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Rift Valley

Last updated date: 12th Apr 2024
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What is Rift Valley?

A rift valley can be defined as a long, narrow valley formed by the depression of a block of the earth's crust between two parallel faults or sets of faults. Rift valleys can be found both on land and at the bottom of the ocean, where they are generated by seafloor spreading. Rift valleys are distinct from the river and glacial valleys as they are formed by tectonic action rather than erosion. 

A rift valley is formed due to the subsidence of the floor of a river valley. On a divergent plate boundary, it is like a crustal expansion or spreading apart of the surface forms a rift valley, which is then further deepened by erosion pressures. When two large blocks of the earth's crust separate, the rift valleys are formed. Another theory is that the centre block is driven down by the over-thrust peripheral masses in a compressional rift bounded by reversal faults.

Transform faults, where tectonic plates grind against each other, can also generate rift valleys. The Salton Trough is a rift valley produced in part by the San Andreas Fault that runs through the states of California and Baja California in Mexico. The San Andreas fault is a transform fault that separates the Pacific plate's northward migration from the North American plate's southward movement.

Example of Rift Valley

The biggest active continental rift valleys on Earth are the East African Rift, the Baikal Rift Valley, the West Antarctic Rift, and the Rio Grande Rift.

History of the Rift Valley Studies

Following on the mid-to-late-19th-century, the efforts of dozens of explorers, including the legendary David Livingstone, Austrian geologist Eduard Suess devised the concept of an East African rift fracture, which was named the Great Rift Valley of East Africa by British geologist John Walter Gregory in 1896. Gregory identified the GRV as the Afro-Arabian rift system in 1921, describing it as a sequence of graben basins that includes the valleys of the Red and Dead Seas in western Asia.

Great Rift Valley

The "Great Rift Valley System," which runs from the Middle East to Mozambique in the south, is possibly the most well-known rift valley on the planet. Volcanoes, hot springs, geysers, and earthquakes abound in this geologically active region. The Great Rift Valley, on the other hand, is a cultural concept rather than a scientific one today. The rift valleys in the "system" are all connected, although they aren't all part of the same unit.

The Jordan Rift Valley is located in the system's northern reaches. The Jordan Rift Valley spans from the Golan Heights, near Israel's border with Syria and Lebanon, to the Dead Sea, and finally to the Gulf of Aqaba, which connects the Sinai Peninsula and the Arabian Peninsula.

The best example of a Divergent Boundary is the Great Rift Valley.

The Beqaa Valley in Lebanon is formed by the northernmost portion of the Rift.

The Great Rift Valley, which split the earlier Ethiopian highlands into two halves, continues the fault in a southwesterly path. The Eastern Rift and the Western Rift split the valley in eastern Africa. The Albertine Rift, commonly known as the Western Rift, has some of the world's deepest lakes. The Great Rift Valley in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is home to one of the world's most active and deadly volcanoes.

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The Great Rift valley location

The Great Rift Valley is a 5,000-kilometre-long geological and topographical feature that stretches from northern Syria in Southwest Asia to central Mozambique in East Africa. The valley's breadth ranges from thirty to one hundred kilometres, and its depth ranges from a few hundred to thousands of metres. John Walter Gregory, an explorer, gave it his name.

The Red Sea Rift is associated with the Jordan Rift Valley to the south. The Arabian Peninsula has formerly connected to Africa millions of years ago. The Arabian and African plates drifted apart as a result of seafloor spreading. The Red Sea was formed when the Indian Ocean swamped the rift valley between the continents. Africa and Asia are now linked via the Sinai Peninsula's triangle. The Red Sea Rift will eventually separate Africa and Asia completely, connecting the Mediterranean and Red Seas.

African Rift Valleys

The East African Rift System is one of the world's geologic wonders, a region where the earth's tectonic forces are currently attempting to split apart old plates in order to generate new ones. A rift is a widening crack in the earth's surface, or more properly, an extended basin defined by opposing steeply descending normal faults.

The Gregory Rift and the Western Rift are the East African Rift's two major rift valley systems. Erta Ale, Ethiopia; Mount Kenya, Kenya (an extinct stratovolcano); Ol Doinyo Lengai, Tanzania; Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (a dormant stratovolcano); and Mount Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of Congo are among the volcanoes that dot the rift valleys.

Famous Rift Valleys and Facts

  • East Rift Valley, Taiwan

  • Jordan Rift Valley, Israel, and Jordan

  • Baikal Rift Valley, southern Siberia

  • Great Rift Valley, East Africa

In Taiwan, the East Rift Valley stretches along the east side of the island, close to the shore. It is located east of the island's dominant Central Mountain Range. The Jordan Rift Valley stretches from Israel to Jordan and includes the Dead Sea, which has the lowest elevation of any land location on the planet at 1,237 feet below sea level.

The Baikal Rift Valley in southern Siberia is the deepest continental rift valley on the planet. Lake Baikal, at 3,893 feet deep, fills the valley and is the world's deepest freshwater lake. It is the largest freshwater lake by volume of water and is about 400 kilometres long.

The East African Rift, also known as the Great Rift Valley in East Africa, is the world's biggest continental rift valley, spanning 3000 miles north and south and up to 37 miles wide. The deepest part of the cave is 6,000 feet below ground level.

Did You Know? 

Grabens, which means "ditch" in German, are a common name for rift valleys. Despite the fact that there is no official distinction between a graben and a rift valley, a graben is usually used to refer to a tiny rift valley.


To sum up, we have discussed what is rift valley, its formation, and different types. The Rift Valley is being formed, most likely as a result of mantle plumes and eventually as a result of the African super swell. The East African Rift Structure is a complicated system of rift segments that serves as a modern analogy for how continents separate.

FAQs on Rift Valley

1. How large is a rift valley?

A rift valley can range in width from a few hundred feet to many miles. The Great Rift Valley depression in East Africa is up to 37 miles wide.

2. Where can a rift valley be found?

Rift valleys can be seen in regions where landmasses have separated due to faults in the Earth's crust. At mid-ocean ridges, where the seafloor divides between tectonic plates, rift valleys can also be seen on the ocean floor.

3. Which Indian river flows in rift valleys?

The Narmada is India's solitary rift valley river, flowing west between the Satpura and Vindhya hills.