Euphrates River, a river in southwestern Asia, draining portions of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. It begins on the Anatolian Plateau in eastern Turkey and flows southward through Syria and Iraq. In central Iraq, the river divides into two channels for a distance of 110 miles (177 km) and then continues to a point northwest of Basra, where it joins the Tigris River to form the Shatt al Arab. The Shatt al Arab flows the final 115 miles (185 km) to the Persian Gulf. The length of the Euphrates is 1,585 miles (2,551 km); including the Shatt al Arab, the length is 1,700 miles (2,736 km). The chief tributaries are the Murat and Khabur rivers. The Euphrates is navigable only by small boats.
There are three major dams on the Euphrates, the Keban and Atatürk dams in Turkey and the Euphrates Dam in Syria. There are also several barrages (low dams) along the middle and lower Euphrates. Water from the Euphrates is vital for agriculture in the region. Water diversion projects in one country often create tensions with countries downriver.
Together, the Euphrates and Tigris valleys form the region known as Mesopotamia, which has been called a “cradle of civilization” and was part of the Fertile Crescent. Along the Euphrates are the ruins of such ancient cities as Babylon, Erech, and Ur.