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Chao Phraya River

Chao Phraya River (แม่น้ำเจ้าพระยา)
Origin of the Chao Phraya River in Nakhon Sawan
 - left Pa Sak River
 - right Sakae Krang River
Source Confluence of Ping River and Nan River
 - location Pak Nam Pho, Nakhon Sawan province
 - elevation 25 m (82 ft)
 - location Gulf of Thailand, Samut Prakan Province
 - elevation 0 m (0 ft)
Length 372 km (231 mi)
Basin 160,400 km2 (61,931 sq mi)
Discharge for Nakhon Sawan
 - average 718 m3/s (25,356 cu ft/s)
 - max 5,960 m3/s (210,475 cu ft/s)
Map of the Chao Phraya River drainage basin

The Chao Phraya (Thai: (Pronunciation)) is the major river in Thailand, with its low alluvial plain forming the centre of the country. It flows through Bangkok and then into the Gulf of Thailand.

On many old European maps, the river is named Menam or Mae Nam (Thai: ), Thai for "river". James McCarthy, F.R.G.S., who served as Director-General of the Siamese Government Surveys prior to establishment of the Royal Survey Department, wrote in his account, "Me Nam is a generic term, me signifying "mother" and Nam "water," and the epithet Chao P'ia signifies that it is the chief river in the kingdom of Siam."

H. Warington Smyth, who served as Director of the Department of Mines in Siam from 1891 to 1896, refers to it in his book first published in 1898 as "the Me Nam Chao Phraya".

In the English-language media in Thailand, the name Chao Phraya River is often translated as river of kings.

The Chao Phraya begins at the confluence of the Ping and Nan rivers at Nakhon Sawan (also called Pak Nam Pho) in Nakhon Sawan Province. After this it flows south for 372 kilometres (231 mi) from the central plains to Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. In Chai Nat, the river then splits into the main course and the Tha Chin River, which then flows parallel to the main river and exits in the Gulf of Thailand about 35 kilometres (22 mi) west of Bangkok in Samut Sakhon. In the low alluvial plain which begins below the Chainat Dam, there are many small canals (khlong) which split off from the main river. The khlongs are used for the irrigation of the region's rice paddies.

  • In 1538, Thailand's first river engineering of a 3 km (2 mi) long canal was dug at the order of King Chairachathirat. It was called "khlong lat", today known as . It shortened the route by 13–14 km for ships from the Gulf of Siam to the then-capital city, Ayutthaya.
  • In 1542, a two kilometre-long canal, "khlong lat Bangkok", was completed. Today it's called . It is said to have shortened the river route by 14 km (9 mi).
  • In 1608, a seven kilometre-long "Khlong Bang Phrao" canal was completed and has shortened the Chao Phraya's original route by 18 km (11 mi).
  • In 1636, the "khlong lat mueang Nonthaburi" was completed.
  • In 1722, the two kilometre long "khlong lat Kret Noi" shortened the Chao Phraya by 7 km (4 mi). This route was from the island of Ko Kret.
  • Pa Sak Basin
  • Sakae Krang Basin
  • Greater Nan Basin (composed of the Nan Basin and the Yom Basin, and usually divided as such in drainage analyses)
  • Greater Ping Basin (composed of the Ping Basin and the Wang Basin, and usually divided as such in drainage analyses)
  • Tha Chin Basin (the basin of the Chao Phraya's most significant distributaries)
  • Finally the Chao Phraya Basin itself is defined as the portion of the Chao Phraya watershed drained by the Chao Phraya River itself, and not by its major tributaries or distributaries. As such, the Chao Phraya Basin drains 20,126 square kilometres (7,771 sq mi) of land.
  • Bangkok Waterways, William Warren and R. Ian Lloyd, Asia Books, .


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