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Inland Delta of the Niger River

Inland Delta of the Niger River

Apart from the delta of the Nile River, the inland delta of the Niger River may be Africa’s most famous. Astronauts aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of the region where the Niger and other rivers flow out of the wetter, more vegetated Sahel into the Sahara Desert. The rivers inundate the lush green wetland of the delta.

For millennia, the river has been the most important water supply in the western Sahara Desert. After tracing an irregular path through a series of linear dunes, the river makes its way to the ancient city of Timbuktu and many other cities further downstream. Even the arrow-shaped, 100-kilometer (60 mile) depression known as Lake Faguibine—scoured out by desert winds to levels a few meters below the Niger Delta—is still regularly flooded by water from the Niger. This allows crops to be grown on the lake floor as the water recedes.

In the millions of years that the Niger has brought water and sediment into the desert, the delta has repeatedly changed. The remnant of an older delta can still be seen, especially where flows from the Niger make a smaller wetland near the left edge of the image.

Astronaut photograph ISS041-E-78334 was acquired on October 17, 2014, with a Nikon D3S digital camera using a 28 millimeter lens, and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by the Expedition 41 crew. It has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by M. Justin Wilkinson, Jacobs at NASA-JSC.