Karnataka, the land of many important rivers, has hundreds of rivers with several tributaries that have originated in the Western Ghats ranges and hill stations. The rivers in Karnataka are spread around 300 km of coastline where they merge into the ocean. There are seven river systems in Karnataka, namely Kaveri, Krishna, Godavari, Palar, South Pennar, North Pennar, and west-flowing rivers. 

The rivers in Karnataka are a source of water for drinking and household purposes. They are also integral to agriculture, a source of hydro-power and used for transportation in certain areas. In some instances, they are also vital for the tourism industry in the state.

Here Is The List Of Top 10 Important Rivers In Karnataka

1. Kaveri: The Ganges Of The South

Kaveri Nisargadhama near Kushalnagara, rivers of Karnataka
Kaveri Nisargadhama near Kushalnagara, Kodagu district, Karnataka, India, Asia

Situated in the district of Coorg, the Kaveri River or Cauvery is the largest river in Karnataka. Known to devout Hindus as Dakshina Ganga (the Ganges of the South), it is considered holy and sacred. The origin of the river is a famous pilgrimage spot Talakaveri which is nestled amidst the Brahmagiri Hills in Coorg. With a rocky bed and high banks under luxuriant vegetation, the river is also important for its irrigation canal projects. You can take a dip in the water at a few shallow and safe points along the river. 

2. Kabini: Largest Congregations Of Wild Elephants

Elephants on the banks of Kabini river in Karnataka
Elephants on the banks of Kabini river, Nagarhole, Karnataka, India

Originating at Wayanad in Kerala, the river Kabini is a tributary of Kaveri that flows eastward to join Kaveri at Tirumakudal Narsipur in Karnataka. Also called Kabani and Kapila, this river in Karnataka is situated at a distance of 220 km from Bangalore and 80 km from Mysore. It’s known for exhibiting one of the world’s largest congregations of Asiatic wild elephants; most of the elephants of the surrounding forests converge at Kabini during summer. The backwaters of the Kabini Reservoir formed by the river are rich in wildlife. Kabini is a great vacation destination for tourists to pitch their camps on its banks and enjoy lush greenery.   

3. Hemavathi: Indulge In Adventure Activities

Originating from the BallalaRayana Durga in the Chikmagalur district, Hemavati joins the river Kaveri near Krishnarajasagar and is one of the main tributaries of the river. Adding to the beauty of the Western Ghats, this is one of the main rivers in Karnataka that flows through a distance of 245 km. A number of resorts have developed near the river offering a variety of adventure activities such as banana boat rides, boating, swimming, and kayaking for adventure enthusiasts.

Also Read: Top 12 Unexplored Places In Karnataka

4. Krishna: Formerly Known As Kistna

The second longest river in peninsular India, and the longest river in Karnataka, Krishna, formerly known as Kistna, originates in Maharashtra and passes through Karnataka. With a total course of about 800 miles (1,290 km), this river in Karnataka flows east to Wai in Maharashtra and then in a south-eastern direction past Sangli to the border of Karnataka state. The Krishna has a large and highly fertile delta which provides water for irrigation.

5. Tungabhadra: The Sweetest Water In The World

Tungabhadra river at Hampi Karnataka India
Located at Hampi Karnataka India

Tungabhadra is considered to be a sacred river and is a chief tributary of Krishna formed in Shimoga by the union of the Tunga and Bhadra rivers. Flowing east across the Deccan Plateau, the river joins the Krishna River in Andhra Pradesh. Having the advantage of a river, a host of irrigation canals and aqueducts were constructed during the reign of the Vijayanagara kings. Playing a major role in forming the religious and political history of Hampi, the river, along with the hills, had formed the northern barrier of the capital. This river in Karnataka is also considered to have the sweetest water in the world.

6. North Penneru: A Seasonal River

Rising through the Nandi Hills in the Chikkaballapur District of Karnataka, the North Penneru River or the Uttara Pinakini has a total length of about 560 km. Also called Penner River or Northern Penner River, the upper basin of this river in Karnataka was formerly covered by xeric shrublands, tropical dry forests, and thorn forests. Due to clearance for grazing and overharvesting the forests for firewood and timber, most of the dry tropical forest has disappeared and been replaced by thorny shrublands. As the river is seasonal, it becomes a thin stream during dry periods and a torrent after the rains.

