Mark Tanner Home

Map of Nile Flood Locations


Annual Nile River Floods Map
Map of the places of interest related to the annual River Nile Floods.

The first ever people to paddle from the source of the Blue Nile to the Mediterranean Sea

Paddling the Nile

The first ever paddle down the Blue Nile from source to sea. 5,000km through wild rapids, war zones, crocodile and hippo infested waters, disease, terrorists, guns, arrests; the works...


Living the dream in China

Chinese Adventures

Newly married amongst the neon glow and dumpling vendors as we bumble our way trying to figure out the world's most populous nation at this exciting time in it's history...


Solo winter bicycle trek across Canada

The Great Canadian Bike Trek

23 years old and naive, I set off in the middle of Canada's barbaric winter perched on a woolskin seat-cover peddling solo from one side of Canada to the other...





The Importance of the Annual Nile Flooding for the Nile River Valley Civilisation

The annual Nile floods have historically been the most important natural event in Egypt by far. Every year the great flood gifts Northeast Africa the water and silt that brings life to the Sahara desert. Ancient Egypt would not have existed to build their ancient pyramids, temples and tombs were it not for the Nile River floods.

Sphinx and Great Pyramids of Giza in Cairo, Egypt.
The ancient Sphinx sits in shadow of the incredible Great Pyramids of Giza, all there because of the annual Nile flooding.

Ethiopia's Blue Nile - The Origin of the Nile River Floods

Eight countries feed into the Nile River upstream of Egypt. However, Ethiopia's Blue Nile accounts for more than 80% of the Nile's water that flows through Egypt. Since long before there were civilisations along the Nile, the Ethiopian Highlands would experience rain storms every year from June to mid-September. That rain washed the rich volcanic topsoil into the Blue Nile River, which was then carried thousands of kilometres along the Nile through Sudan and Egypt and deposited along its banks and in the über-fertile Nile Delta. For thousands of years the Nile River Valley civilisations relied on this silt to fertilise their crops and animal feed, and the Blue Nile floods to irrigate them.

silt-filled Blue Nile Falls in flood season
Me with Ethiopian Highland villagers at the top of the Blue Nile Falls during flood season. Note the brown-coloured water which is fill of silt that has historically fertilised farmers' crops thousands of miles downstream in Egypt and Sudan.

Nileometers: Ancient Egyptian Devices to Measure the Nile Floods

In ancient Egypt, Nileometers dotted the Nile River to measure variances in water levels of the river. Their importance was significant given the entire Egyptian civilization relied on the annual floods - they could mean the difference between feast and famine. Too much rain washed away infrastructure built on the flood plain; too little rain meant the crops weren't irrigated.

The Nileometers came in different shapes and forms, from vertical columns submerged in the Nile, to steps down to the river. The priests who monitored them obtained power and mystique by predicting crop yields and determined tax to be paid in kind by peasants to their rulers. Historical records showed on average that one in five years the flooding was too little or too much.

The Temple of Philae in Aswan was relocated when the Aswan Dam was built. The temple retains one of the most visited Nileometers from Ancient Egypt - steps down to the Nile.

Aswan Dam - The End of the Great Nile Flood for Egypt

In 1970 when the Aswan High Dam was completed, the annual Nile floods and sediment stopped for most of Egypt's civilisation which lived downstream. In addition to creating electricity, the dam allowed Egyptians to control the flow of water and build upon the Nile's banks with certainty that it wouldn't be flooded. Unfortunately the massive Lake Nasser that formed behind the dam swallowed up much of the Nubian civilisation and stopped the silt that had naturally fertilised Nile Valley farmers' crops for many millennia. The silt is now building up behind the dam causing all sorts of headaches for the Egyptian Government.

Les and I paddling across Southern Egypt's Lake Nasser
Les and I paddling across Egypt's massive Lake Nasser, the byproduct of Aswan Dam. Lake Nasser now bears the load of the annual Nile floods and silt.

What Happens to the Water flowing down the White Nile River?

Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Southern Sudan all feed the White Nile, but none of those countries experience a deluge like Ethiopia that floods the Blue Nile in wet season. In addition, the White Nile's route in Southern Sudan is through the Sudd, the biggest swamp in the world. The Sudd is almost flat and the White Nile flows very slowly through it, evaporating in the excessive heat around 1,000 kilometres/600 miles north of the equator. Less than half of the White Nile's flow is lost in the Sudd. Hence, more than 80% of the Nile's flow in Egypt originating from the Blue Nile.

the world's biggest swamp - The Sudd in Southern Sudan
A small village amongst the endless paparus reeds of the Sudd in Southern Sudan - the world's biggest swamp. More than half of the White Nile that flows through the Sudd evaporates. Photo from

Timing our Nile Expedition with the Nile River Flood

The timing of the Nile River floods was crucial to our attempt to become the first to paddle from the Blue Nile source to sea. To stake claim of a true first descent we had to paddle every section of the river, including the massive rapids of Ethiopia's Blue Nile. The whitewater has taken the lives of many rafters, kayakers and adventurers who have attempted to run it, and in the rainy season that whitewater swells 50 times in volume. Ironically we had to leave during this season. The Blue Nile was at its wildest but many of the narrow sections, dangerous rocks and hazards that made the river impassable at any other time were submerged.

Rafting the brown whitewater down the Blue Nile River in flood during Ethiopia's rainy season.

In 2005 we achieved our dream becoming the first people to paddle the full length of either Nile River to the sea, including the first complete raft of the Blue Nile in flood. For more information about our Nile adventure click here. I'd recommend you take a look!

Other interesting Nile River pages:

The Top-10 Nile River Must-Sees

Yangtze and the Nile - Interesting river facts and stats

The Nile River Trivia Quiz.

tweet this page
submit to reddit