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Geography Of Murchison Falls National Park

The geography of Murchison Falls National Park allures whoever visits the park as it is unusual and beautiful.

Murchison Falls National Park is located on the North Western edge of Uganda covering an area of 3,840km2 (384,000 hectares). This park is crossed by the latitude line at 2.145768 and longitude at 31.806906.

The Degrees Minutes Seconds (DMS) Latitude are 2° 8′ 44.7648” N and DMS Longitude are 31° 48′ 24.8616” E. Additionally, the Universal Transverse Mercator (UTM) of Murchison Falls National Park is UTM Easting 367,321.35 and UTM Northing 237,224.68.

This mesmerizing national park is on coordinates 02°11′15″N 31°46′53″E.

Murchison Falls National Park has an altitude that ranges from 619m at the delta on Lake Albert to 1.292 m at Rabongo hill. It is all covered with wilderness on both sides of the Victoria Nile.

What Borders Murchison Falls National Park?

Murchison Falls National Park is the oldest national park in Uganda and it straddles 4 districts of Buliisa, Nwoya, Kiryandongo, and Masindi district.

However, this amazing is park is part of the Murchison Falls Conservation Area. Most of the landmarks and physical features surrounding this park are also part of the conservation area.

It is contiguous with Budongo Forest Reserve (825 km2) in the southeast. And, Bugungu Wildlife Reserve (782km2) in the North West and Karuma Wildlife Reserve (720km2) in the East.

Additionally, Lake Albert the second biggest freshwater lake in Uganda borders Murchison Falls park in the Northwest just after the Bugungu Game Reserve.

Landscape Of Murchison Falls National Park

The landscape of Murchison Falls park is a natural beauty as this amazing park has beautiful panoramas. This park is made of rainforests and bushes which are on the two banks of the park.

Murchison Falls National Park is a place of valleys, evergreen vegetation, and fresh waterbodies. These have made a great impact on the growth and sustainability of the wildlife in the park.

When entering the park, you will be surprised by the terrain as this national park is mostly dusty and made of marram tracks. This park has fewer rocks since the biggest part of it is savanna and forests.

However, the rocks at the top of the falls are pelitic schists containing centimeter-sized muscovite crystals. And, also the Nile-Albert Delta area is underlined by pre-Cambrian rocks which comprise Cenozoic rocks.

These rocks at the Nile-Albert Delta have a rise to Vertisol soils near the area

The 2 banks in Murchison park are separated by the Victoria Nile. That is the Southern and Northern banks.

The Northern bank sector of the park contains savanna and Borassus palms, acacia trees, and riverine woodland. This has led to the increase of wildlife in the section and leading to successful game drives.

However, the southern sector of the park is dominated by woodland and forest patches and it has few tracks for game drives. The sunrise in the park appears with morning passion as it comes out red-orange and dreams come true when animals run in such an environment. What a beauty!

The beauty of the Park landscape is unspoken for as it is indeed an amazing spectacle making the geography of Murchison Falls National Park unique.

Landmarks | Physical Features In Murchison Falls National Park

The Uganda landmarks in Murchison Falls National Park make up a great deal in the making of the park’s beauty. However some of these border the park and others surround the beautiful gem.

These physical features in the park have made the proper geography of Murchison Falls National Park and its landscape. The breathtaking physical features in the park are mostly the water bodies and forests.

These are;

  1. Murchison Falls
  2. Karuma Falls
  3. Victoria Nile
  4. Nile-Lake Albert Delta
  5. Lake Albert
  6. Budongo Forest
  7. Rabongo Forest

Murchison Falls In Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls is the most distinctive physical feature of Murchison Falls National Park. The dramatic waterfalls are formed when the River Nile bisects the park about 100 km as it flows southwest to Lake Albert.

River Nile then squeezes into a narrow gorge escarpment about 8 meters wide dropping 43 meters in the devil’s cauldron. The strong forces and power of the falls make a dramatic sound that is heard from a distance.

Besides Murchison Falls, there are the sweet Uhuru Falls which are rarely sighted by visitors though those who go for Murchison Falls hike to see them.

The Uhuru Falls are smaller compared to Murchison Falls and were formed in 1962 when heavy rains caused the surge in volumes of the River Nile. And, this led to the diversion of water and hence the formation of the falls. Do not miss seeing the sweet rainbow.

The best way of seeing the falls is by boarding the Murchison falls boat cruise, Murchison falls hike and viewing the top of the falls.

