiot

February 8, 2012 at 2:08 pm
(37) John Bonhomme says:

Most rivers in Norhern Ontario (thats in Canada North America) flows nrth toward Hudson Bay

February 10, 2012 at 12:45 pm
(38) John Bonhomme says:

to jason you are not stupid that what you are taught in school but most of the inventions that you write about are in co-operation with other people from around the world and by the way we live in north america too and have a few inventions of our own ex: Insulin,telephone,basketball,hockey.canarm which your government use for outer space please wise up

March 5, 2012 at 3:35 am
(39) X River says:

Hi i think you need a bit more information TT – TT

March 6, 2012 at 2:06 am
(40) PCL says:

I’ve run into people who thought that all rivers flowed South; it always struck me as odd that anyone would think that. There are plenty of rivers that flow West to East (the Charles river in Boston flows East and slightly North) or East to West and most of them take dips and turns along the way. The main reason so few rivers flow North is probably that so many continents have larger southern coasts than northern coasts; with the Arctic ice cap abutting N. America and Eurasia. What would be really interesting would be a river that flowed inland and ended in a terminal lake. It would require a well protected, lower than sea-level, inland desert . I believe Death Valley is fairly low, but I know of no terminal lakes there; Holland, being below sea level, would be perfect except for the fact that it’s sure no desert. If one were to exist, it would have a finite lifespan unless someone were continually mining salt from around the lake end.

March 6, 2012 at 2:31 am
(41) PCL says:

Followup: Death Valley’s Lowest Point is Badwater at -282 feet or -86 meters. So, all it would take would be a canal from the Pacific.

March 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm
(42) briantxstate says:

It’s natural to hate on America since we now lea.d the world. The question is really an Academic one about rivers. The answer is clear that most rivers to in fact flow North to South. He only confuses the issue with his prejudice. The world gets dumber every time he writes.

June 21, 2012 at 11:21 am
(43) thet says:

All river flow from higher to lower ground.
Flow direction of a river is related to local topographic structure.

October 4, 2012 at 7:43 pm
(44) Brennan says:

This must come from Americans? I’m American and I never heard of this. Nice try though.

October 9, 2012 at 4:14 pm
(45) AboutDotDave says:

The French Broad River in NC, TN, SC etc…. area also flows Northeast. If you need more examples.

November 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm
(46) Drake says:

Your article is very helpful. If you hadn’t said anything about Americans or the Mississippi, it would have been better. Generalizations never make speakers or writers sound intelligent. I “googled” this question because I came across the belief that rivers run south in Vitruvius, and wanted to investigate. Instead of finding a clear answer, I found a sarcastic one which makes me feel unintelligent both for asking the question, and for being an American.

I think the writers of about.com should encourage questions and curiousity, not matter how far below the writers’ degree

November 21, 2012 at 11:34 pm
(47) Vital says:

“Rich” doesn’t mean “smart.” So if you think all rich people are smart, think again. It’s opportunity that gets you rich not intelligence. There are cases of course that intelligence gets you rich but not in every case.

March 21, 2013 at 10:08 pm
(48) Chris says:

The Red River on the Border of Minnesota and N. Dakota flows North.

April 24, 2013 at 3:53 pm
(49) wayne says:

Christy,so many people just can’t handle the truth.You said it like it is.

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