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Great Rift Valley facts for kids

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Map of Great Rift Valley
Distribution of the African Great Lakes: the left-hand branch is the Western Rift Valley, and the right-hand branch is the Eastern Rift Valley, which extends further north.
The African Great Lakes and the East African coastline as seen from space. The Indian Ocean can be seen to the right.

The Great Rift Valley is a name given to the continuous geographical trench, about 6,000 kilometres (3,700 mi) in length, that runs from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in East Africa. The rift is bordered by a series of mountains and active volcanoes. It is a site of faults and earthquakes.

Basically, the western part of Africa is rifting away from the eastern part body. This causes all the geological activity at the Valley. Far in the future, a sea will run between these two parts of Africa. The Arabian peninsula is already almost separated. The whole process is part of plate tectonics. In eastern Africa, the valley divides into two, the Western Rift Valley and the Eastern Rift Valley.

There are about 20 UNESCO World Heritage Sites which owe their formation to the geography and geology of the Great Rift Valley.


The northeast corner of Jacob's Ford in Israel visualizes the drift of the Arabian Plate against the Nubian Plate

The northernmost parts of the Rift corresponds to the central section of what is called today the Dead Sea Transform (DST) or Rift. This midsection of the DST forms the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, separating the Lebanon from the Anti-Lebanon Mountains. Further south it is known as the Hula Valley separating the Galilee mountains and the Golan Heights.

The Jordan River begins here and flows southward through Lake Hula into the Sea of Galilee in Israel. The Rift 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.

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.


Great Rift Valley
East African Rift Valley
East Africa with active volcanoes (red triangles) and the Afar Triangle (shaded, center)—a triple junction where three plates are pulling away from one another.

The East African Rift follows the Red Sea to the end before turning inland into the Ethiopian highlands, dividing the country into two large and adjacent but separate mountainous regions. In Kenya, Uganda, and the fringes of South Sudan, the Great Rift runs along two separate branches that are joined to each other only at their southern end, in Southern Tanzania along its border with Zambia. The two branches are called the Western Rift Valley and the Eastern Rift Valley.

The Western Rift, also called the Albertine Rift, is bordered 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 in territories within the rift.

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.

The southern section of the Rift Valley includes Lake Malawi, the third-deepest freshwater body in the world, which reaches 706 metres (2,316 ft) in depth and separates the Nyassa plateau of Northern Mozambique from Malawi; it ends in the Zambezi valley.

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See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Gran Valle del Rift para niños

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