Sepik River Facts

Sepik River Facts
The Sepik River flows 700 miles through Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, and was untouched by Europeans until 1885 when Germans began to explore its region. The German explorations continued until the beginning of World War I. The Sepik River's watershed is 30,000 square miles, most of which is still undeveloped due to lack of industry in the region. Local villagers have used the Sepik River since ancient times for water, fishing, and for transportation. There are still believed to be villages along the Sepik River's watershed that have not yet seen a white man.
Interesting Sepik River Facts:
The Sepik River originates in Papua New Guinea's central highlands, in the Victor Emanuel Range. It discharges into the Bismarck Sea at Papua New Guinea's northern region.
The major tributaries of the Sepik River include Yellow River, April River, Karawari, Yuat, and Keram.
Most of the Sepik River's course runs through Papua New Guinea's provinces Sandaun and East Sepik. A relatively small portion of the river flows through Indonesia's Papua province.
The Sepik River's watershed (area of land drained by the river) is 30,000 square miles in size, which is made up of swamps, tropical rainforests, and mountains.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the Sepik River's region is thought to be the largest freshwater wetlands that still remain uncontaminated by humans and industry.
Cannibalism was once common in the Sepik River region but has not been practiced for generations. The Sepik River villagers still carry a strong superstitious belief but are Christians today, due to the influence of missionaries. Many customs however are still practiced today.
The Sepik River is home to many hundred species of fish, as well as sharks, sawfish, barramundi, and crocodiles. The people have learned to live in harmony with the crocodiles.
There are no large cities or industry along the Sepik River, which contributes to its pristine state.
Despite the lack of development and industry in the Sepik River region, threats do exist. Proposed mining, invasive species, and industrial logging threaten the area.
In the Sepik River region there are a large number of diverse cultures and languages. It is estimated that approximately 250 different languages are spoken among those that make their home in the Sepik River basin.
Two men traveled the Sepik River's entire length in 2010. Andrew Johnson and Clark Carter traveled the length by hiking, kayaking, and canoeing. At one point they almost drowned but managed to survive. It took them six weeks to travel from the Sepik River's source to its mouth.
During World War II the Japanese took control of most of the Sepik River region. As they began to lose their ground at the end of the war, they massacred 100 villagers, believing that they had collaborated with the enemy.
The Upper Sepik River basin is on the tentative list for inclusion as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Sepik River elevation does not change dramatically from beginning to end and therefore flows more slowly than many long rivers. This lack of elevation also contributes to back-flowing, which creates lagoons and swamps along its route.


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