Limpopo River in "Mozambique
|Countries||"South Africa, "Botswana, "Zimbabwe, "Mozambique|
|Source confluence||"Marico and "Crocodile|
|- location||Botswana/South Africa border|
|- elevation||872 m (2,861 ft)|
|- location||"Gaza Province, "Mozambique|
|Length||1,750 km (1,087 mi)|
|Basin||415,000 km2 (160,232 sq mi)|
|- average||170 m3/s (6,003 cu ft/s)|
Course and watershed of the Limpopo River
The Limpopo River rises in central southern "Africa, and flows generally eastwards to the "Indian Ocean. The term Limpopo is the isiZulu version of the original Sepedi name diphororo tša meetse, meaning "gushing strong waterfalls". The river is approximately 1,750 kilometres (1,087 mi) long, with a "drainage basin 415,000 square kilometres (160,200 sq mi) in size. The mean "discharge measured over a year is 170 "m3/s (6,200 "cu ft/s) at its mouth. The Limpopo is the second largest "river in Africa that drains to the Indian Ocean, after the "Zambezi River.
The first European to sight the river was "Vasco da Gama, who anchored off its mouth in 1498 and named it Espiritu Santo River. Its lower course was explored by "St Vincent Whitshed Erskine in 1868–69, and Captain J F Elton travelled down its middle course in 1870.
The drainage area of Limpopo River has decreased over "geological time. Up to "Late Pliocene or "Pleistocene times the upper course of "Zambezi River drained into the Limpopo River. The change of the "drainage divide is the result of "epeirogenic movement that uplifted the surface north of present-day Limpopo River diverting waters into Zambezi River.
The Limpopo River flows in a great arc, first zigzagging north and then north-east, then turning east and finally south-east. It serves as a border for about 640 kilometres (398 mi), separating "South Africa to the southeast from "Botswana to the northwest and "Zimbabwe to the north. Two of its tributaries, the "Marico River and the "Crocodile River join, at which point the name changes to Limpopo River. There are several "rapids as the river falls off "Southern Africa's inland "escarpment.
The "Notwane River is a major tributary of the Limpopo, rising on the edge of the "Kalahari Desert in Botswana and flowing in a north-easterly direction. The main tributary of the Limpopo, the "Olifants River (Elephant River), contributes around 1,233 million m3 of water per year. Other major tributaries include the "Shashe River, "Mzingwane River, "Crocodile River, "Mwenezi River and "Luvuvhu River.
In the north-eastern corner of South Africa the river borders the "Kruger National Park.
The port town of "Xai-Xai, "Mozambique is on the river near the mouth. Below the Olifants, the river is permanently "navigable to the sea, though a "sandbar prevents access by large ships except at high tide.
The waters of the Limpopo flow sluggishly, with considerable silt content. "Rainfall is seasonal and unreliable: in dry years, the upper parts of the river flow for 40 days or less. The upper part of the drainage basin, in the "Kalahari Desert, is arid but conditions become less arid further downriver. The next reaches drain the "Waterberg Massif, a "biome of semi-"deciduous forest and low-density human population. About 14 million people live in the Limpopo basin. The fertile lowlands support a denser population. Flooding during the rainy season is an occasional problem in the lower reaches. During February 2000 heavy rainfalls (due to a cyclone) caused the catastrophic "2000 Mozambique flood.
"Vasco da Gama on his first expedition, was probably among the first Europeans to sight the river, when he anchored off the mouth in 1498. However, there has been human habitation in the region since time immemorial — sites in the Makapans Valley near "Mokopane contain "Australopithecus fossils from 3.5 million years ago. "St Vincent Whitshed Erskine, later Surveyor General for South Africa, traveled to the mouth of the river in 1868-69.
The British author "Rudyard Kipling popularized the Limpopo in his short story "The Elephant's Child", in the "Just So Stories, in which he described "the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with "fever-trees," where the "Bi-Coloured Python Rock-Snake" dwells.
A "Zambezi shark (Carcharhinus leucas) was caught hundreds of kilometres upriver at the confluence of the Limpopo and "Luvuvhu Rivers in July 1950. Zambezi sharks tolerate fresh water and can travel far up the Limpopo.
In 2013, approximately 15,000 crocodiles were released into the Limpopo River from flood gates at the nearby Rakwena Crocodile Farm.
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