The city is situated at the head of the delta of the Mahanadi.
They are intersected by three large rivers, the Baitarani, Brahmani and Mahanadi.
Two navigable channels lead inland across the Mahanadi delta, and connect the port with Cuttack city.
Since the opening of the Bengal-Nagpur railway, the Mahanadi is little used for navigation.
It is a hilly tract, containing the headwaters of the Mahanadi.
In the dry weather the discharge of the Mahanadi dwindles to 1125 cub.
The most important affluents of the Mahanadi are the Seonath and Hasdu.
The Mahanadi is the principal river of the district, and governs the whole drainage and river system of the surrounding country.
Sambalpur, on the upper channel of the Mahanadi river in the Central Provinces, is another spot once famous for diamonds.