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Mekong RiverBritannica Elementary Article

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  • A portion of the delta of the Mekong River as it flows through southern Vietnam and empties into …
The Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia and the 12th-longest river in the world. It flows through China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam before emptying into the South China Sea. It is about 2,700 miles (4,350 kilometers) long.

The Mekong begins at a height of more than 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) in the mountains of Tibet. The upper course of the river has cut a long, narrow valley through the rugged land of southwestern China. The river becomes calmer and broader as it continues through the Indochinese peninsula.

The lower course of the Mekong begins at the point where the river forms the border between Myanmar and Laos. South of this border the river enters Cambodia with a sudden plunge of 45 feet (14 meters) at Khone Falls. This is one of the world's most powerful waterfalls, with a volume of 2.5 million gallons (9.5 million liters) per second. At Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the Mekong joins a huge natural reservoir called Tonle Sap, or the Great Lake. It empties into the South China Sea south of Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

The Mekong carries huge quantities of mud, and this has formed a huge delta at its mouth. Rice scattered on the flooded delta sinks into the mud, sprouts there, and grows up through the water. The Mekong Delta is one of the world's great producers of rice.

The heavy summer rains along the lower part of the Mekong bring it to its highest level in October. During flood season the river's depth can increase from 5 feet (1.5 meters) to nearly 45 feet (14 meters). After October the dry season begins and the river's depth drops.