Post CEFR level: B1.1
Those long, blue bodies of water that glide through our world are fountains of life—our life! They’re called rivers and they have a life and personality of their own. Ever since the birth of civilization man has settled along the banks of a river because water was, and still is, essential for survival. Rivers are roads on the water—waterways. Even before the invention of the wheel, goods were transported on rivers, which made trade and progress possible. Beautiful cities like London, Paris, Rome, Vienna, Prague and Budapest were born on rivers, which have become part of their culture and history.
Rivers are often the silent protagonists in literature. The centerpiece of many of Charles Dickens’ wonderful novels is the River Thames, in London, where all sorts of adventures take place. Dickens had always been inspired by the Thames. The River Thames is the silent protagonist of Jerome K. Jerome’s entertaining novel, THREE MEN IN A BOAT. The characters of this novel decide to take a holiday on the River Thames, because traveling on the river was very much in style in the 19th century. At weekends or on holidays people still enjoy rowing boats on rivers. Today some people own houseboats where they spend relaxing weekends or holidays with their friends. And others live on their houseboats all year long!
In the United States of America the great Mississippi River is about 2,320 miles long (3,720 km), and it is America’s biggest waterway. The name Mississippi comes from the American Indian words “Misi” and “Sipi”—big water. The river is born in Lake Itasca, in Minnesota, and it goes down to the Gulf of Mexico. Early explorers navigated the Mississippi and its tributaries to explore the huge continent.
Mark Twain, who was born in a town on the Mississippi River, set his famous novels THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER and THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN on this wonderful river. In the early 1800s the steamboat became a popular means of transportation and hundreds of steamboats traveled on America’s biggest river. Today some of America’s most important cities are on this river.
In 1718 the French Mississippi Company founded the unique city of New Orleans on the east bank of the Mississippi. In 1803 New Orleans became part of the United States and it became a major trading port because of its position on the great river.
Through the centuries, rivers have given us so much. But pollution of all kinds—industrial, chemical, waste, plastic—is destroying our rivers and our health! Let’s love our rivers and keep them clean and healthy!