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Thursday, April 18, 2024

9 Differences Between the White Nile and the Blue Nile in Africa

The two major tributaries and the primary water sources for over 11 African countries, the White Nile and the Blue Nile have similar features. However, there are still some dissimilarities among them.

Although the two Niles merge near Khartoum, forming the Nile proper, they have specific differences.

Proceed with your readings to discover the differences between the White Nile and the Blue Nile.

1. Length of the Nile

The significant difference between the white and Blue Nile is that the length isn’t the same. 

White Nile, which rises the Great Lake, is longer than the Blue Nile; 

The longer tributary covers 6,693 km, equivalent to 4,130 miles, while the Blue Nile has about 1,450 km, equal to 900mi in length.

2. Sources of the Nile

Another difference between the two Niles is their water sources, and the basis of the White Nile water is Lake No in South Sudan.

On the other hand, the Blue Nile sources its water from a spring that stretches 6,000 feet (1,800 m) above sea level near Lake Tana in northwestern Ethiopia.

3. Color of the Nile

Dissimilarity in their color is another striking difference between the White Nile and the Blue Nile.

The White Nile has a bit whitish-gray color, and the latter, Blue Nile, has sediments that provide its blue color, but when it reaches Sudan, the residue turns black, making the water black.

4. Supply of water from the two Niles

Although the White Nile is longer than the Blue Nile, the Blue Nile contains more water than the White Nile. 

The Blue Nile supplies about 80% – 85% of Nile water content during the rainy season.

In comparison, about 59% of the water in Egypt originates from the Ethiopian highlands through the Blue Niles.

5. Formation of the Niles 

The formation of the Niles brings about the 5th difference between them.

The Blue Nile formed through volcanic activity, blocking the course of Inflow Rivers in the early Pleistocene times, about 5 million years ago. 

While the White Nile emerged around 30 million years ago, as driven by the motion of the earth’s mantle, a sturdy rock layer between the earth’s core and crust. 

6. Origins of the Niles

The two Niles have different origins – the White Nile originates from Tanzania’s Lake Victoria, flowing northward until it reaches the exact location in Khartoum, Sudan, where it converges with the Blue Nile.

Conversely, the Blue Nile originates in natural springs above Lake Tana in Ethiopia.

7. The basin Sizes

There is a difference in the basin sizes of the two Niles; the White Nile has an estimated basin size of 1.8 million km², while the Blue Nile has about 325,000 km² as its basin size.

8. Dissimilarity in their discharge rates

Dissimilarity in the discharge rate of the white and Blue Nile is another difference between the two Nile. 

The former (White Nile) has a discharge rate of 878m³/s, equivalent to 31,000 cu ft/s, while the latter (Blue Nile) has an approximately discharge rate of 2,349 m³/s.

9. Surrounding countries and cities

Countries surrounding the White Nile countries include Sudan, South Sudan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia. At the same time, the cities around it are Jinja, Khartoum, and Juba.

Conversely, the countries around the Blue Nile are Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. The cities around it are Khartoum, Er Roseires, Gish Abay, Alexandria, and Dinder.

A Glimpse at the White and Blue Nile

The White Nile at a glance

White Nile is the river formed as Lake No, at the confluence of the Bahr el Ghazal Rivers.

We can also say that the White Nile refers to all the stretches of a river draining from Lake Victoria and merging with the Blue Nile.

The White Nile is believed to start from the forest of Rwanda and then flows to Lake Victoria in Tanzania and moves north until it reaches Khartoum, Sudan, where it meets or converges with the Blue Nile. 


John Hanning Speke, an English explorer, discovered the White Nile when he found the Nile source on August 3rd, 1858. 

The name White Nile means stretches of river that is drains from Lake Victoria through to the merger with the Blue Nile.

It includes the headwaters of Lake Victoria, the most remote of which is 3,700 km (2,300 mi) away from the Blue Nile. 

The White Nile coordinates an approximate number of 2°16′55.92″S 29°19′52.32″E, while its length is about 3,700 km (2,300 mi).

 Also, the basin size of the White Nile is estimated to be 1,800,000 km2 (690,000 sq mi), and its Discharge rate is around 878 m³/s. 

Finally, the White Nile coordinates an approximate number of 2°16′55.92″S 29°19′52.32″E.

Color of the White Nile

The White Nile has a whitish-gray color which comes from the light gray sediment it carries.

Sources of the White Nile         

Lake No in South Sudan, North Africa, is the primary source of the White Nile.  

Attractions at the White Nile 

Tomb of Muhammad Ahmad (Madhi) ·

 Sudan National Museum ·

 Khalifa House Museum.

Abu Se’id, Sudan. Bridge

A quick look at the Blue Nile

The Blue Nile originates from a natural spring above Lake Tana in Ethiopia, referred to as the “Abay River,” It flows about 1,450 km (900 mi) through Ethiopia and Sudan.

Discovering the Blue Nile

Just like the White Nile, John Hanning Speke is the person that discovered it in the same year, still in his effort to know the sources of the Nile River.

Notably, the Nile supplies over 60 percent of water contained by the river Nile which is why it is a view as the biggest tributary of the Nile.

The Blue Nile has a distance from its source to its confluence, approximately 1,460 km (910 mi) and 1,600 km (990 mi).

Also, the length of the Nile is estimated to be 1,450 km (900 mi), its basin size is about 325,000 km2 (125,000 sq mi), and its average speed inflow is 1,548 m 3/s (54, 700 cu ft/s).

While considering the water flow of the Blue Nile, the amount of water that flows in the Nile during the rainy season, starting from June to September, gives about 80-86% to the Nile. 

The GPS coordinates of Blue Nile, from Ethiopia, are latitude 12.0000 and Longitude: 37.2500.

Sources of the Blue Nile

The Blue Nile gets its water from Lake Tana in northwestern Ethiopia

Color of the Blue Nile

At the initial stage, the Blue Nile has a Whitish – gray color, but when it reaches the country of Sudan, where the sediment turns black, the water becomes black.

The major attractions at the Blue Nile

The falls of the Blue Nile are another fascinating thing there. The Blue Nile falls over 42m [138ft], consisting of four streams that vary from a trickle in the dry seasons.

Again in Ethiopia, the Blue Nile is one of the major attractions, located at one of Africa’s canyons. 

Economic benefits of White Nile and the Blue Nile

  • The two Niles are the significant sources of water for about 11 countries in Africa.
  • They are the major tributaries of the Nile.
  • The White Nile supplies about 50% volume of water that enters Lake Nasser; it is also called Lake Nubia in Sudan.
  • The Blue Nile serves as a primary source of livelihood in Egypt as the significant tributary of the Nile. 

Is White Nile bigger than the Blue Nile?

Yes, the White Nile is bigger than the Blue Nile, with its length measuring 3,700 km (2,300 mi], while the Blue Nile extends lengthwise with 1,450 km (900 mi).

Which among the White and the Blue Nile has more water?

The Blue Nile has more water than the White Nile, supplying about 80-86% of water to the Nile River.

Why is the Blue Nile called the Blue Nile?

It’s called the Blue Nile because, during flooding, water goes so high to the extent that it changes the color to almost black.

Final Words

One will agree with me that there is a considerable difference between the White and the Blue Nile. 

The above clarification of the Niles will help readers who are curious about their differences to learn with ease.

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