1. Karuma Falls

The Karuma Falls are located in the east of Murchison Falls National Park adjacent to the Kampala-Gulu Highway. These falls may not be as dramatic as the Murchison Falls though are beautiful as the water hits the rocks and forms a water spray.

These falls are on latitude 2.234167 and longitude 32.246390 with a standing elevation of 1000m. Before reaching the falls there is a new Karuma power dam that was constructed and it is the biggest in Uganda producing over 600 megawatts.

Karuma Falls has many attractions including birds and primates like Baboons and Black-and-white Colobus Monkeys adding a great deal to the geography of Murchison Falls National Park.

2. River Nile

River Nile is the longest river in Africa flowing at 6,500kms crossing over 10 countries. Its source is in Jinja Uganda flowing northwest of Uganda when it bisects into the park forming Murchison Falls.

After forming the falls, it divides the park into 2 sectors of the Northern and Southern sectors when finding its way to the Mediterranean Sea. River Nile in Murchison Falls National Park harbors Hippos, Nile Crocodiles, and Birds.

This river continues its course flowing into Lake Albert in the East African Rift.

3. Nile-Lake Albert Delta

After forming the two incredible waterfalls (Murchison Falls and Uhuru Falls), River Nile continues to flow to Lake Albert. But before it connects to the lake, it forms the Nile-Lake Albert Delta a swallow area dominated by a swamp.

The Nile-Lake Albert Delta vegetation is made up of papyrus, marshes, and thick bushes and some part has rolling savannas. This area is home to 75 water-birds of Murchison Falls National Park including the Shoebill.

This area is recognized as a Ramsar site and is an important area for birding in Uganda. Some of the birds spotted in the area include Goliath Herons, Grey-crowned Cranes, Denham’s Bustard, Saddle-billed Stork, etc.

4. Lake Albert

Lake Albert is located in the west of Murchison Falls National Park bordering Uganda and DR Congo. It is in the East African rift and this lake is among the freshwater Uganda lakes.

This amazing lake is 160km long, 30km wide and 51m deep. It is the second biggest lake in Uganda after Lake Victoria. Apparently, oil has been discovered along the shores of Lake Albert.

5. Budongo Forest Reserve

Budongo Forest is located in the south of Murchison Falls National Park on the escarpment northeast of Lake Albert. It covers an area of 435 km2 being contiguous with Kaniyo Pabidi Forest.

This forest has old mahogany and iron trees and it is known for Chimpanzee safaris in Uganda as it has about 700 Chimpanzees. It has over 360 Uganda birds making it a good destination for birding safaris Uganda.

The wildlife in the forest is spectacular as it has primates and other forest animals.

6. Rabongo Forest

Rabongo Forest is situated in the southeast of Murchison Falls National Park covering an area of 4km2 surrounded by savanna. It has tall Mahogany and ironwood trees going up to 60 meters.

The landscape of the forest is amazing as it is bisected by the Wairingo River which supplies water to the forest and has riverine vegetation. The forest receives annual rainfall between 1200 and 2200 mm.

It has primate species and various Uganda birds.

Flora | Vegetation In Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park relatively has green vegetation as it is made of tropical rainforests which are rich in Mahogany and Ironwood trees. Although green, the northern sector of the park is made of savanna and Borassus palms, acacia trees, and riverine woodland.

During game drives, you can as well see dead trees, whistling acacia, and sausage trees in the grasslands. The southern part is mostly having woodland with forest patches.

The Nile-Albert Delta area has swampy vegetation made of wetland-dependent plants which occur in small numbers but are widely spread. This is mainly papyrus, and marshes and also contains a member of the family Nymphaeaceae called Nymphaea lotus.

Below are some of the observed plant species in Murchison Falls National Park;

