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Zambezi River


The mighty Zambezi (zămbē'zē) river, c.1,700 ml (2,740 km) long, rising in NW Zambia, South central Africa, and flowing in an S-shaped course generally East through Eastern Angola, along the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, and through central Mozambique to the Mozambique Channel of the Indian Ocean, near Chinde.

The upper Zambezi flows over part of the great basalt plateau of Africa; the middle Zambezi is entrenched in the plateau (Victoria Falls and Kariba Gorge are there); and the lower Zambezi flows through a wide valley. Many rapids interrupt the river's flow, making it unsuited for navigation; however, its navigable stretches are used for local traffic. Kariba Lake, impounded by Kariba Dam, and Cahora Bassa Lake, behind the Cahora Bassa Dam, are among the world's largest human-made lakes.

The Zambezi's banks are fertile and well populated. The river has great hydroelectricity-generating potential; there is a small power plant at Victoria Falls, and much larger ones at Kariba Dam and Cahora Bassa Dam. The name is also spelled Zambesi and, in Angola and Mozambique, Zambeze.

The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa, and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean. The area of its basin is 1,570,000 km2 (606,000 miles2), slightly less than half that of the Nile. The 2,574 km (1,600 mile) long river has its source in Zambia and flows through Angola, along the border of Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe, to Mozambique, where it empties into the Indian Ocean.