7. Sharavathi: Used To Generate Electricity

Sharavathi river in Karnataka

Originating at Ambuthirtha in Thirthahalli Taluk, the Sharavathi River is one of the few westward flowing rivers that flows north-west through the Western Ghats. Taking a spectacular leap at a height of 292 meters, it forms the famous Jog Falls before joining the Arabian Sea at Honnavar. Rich in biodiversity, this river in Karnataka is home to many rare species of flora and fauna. With a total length of around 128 km (80 miles), the Sharavathi River has been used extensively to generate hydroelectricity. A favorite among visitors, the backwaters of the Sharavathi River offer many exotic sightings for birders as well as an opportunity for water sports like kayaking, windsurfing, and canoeing. It is also believed that this is the place where the Hindu god Rama broke a bow to win the hand of Sita.

8. Kalinadi: Lifeline Of Karwar

Supa Dam built across Kalinadi or Kali river in state of Karnataka in India
Supa Dam built across Kalinadi or Kali river in the state of Karnataka in India

Originating from Diggi village in the Western Ghats, the river Kalinadi is a river flowing through the Uttara Kannada district. A lifeline to around 4 lakh people, this river in Karnataka supports the livelihoods of fishermen living on the coast of Karwar. For the generation of electricity, there are many dams such as Supa Dam built across this river. Located by the coastal highway Kali river bridge, the Sadashivgad Fort is a popular tourist destination that has been built above the confluence of the river.

9. Gangavalli: Embracing Its Name From Goddess Ganga 

Flowing entirely within the western part of the state of Karnataka, the Gangavalli River is a small river that originates in the Western Ghats, south of Dharwad. Embracing the name Gangavalli from the goddess Ganga, the village in this area is also called the same name. Also known as Bedthi River, it has dense evergreen forests along its path. Flowing for a distance of nearly 161 km, this river in Karnataka falls from a height of 180 meters at Manjuguni-Ankola on its course towards the Arabian Sea.

10. Aghanashini: Destroyer Of Sins 

Originating in the Western Ghats of Uttara Kannada district, the river Aghanashini flows westward towards and meets the Arabian Sea at its namesake village. Situated in Sirsi town, the birthplace of the Aghanashini River is called Shankara Honda. Due to the absence of dams, its course remains unchanged. Often called the lifeline of Kumta, this river in Karnataka is the source of livelihood for the fishermen who live along the river banks. Aghanashini translates to Destroyer of Sins and is believed to have pure water that nurtures the life of living beings along its path when left flowing free. 

Why Should We Protect Rivers In Karnataka? 

Major rivers of Karnataka play a huge role in the life cycle of the planet, as they transport drinkable water and provide nutrient-rich soil for agriculture. Vital for a vibrant ecosystem for many species, rivers also account for some of the richest biodiversity in the world. Many people depend on Karnataka Rivers for their livelihood and way of life. Therefore, it is our duty to take precautions and encourage others to protect these water bodies. While visiting these list of rivers in Karnataka state, pick appropriate clothes and travel responsibly.

In fact, you can start saving the rivers at home—use biodegradable products, as a lot of harmful chemicals in non-biodegradable products end up back in the rivers. You can even volunteer for clean-ups in your community which will ultimately eradicate water pollution. And most importantly, we should educate others to help them understand the importance and value of our freshwater bodies.

Also Read: The most beautiful waterfalls in Karnataka to visit

It goes without saying that clean and fresh water is essential for humans to survive. So next time you visit Karnataka’s rivers try and instill these tips. These small measures we take will collectively and positively improve the health of our rivers! 

FAQs On Important Rivers Of Karnataka

Which is the holy river of Karnataka?

River Kaveri is the most sacred river to the people of not just Karnataka but also to all the people of southern India. People worship it as Goddess Kaveriamma (Mother Cauvery) and is also considered one among the seven holy rivers of India.

Which is the biggest dam in Karnataka?

The Tungabhadra Dam, also known as Pampa Sagar is the biggest dam in Karnataka. This dam is constructed across the Tungabhadra River which is 5 km away from Hospet town.

Which two rivers meet in Karnataka?

Rivers Krishna & Bhima meet at the border of Karnataka. The meeting point is known as Nirvruthi Sangamam or Sangam.


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