Tana River County

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Spatial Location of Tana River County in Kenya
Spatial Location of Tana River County in Kenya

Brief Overview of Tana River County

From its pitch in the Aberdare Mountain Range to its end-of-the-line at Tana River Delta, draining into the Indian Ocean, Tana River streams for almost 850 kms making it the longest river within Kenya, and its importance for generating hydro-electric power and sustaining the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people along the Tana River Basin are clearly and inextricably linked. From the Aberdares, Tana River flows east, north, east again before it commences on the lengthy 500 kms southerly course lining the entire northern and western franks of Tana River County – a title that answers to the superlative presence of this mighty river. Tana River County is dominated by a complex ecosystem running from spectral canopy coastal forests, riverine strips, wooded bushland, thickets with grassland plains and mangrove fens.  By far, the most striking ecologies in Tana River County are River Tana Delta and its little-travelled 72 kms coastline.

Besides Tana River, there are several small rivers, more proper laghas, flowing in a west-east direction from Kitui and Makueni Counties all draining into Tana River. Even so, Tana River County is a predominantly arid area with little land use. The Pokomo, notable as the largest ethnic community, survive on exiguous subsistence tillage along the Tana insomuch as the minority Orma and Wardei Tribes are pastoralists, habitually on the move in search of pasture for livestock. The pastoral communities make up about 14% of the population. Poverty levels stand at 77% making Tana River County the 5th poorest County of Kenya. There are seven large ranches in the County – Wachu (307 km2), Kibusu (250 km2), Haganda (120 km2), Kitangale (200 km2), Idasa Godana (510 km2), Giritu (433 km2) and Kondertu (200 km2) – and out of the seven ranches only Idasa Godana Ranch can be said to be active, with about 10% of its acreage put to use.

The principal line of communication in Tana River County is the B8 Malindi-Garissa Road, through Garsen and Hola (Bura), that’s oriented north-south and running just 30 kms outside the eastern boundary for 347 kms from Malindi to Garissa. The second road, a bit more engaged, connects the B8 Malindi-Garissa Road with the A3 Thika-Liboi Road at Garissa, and this travels east to west for about 70 kms in the northern area of the County through Bangali. Owing to the comparatively low rainfall and to the indigenous practice of overgrazing, with both cattle and goats, the vegetation profile over much of Tana River County is mainly of the thick thorn-bush type with restricted grass, excepting the riverine areas along Tana River marked by an abundance of greenery and woodlands. The ground slopes away southwards with few low hills. Tana River is one of six counties in the Coast Region. It borders Isiolo County (north), Garissa County (east), Lamu County (southeast), Kilifi County (south), and Kitui County (west).

Aerial view of the River Tana Delta.  Image Courtesy of David Beatty
Aerial view of the River Tana Delta.  Image Courtesy of David Beatty

Salient Features of Tana River County

  • County Number 04
  • Area – 38,862 km2
  • Altitude – 6200 ft
  • Major Towns – Hola, Madogo, Galole, Bura
  • Borders – Kitui, Garissa, Isiolo, Lamu, Kilifi
Tana River County Map

Brief History of Tana River County

Although Tana River County is a sparsely populated region, it has a long saga of tribal conflicts. Other setbacks that have transposed Tana River County beyond local solutions include: its economic and political marginalization, its long and involved resistance to assimilation, its resource depletion, lagging demographic changes, its climatic conditions, its cattle rustling and small arms proliferation, and the adverse government policies. Tribal conflict in Tana River County dates back to the 17th century when different communities started settling along the banks of River Tana – in particular the communities from Ethiopia and Somali.

The Hola Massacre Monument at Hola. Image Courtesy of WikiWand
The Hola Massacre Monument at Hola. Image Courtesy of WikiWand
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12 Attractions in Tana River County, arranged as one would visit these - north to south - with the aid of in-depth narratives, images, strip maps and distance chart: 

Adamsons Falls Bridge, Kora National Park, Adamson's Monument, Arawale National Reserve, Hola Monument, Bura Irrigation Scheme, Bura Mission Church, Tana Primate National Reserve, River Tana Basin, Delta Dunes Lodge, Kipini Conservancy, Tsavo East

Geography, Land-Use, Highlights, Population, Roads, Airports, Climate and National Monuments in Tana River County