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OGOWE, one of the largest of the African rivers of the second class, rising in 3° S. in the highlands known as the Crystal range, and flowing N.W. and W. to the Atlantic, a httle south of the equator, and some 400 m. following the coast, north of the mouth of the Congo. Its course, estimated at 750 m., lies wholly within the colony of Gabun, French Congo. In spite of its considerable size, the river is of comparatively little use for navigation, as rapids constantly occur as it descends the successive steps of the interior tablelands. The principal obstructions are the falls of Dume, in 13° E.; Bunji, in 12° 35'; Chengwe, in 12° 16'; Boue, in 1 1° 53'; and the rapids formed in the passes by which it breaks through the outer chains of the mountainous zone, between ioJ° and iij° E. In its lower course the river passes through a lacustrine region in which it sends off secondary channels. These channels, before reuniting with the main stream, traverse a series of lakes, one north, the other south, of the river. These lakes are natural regulators of the river when in flood. The Ogowé has a large number of tributaries, especially in its upper course, but of these few are navigable. The most important are the Lolo, which joins on the south bank in 12° 20' E., and the Ivindo, which enters the Ogowé a few miles lower down. Below the Ivindo the largest tributaries are the Ofowe, 400 yds. wide at its mouth (11° 47' E.), but unnavigable except in the rains, and the Ngunye, the largest southern tributary, navigable for 60 m. to the Samba or Eugenie Falls. Apart from the narrow coast plain the whole region of the lower Ogowe is densely forested. It is fairly thickly populated by Bantu tribes who have migrated from the interior. The fauna includes the gorilla and chimpanzee.

The Ogowé rises in March and April, and again in October and November; it is navigable for steamers in its low-water condition as far as the junction of the Ngunye. At flood time the river can be ascended by steamers for a distance of 235 m. to a place called N'Jole. The first person to explore the valley of the Ogowe was Paul du Chaillu, who travelled in the country during 1857-1859. The extent of the delta and the immense volume of water carried by the river gave rise to the belief that it must either be a bifurcation of the Congo or one of the leading rivers of Africa. However, in 1882 Savorgnan de Brazza (the founder of French Congo) reached the sources of the river in a rugged, sandy and almost treeless plateau, which forms the watershed between its basin and that of the Congo, whose main stream is only 140 m. distant. Since that time the basin of the Ogowe has been fully explored by French travellers.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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