  • Thatching Grass Hyparrhenia hirra
  • Cat’s Tail Drop Seed Sporobolus pyramidalis
  • Nut Grass Cyperus rotundus
  • Wandering Jew Commelina benghalensis
  • Feathered Chloris Chloris virgara
  • Bur Bristled Grass Seraria verticillata
  • Desert Date Balanires aegypria
  • Hoket Horn Arisonia abyssinica
  • Candle Bush Senna alata
  • Garden Signal Grass Urochloa panicoides
  • Hippo Grass Vossia cuspidata
  • Creeping Wood-sorrel Oxalis corniculata
  • Finger Grass Digitaria eriantha
  • Garden Pink-sorrel Oxalis latifolia
  • Star Grass Cynodon dactylon
  • Fibrous Drop Seed Sporobolus stafianus
  • Whitethorn Acacia Tree Vachellia constricta
  • Baboon Apple Annona glabra
  • Borassus Palm Tree Palmyra palm
  • Goats Weed Agerarum conyzoides
  • Nandi Grass Cetera ancient
  • Wild Canny Lilly Flower Canna indical
  • Devil Horsewhip Achyranrhes aspera
  • Edible Canna Canna eduls
  • Guatemala Tripsacum laxum
  • Pickerel Weed Pontederia cantata
  • Sticking Weed Acacia okidetalia
  • Tick Berry Lantana camara
  • Treedax Daisy Tridax procumbens
  • Wait A Bit Thorn Acacia mellifera
  • Whistling Acacia Acacia hoki

Fauna In Murchison Falls National Park | The Wildlife Gem Of Murchison Falls National Park

The landscape of Murchison Falls National Park has created a vast area with a diversity of ecosystems making the park a jewel of wildlife in Uganda.

Wildlife in Murchison Falls Uganda is epic as it has nearly 144 Uganda mammals, 556 Uganda birds, 51 reptiles, 28 amphibians, and over 755 plant species.

This park has 4 of the African safari big 5 (Lions, Elephants, Leopards, and Buffaloes). Travelers on Uganda safaris can’t miss seeing Hippos and many antelope species alongside other herbivore animals.

Rothschild Giraffes are observed in big numbers of 30 to 50 individuals. Wow! The rare Shoebill is present along the Nile-Lake Albert Delta and many other water-associated birds. It is the best place in Uganda for spotting water birds.

Wildlife safaris in Uganda are memorable in the northern section of the park because of the diverse wildlife. However, the 2 sectors are connected by a proper bridge that passes over the Victoria Nile.

Some Of The Animals In Murchison Falls National Park

·        Lions

·        Elephants

·        Buffaloes

·        Leopards

·        Hippos

·        Rothschild’s Giraffes

·        Uganda Kobs

·        Nile Crocodiles

·        Waterbucks

·        Jackson’s Hartebeest

Some Of The Notable Birds In Murchison Falls National Park

·        Shoebill

·        Great Cormorant

·        Long Crested Eagle

·        Grey Crowned Cranes

·        Great Blue Turaco

·        Sacred Ibis

·        Secretary Bird

·        Lappet-faced Vulture

·        Papyrus Gonolek

·        Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

Weather Of Murchison Falls National Park

The weather of Murchison Falls National Park is amazing as it favors the success of safari activities in the park. Since Murchison Falls park is near the equator line, it tends to be hot on most days.

Temperatures in the park seem to be uniform, as during the daytime temperatures are around 31°C/88°F and cool down at night to around 18°C/64°F. This national park receives an annual rainfall of 1,085 mm.

In most cases, it receives little or no rainfall. It is very hot, especially in the afternoons. It however has 2 weather seasons in a year and those are the dry and wet seasons.

The dry season runs from December to February and from June to August. And the wet season is from March to May and from September to November. However, the weather of Murchison Falls park is unpredictable as it can change at any time.

Climate Of Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park exhibits a tropical climate which is typically hot and humid. This climate is relatively stable throughout the year and because it is near the equator it tends to be dry and hot.

The climate of this park is highly influenced by the air currents that run over Lake Albert. And, River Nile and forests of Budongo and Rabongo Forest with other vegetation covers in the park.

The mean annual rainfall for the Murchison Falls National Park area is 1,085 mm. it receives hot temperatures during the daytime of 31°C/88°F and cools in the night to around 18°C/64°F.

Murchison Falls National Park experiences 2 seasons in the year of the dry season and the wet season.

Dry season

Murchison Falls National Park has 2 dry seasons. In the dry season, it is dry and hot and the driest months of the year are December, January, and February.

During these months, it is sunny with clear skies with average temperatures of 32°C/90°F during the afternoon though it cools in the night to about 18°C/64°F.

From June to July, it is less hot as it drops a few degrees a little rainfall can be expected. Daytime temperatures are around 30°C/86°F during these months.

Wet season

Murchison Falls National Park has 2 wet seasons. Although it is the wet season, it does not rain that much in the park though occasional heavy storms can be expected. The wet season runs from March to May and from August to November.

From March, April and May the rains are starting and daytime temperatures are at 31°C/88°F and drop at night to 20°C/68°F.

The wettest months are August, September, October, and November.

