The Red River

The Red River, also known as Song Hong in Vietnamese, begins in China’s Yunnan province in the mountains south of Dali. It flows generally southeastward, passing through Dai ethnic minority areas before leaving China through Yunnan’s Honghe Autonomous Prefecture.

The Red River enters Vietnam at Lao Cai Province and forms a portion of the international border between China and Vietnam. The river, known as Thao River for this upper stretch, continues its southeasterly course through northwestern Vietnam before emerging from the mountains to reach the midlands.

The main tributaries of the Red River include the Black River (Da River) and Lo River which join in to form the very broad Hong near Viet Tri, Phu Thọ Province. Downstream from Viet Tri, the river and its many distributaries spread out to form the Red River Delta.

The Red River flows past the Vietnamese capital Hanoi before emptying into the Gulf of Tonkin. It is the second largest river in Vietnam and one of the five largest rivers on the East Asia coast.

Red River Facts

  • Source: province of Yunnan
  • Mouth: gulf of Tonkin
  • Average discharge: 3,640 m3/s
  • Total length: 1,200 km
  • Watershed: 160,000 km²
  • States crossed: China, Vietnam
  • Tributaries: Clear River (Lo), Black River (Da)

Why is it called “Red River”?

The reddish-brown heavily silt-laden water gives the river its name.

The Red River Delta in Vietnam

The Red River Delta is the flat low-lying plain formed by the Red River and its distributaries merging with the Thai Binh River in northern Vietnam. The delta has the smallest area but highest population and population density of all regions.

The Red River Delta region, measuring some 15,000 square kilometres (6,000 sq mi) is well protected by a network of dikes. It is an agriculturally rich and densely populated area. Most of the land is devoted to rice cultivation.

Red River Delta Biosphere Reserve

  • Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 137,261 ha
  • Core area(s): 14,842 ha (terrestrial: 6,278 ha; marine: 8,564 ha)
  • Buffer zone(s): 36,951 ha (terrestrial: 18,457 ha; marine: 18,494 ha)
  • Transition area(s): 85,468 ha (terrestrial: 35,447 ha; marine: 50,021 ha)

The region was designated as the Red River Delta Biosphere Reserve as part of UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme in 2004.

Mangroves and intertidal habitats of the Red River Delta form wetlands of high biodiversity, especially in the Xuan Thuy and Tien Hai districts. These wetlands are of global importance as migratory sites for several bird species.

Red River Delta Flood

The Red River is notorious for its violent floods with its seasonally wide volume fluctuations.

hanoi red river

In 1975, a diversion canal was excavated to protect the capital against floods. However, it did not prevent the floods occurring downstream of the city, towards the flood plain of the River Day. Nearly 500,000 inhabitants living on this land were directly concerned.

Nowadays, the construction of hydropower dams upstream – on the Chinese side of the border – negatively affects the Vietnamese section of the Red River.

Red River Delta Provinces

Eight provinces together with two municipalities, the capital Hanoi, and the port Hai Phong form the delta.

ProvinceArea (km2)Population
Bac Ninh822.81,368,840
Ha Nam860.5852,800
Hai Duong1,6561,892,254
Hung Yen9261,252,731
Nam Dinh1,652.61,780,393
Ninh Binh1,378.1982,487
Thai Binh1,570.51,860,447
Vinh Phuc1,253.31,151,154
Hai Phong1,561.72,025,514

The Red River Delta Vietnam Map

Red River Delta Tour

North Vietnam Cycling Tour 6 Days is crafted by the Hanoi based tour operator Vietnam Cycling taking you to the Red River Delta where you enjoy some of Vietnam’s major travel destinations including Tam Coc, Nam Dinh, Hai Phong, Cat Ba island and Halong bay. This is an easy cycling tour as you ride mostly on flat, paved road are countryside roads without up and downhill rides. Although we run the tour all year round, the best time to travel this itinerary is late September, early October, late April and early May.

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Red River Delta Cruise

This half day cruise offers you the opportunity to escape the busy bustle of Hanoi, and to experience the peaceful life on the banks of the Red River.


At about 11.00 our guide takes you to the boat pier where you’ll embark on a ship, and travel downstream the Red River. Enjoy peaceful life of people on both sides of the river, corn fields, vegetable gardens, small boats on both sides of the river. The boat stops at Bat Trang pottery village. It’s time for lunch. Afterwards, discover the 1000 year old village of Bat Trang. You have the opportunity to make pottery, firsthand to see the most famous ceramic products in Vietnam. The boat takes you back to Hanoi at about 4.30pm. Trip ends.

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