Bangweulu - 'where the water sky meets the sky' - is one of the world's great wetland systems, comprising Lake Bangweulu, the Bangweulu Swamps and the Bangweulu Flats or floodplain. Situated in the upper Congo River basin in Zambia, the Bangweulu system covers an almost completely flat area roughly the size of Connecticut or East Anglia, at an elevation of 1,140 m straddling Zambia's Luapula Province and Northern Province. It is crucial to the economy and biodiversity of northern Zambia, and to the birdlife of a much larger region, and faces environmental stress and conservation issues.
With a long axis of 75 km and a width of up to 40 km, Lake Bangweulu's permanent open water surface is about 3,000 sq km, which expands when its swamps and floodplains are in flood at the end of the rainy season in May. The combined area of the lake and wetlands reaches 15,000 sq km. The lake has an average depth of only 4 m.
The Bangweulu system is fed by about seventeen rivers of which the Chambeshi (the source of the Congo River) is the largest, and is drained by the Luapula River.