The Jordan may be a “mighty river” in the desert Middle East, but It’s a disappointment to tourists. At roughly thirty yards across and only two to ten feet deep, it seems barely fit for a canoe.
Yet it’s the biggest and most important river in Israel-one that has carved and nourished a fertile river valley stretching from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea-about seventy miles as a bird files, but twice as long as the river winds.
The Jordan actually stars north of there. It gets much of its water from four streams fed by the melting snow on Mount Hermon in Lebanon, along the borders with Syria and Israel, These streams merge north of the Sea of Galilee to become what is sometimes called the Upper Jordan.
Famers make good use of the narrow river valley, which averages only about six miles wide. But in the plain of Jericho, near the Dead Sea, the valley spreads out fifteen miles wide into orchards, vineyards, and garden.
When Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan, they did so on dry ground because “the water began piling up at a town upstream called Adam” (Joshua 3:16). Adam is near one of at least sixty fords across the river-shallow land caused by silt buildup or crumbled dirt cliffs.
In 1927, an earthquake shook loose part of the 150-foot dirt cliffs at Adam, dropping them into the Jordan and damming up the river for almost a full day.