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Amu Darya
Oxus, Jayhoun, də Āmu Sind, Vaksu, Amu River
Amu darya delta.jpg
Amu Darya Delta from space
Name origin: Named for city of Āmul (now Turkmenabat)
Countries Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Region Central Asia
 - left Panj River
 - right Vakhsh River, Surkhan Darya, Sherabad River, Zeravshan River
Length 2,400 km (1,491 mi)
Basin 534,739 km² (206,464 sq mi)
 - average 2,525 /s (89,170 cu ft/s)

The Amu Darya also called the Amu or Amo River, is a major river in Central Asia. It is formed by the junction of the Vakhsh and Panj rivers, in the Tigrovaya Balka Nature Reserve on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, and flows from there north-westwards into the southern remnants of the Aral Sea.

In ancient history, the river was regarded as the boundary between Greater Iran and Turan.


Pontoon Bridge on the Amu River near Urgench

In antiquity, the river was known as Vaksu to Indo-Aryans. In ancient Afghanistan, the river was also called Gozan. In classical antiquity, the river was known as the Ōxus in Latin and Oxos in Greek.

The abundant water flowing in the Amu Darya almost entirely comes from glaciers in the Pamir Mountains and Tian Shan' and does not end at the sea but spreads out into the sands of Turkmenistan's Kyzyl Kum desert instead of the inland Aral Sea as it did in former times.

Standing above the surrounding arid plain, the mountains collect atmospheric moisture which otherwise would probably have escaped somewhere else. Without its mountain water sources, the Amu Darya would not contain any water because it rarely rains in the lowlands that characterize most of the river. Throughout most of the steppe, the annual rainfall is about 300 millimetres (12 in).

It is believed that the Amu Darya's course across the Kara-Kum Desert has gone through several major shifts in the past few thousand years. Much of the time, the most recent period being in the 13th century to the late 16th century, the Amu Darya emptied into both the Aral and the Caspian Seas.

People began to settle along the lower Amu Darya and the Uzboy in the 5th century A.D., establishing a thriving chain of agricultural lands, towns, and cities.

The first British explorer who reached the region was a naval officer called John Wood. He was sent on an expedition to find the source of the river in 1839. He found modern day Lake Zorkul, called it Lake Victoria and proclaimed he had found the source. Then, the French explorer and geographer Thibaut Viné collected a lot more information about this area during five expeditions between 1856 and 1862.

The Soviet Union became the ruling power in the 20th century. The Soviet Union fell in the 1990s and Central Asia split up into the many smaller countries that lie within or partially within the Amu Darya basin. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya were first used by the Soviets to irrigate extensive cotton fields in the Central Asian plain.

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