Visitors should know that due to global warming, there are always climatic changes, especially in the change of seasons.

Human Activity | People’s Distribution Around Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is surrounded by various groups of people and including the;

  1. Banyoro who harbor in the south of the park
  2. The Acholi live in the northern part of the park
  3. Alur people live in the northwest of the park

People surrounding Murchison Falls National Park are indigenous and were leaving inside the park. However, in gazetting the land to preserve wildlife, these people were evacuated from the area between 1907 and 1912.

They formed communities around the national park and still were not contented with leaving the park. However, due to their stay around the park, they have participated in some economic activities for survival.

Human Activities In And Around Murchison Falls National Park

Human activities in the national park have led to the proper growth of economic activities in and around this park. These human activities are however beneficial to the country and help the conservation of the park.

These include tourism activities, farming, and fishing.

  1. Tourism Activities In Murchison Falls National Park

Tourism is the main activity that visitors who come to the park do. This has led to the improvement of people economically as people are employed for tourism activities.

Some of the tourism activities in Murchison Falls National Park include;

  • Safari game drives
  • Boat cruise
  • Birdwatching
  • Nature walks
  • Chimpanzee Trekking
  • Sport fishing
  1. Subsistence farming; Many people surrounding this park are farmers as they grow plants for food and what is left is used for home consumption. They also have rare animals, especially cattle and goats.
  2. Fishing; is a major activity carried out on Lake Albert as people fish for food and profits. It is a good economic activity as they sell the fish in markets.

However, the human settlement around Murchison Falls National Park has made an impact on the geography of this park. Some of the impacts are positive and others are negative.

Positive Impacts Of Human Activity On Murchison Falls National Park

  • Human activities like cultivation and farming have improved the geography of Murchison Falls National Park as people plant trees and plants which change the weather.
  • To improve tourism in the park, people have improved the infrastructure of the park by constructing lodges.
  • People around Murchison Falls National Park live in Communities which provide cultural tours and community visits. This is so because visitors want to learn about the different cultures of Uganda this is the best way to get to know it.

Among these communities, these people have been able to make craft shops that sell crafts to tourists hence improving tourism.

Negative Impacts Of Human Activities To The Geography Of Murchison Falls Park

  • The settlement of people around the park has led to the encroachment on the park’s land for cultivation and building homesteads.

Encroachment on Murchison park’s land has led to the reduction of the land causing animals to come out and enter people’s gardens. This has brought up the killing of animals and UWA has condemned it and arrests have been made.

Practically, land encroachment has downgraded the park’s landscape.

  • Since the land around the park is not so productive, people have engaged in the poaching of animals for meat. This has led to a reduction of the fauna of the park.
  • And, in the process of searching for building materials, people are cutting down trees from Budongo and Rabongo Forest. This has spoiled the geography of the park leading to global warming.
  • The discovery of oil on the shores of Lake Albert has made a big negative impact on the park. This is because the construction of the oil pipeline has caused land degradation and displacement of animals.

Also, the construction of roads to transport crude oil has spoilt the park’s landscape as the park has been dug to construct tarmac roads. This has led to a change in the geography of the park.

  • Of the past few years, the government of Uganda under the Electricity Regulatory Authority (ERA) commissioned Bonang Power a South African Company to study Uhuru Falls near Murchison Falls.

This study was to build a hydropower dam that can supply 360MW. This would destroy the entire Murchison Falls! However, protests rose all over the country and this idea was turned down in October 2019.

Measures Taken To Conserve Murchison Falls National Park

There are a couple of measures taken to conserve the Geography of Murchison Falls National Park. Measures to be taken include;

  • The government of Uganda through the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) should educate the public about the advantages of conserving the park.
  • People encroaching on the parkland should be relocated or evicted from the park especially those who cultivate and graze in the park.
  • Strict laws against poaching should be reinforced. People kill animals for ivory and human meat consumption one got doing should be severely punished.
  • The government of Uganda should promote eco-tourism for citizens to participate and the usefulness of having Murchison Falls National Park.
  • Communities and people surrounding the park should engage in afforestation to ensure that more trees are planted. This maintains nature and the good climate of the park.
  • More rangers should be deployed in Murchison Falls National Park to make regular patrols within the park’s borders.

The geography of Murchison Falls National Park is amazing from the landscape of valleys and hills to the rolling savanna. The aspects of geography in the park have been identified ranging from its location, weather, and climate and the human distribution with its impacts on the park.

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