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Great Rift Valley

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Title: Great Rift Valley  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Geology of Burundi, Malawi, Geography of Kenya, Geology of Kenya, Geology of Lebanon
Collection: Geography of Rift Valley Province, Geology of Africa, Geology of Burundi, Geology of Egypt, Geology of Ethiopia, Geology of Israel, Geology of Kenya, Geology of Lebanon, Geology of Saudi Arabia, Geology of Syria, Geology of Tanzania, Geology of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Geology of Uganda, Geology of Yemen, Great Rift Valley, Landforms of Africa, Landforms of Burundi, Landforms of Egypt, Landforms of Ethiopia, Landforms of Israel, Landforms of Kenya, Landforms of Lebanon, Landforms of Saudi Arabia, Landforms of Syria, Landforms of Tanzania, Landforms of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Landforms of the Middle East, Landforms of Uganda, Landforms of Yemen, Physiographic Provinces, Rift Valley Province, Rift Valleys
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Great Rift Valley

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Lake Nakuru in the Kenya Lake System

Type Natural
Criteria vii, ix, x
Reference 1060
UNESCO region Africa
Inscription history
Inscription 2011 (444 Session)

The Great Rift Valley is a name given in the late 19th century by British explorer John Walter Gregory to the continuous geographic trench, approximately 6,000 kilometres (3,700 mi) in length, that runs from northern Jordan Rift Valley in Asia to Mozambique in South Eastern Africa.[1] The name continues in some usages, although it is today considered geologically imprecise as it combines features that are today regarded as separate, although related, rift and fault systems.

Today, the term is most often used to refer to the valley of the East African Rift, the divergent plate boundary which extends from the Afar Triple Junction southward across eastern Africa, and is in the process of splitting the African Plate into two new separate plates. Geologists generally refer to these incipient plates as the Nubian Plate and the Somali Plate.


  • Theoretical extent 1
  • Asia 2
  • Africa 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Theoretical extent

Satellite image of a graben in the Afar Depression.
Diagram of a rift valley's future evolution into a sea.
The Rift Valley from space.

The Great Rift Valley as originally described was thought to extend from Lebanon in the north to Mozambique in the south, and constitutes one of two distinct physiographic provinces of the East African mountains. It included the Jordan Rift Valley, Red Sea Rift and the East African Rift.[2]

Today these rifts and faults are seen as distinct, although connected.


The Sinai Peninsula at center and the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley above.

The northernmost part of the Rift, today called the Dead Sea Transform or Rift, forms the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon separating the Lebanon Mountains and Anti-Lebanon Mountains. Further south it is known as the Hula Valley separating the Galilee mountains and the Golan Heights.[3]

The River Jordan begins here and flows southward through Lake Hula into the Sea of Galilee in Israel. It then continues south through the Jordan Rift Valley into the Dead Sea on the Israeli-Jordanian border. From the Dead Sea southwards, the Rift is occupied by the Wadi Arabah, then the Gulf of Aqaba, and then the Red Sea.[3]

Off the southern tip of Sinai in the Red Sea, the Dead Sea Transform meets the Red Sea Rift which runs the length of the Red Sea. The Red Sea Rift comes ashore to meet the East African Rift and the Aden Ridge in the Afar Depression of East Africa. The junction of these three rifts is called the Afar Triple Junction.[3]


East African Rift Valley.
A map of East Africa showing some of the historically active volcanoes (red triangles) and the Afar Triangle (shaded, center)—a triple junction where three plates are pulling away from one another: the Arabian Plate, and the two parts of the African Plate (the Nubian and the Somali) splitting along the East African Rift Zone (USGS).

The East African rift has two branches, the Western Rift Valley and the Eastern Rift Valley.

The Western Rift, also called the Albertine Rift, is edged by some of the highest mountains in Africa, including the Virunga Mountains, Mitumba Mountains, and Ruwenzori Range. It contains the Rift Valley lakes, which include some of the deepest lakes in the world (up to 1,470 metres (4,820 ft) deep at Lake Tanganyika).

Much of this area lies within the boundaries of national parks such as Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwenzori National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda, and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda. Lake Victoria is considered to be part of the rift valley system although it actually lies between the two branches. All of the African Great Lakes were formed as the result of the rift, and most lie within its rift valley.

In Kenya, the valley is deepest to the north of Nairobi. As the lakes in the Eastern Rift have no outlet to the sea and tend to be shallow, they have a high mineral content as the evaporation of water leaves the salts behind. For example, Lake Magadi has high concentrations of soda (sodium carbonate) and Lake Elmenteita, Lake Bogoria, and Lake Nakuru are all strongly alkaline, while the freshwater springs supplying Lake Naivasha are essential to support its current biological variety.

See also


  1. ^ Merriam-Webster, Inc 편집부 (1997). MERRIAM WEBSTER'S GEOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY 3/E(H). Merriam-Webster. p. 444.  
  2. ^ Philip Briggs; Brian Blatt (15 July 2009). Ethiopia: the Bradt travel guide. Bradt Travel Guides. p. 450.  
  3. ^ a b c G. Yirgu; C. J. (Cindy J.) Ebinger; P. K. H. Maguire (2006). The Afar Volcanic Province Within the East African Rift System: Special Publication No 259. Geological Society. pp. 306–307.  

Further reading

  • Africa's Great Rift Valley, 2001, ISBN 0-8109-0602-3
  • Tribes of the Great Rift Valley, 2007, ISBN 978-0-8109-9411-9
  • East African Rift Valley lakes, 2006, OCLC 76876862
  • Photographic atlas of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge Rift Valley, 1977, ISBN 0-387-90247-3
  • Rift Valley fever : an emerging human and animal problem, 1982, ISBN 92-4-170063-7
  • Rift valley: definition and geologic significance, Giacomo Corti (National Research Council of Italy, Institute of Geosciences and Earth Resources) - The Ethiopian Rift Valley, 2013, [1]

External links

  • Article on
  • Geological Structure of the Dead Sea
  • Birds Without Boundaries
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