The rivers of Lebanon have sustained life on the land since the earliest of human civilizations, offering themselves as resources for the earliest inhabitants of what is now known as the “fertile crescent.” Today, Lebanon’s rivers are still a source of fresh water and irrigation and also a feature of the natural beauty that brings more and more visitors to Lebanon for great outdoor recreation each year.
Al Assi River
For rafting in Lebanon, the most important river is the great Al Assi. In Arabic, “Assi” means “rebel” or disobedient one.” The name was given to this river because, unlike the rest of the rivers in the region, its waters flow from south to north. Running through the Lebanon, Syria, and all the way to Turkey, this river has been called many things by many people across the ages. It is also known as River Orontes, Draco, Typhon, and Axius. The river’s source is the springs of the The Bequaa Valley in east Lebanon. From there, the river runs northbound parallel to the coast, with a total length of around 240 kilometers.
The river runs an extremely rocky course. In ancient times, the rough waters tore apart any bridges that people attempted to build across it. It plunges down into a 600 meter gorge at one point. Long considered unnavigable, the river mainly served as a boundary marker in centuries past. Now, the great Al Assi River navigable to those who choose to “disobey” nature and history by making the adrenaline-pumped rafting journey through some of its most beautiful scenery
On the stretch of the Al Assi river that is used for rafting, the level of difficulty on the Al Assi river can range from Class I to Class III difficulty according to the International Scale of River Rafting. It is high intensity, yet with our expert guides it is still suitable for adventurous newcomers who have little or no experience. Read more about our Al Assi rafting packages!
The Litani River
Al Assi’s more well-behaved sister is the Litani River, which flows from north to south. It springs up from the same fertile Bequaa Valley of east Lebanon and proceeds along a course of about 140 total kilometers entirely within Lebanese territory (which makes it the longest Lebanese river). It’s name derives from the Arabic word for “lion.”
A gentler and more generous river than the Al Assi, the LItani river has served many purposes over time. It is one of Lebanon’s principle fresh water supplies, and it also provides irrigation and even hydroelectricity in Southern Lebanon. In the south, the river takes a dramatic bend westward, and after that elbow it is referred to as Al Qasmiyah River. From there it runs parallel to the Israeli border just 18km to the north of it. From there it flows into the Mediterranean Sea. One great landmark of the Litani River is the Leontes Bridge, whose segmental arch structure is dated back to the ancient Roman era.
The Litani River has been used for both rafting adventures and kayaking trips alike. In mid-may, the water level drops to a comfortable Class I or Class II difficulty level, making it ideal for a more gentle rafting adventure or a smooth kayaking trip. These trips are suspended for the moment; you can read more at skileb.com.
Nahr Barada, el-Kebir, and The Dog
A third major river with its source in Lebanon is the Nahr Barada, which springs from the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and flows west into neighboring Syria, where it serves as a water source for the major city of Damascus.
The Nahr al-Kabir al-Janoubi, which translates from Arabic to “the southern great river,” actually forms the border between Lebanon and Syria in the north. This river gets mentioned in the Bible, and in ancient times it was known as the Eleutherus. Now, in English, it is called Nahr el-Kebir or just Kebir river.
One of the shortest but most photographed revers in Lebanon is Nahr al-Kalb, which literally means Dog River. Its peaceful waters flow from a spring in Jeita along a 31 kilometer course to the Mediterranean Sea. The mouth of the Dog River has been the site for a series of monuments erected by past conquerors and generals. An example is the graceful bridge built by Sultan Selim, photographed above in 1914. At only 15 km from Beirut, the Dog River is convenient for calm, scenic rafting excursions. Its mellow waters are a rated a smooth and breezy Class I difficulty, which means it’s great for families, kids, and cautious newcomers. Running from the high peaks to the mouth of the Mediterranean, the Dog River offers breathtaking views unlike any other in Lebanon. Read more about rafting on The Dog at skileb.com.
Map of Lebanon’s Rivers