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Amazon River

Amazon River
Rio Amazonas
Satellite image of the Amazon Delta
Amazon River and its drainage basin
Native nameAmazonas (Portuguese)
CountryPeru, Colombia, Brazil
CitiesIquitos (Peru); Leticia (Colombia);
Tabatinga (Brazil); Tefé (Brazil);
Itacoatiara (Brazil) Parintins (Brazil);
Óbidos (Brazil); Santarém (Brazil);
Almeirim (Brazil); Macapá (Brazil);
Manaus (Brazil)
Physical characteristics
SourceApurímac River, Mismi Peak
 • locationArequipa Region, Peru
 • coordinates15°31′04″S 71°41′37″W / 15.51778°S 71.69361°W / -15.51778; -71.69361
 • elevation5,220 m (17,130 ft)
MouthAtlantic Ocean
 • location
 • coordinates
0°42′28″N 50°5′22″W / 0.70778°N 50.08944°W / 0.70778; -50.08944[1]
Length3,750 km (2,330 mi)[2]

(Amazon–Ucayali–Tambo–Ené– Apurimac 6,400 km (4,000 mi) to 6,500 km (4,000 mi)[n 1]

(Amazon–Marañón 5,700 km (3,500 mi)[2]
Basin size7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi)[3] 6,743,000 km2 (2,603,000 sq mi)[6]
 • minimum700 m (2,300 ft) (Upper Amazon); 1.5 km (0.93 mi) (Itacoatiara, Lower Amazon)[7]
 • average3 km (1.9 mi) (Middle Amazon); 5 km (3.1 mi) (Lower Amazon)[7][8]
 • maximum10 km (6.2 mi) to 14 km (8.7 mi) (Lower Amazon);[7][9] 340 km (210 mi) (estuary)[10]
 • average15 m (49 ft) to 45 m (148 ft) (Middle Amazon); 20 m (66 ft) to 50 m (160 ft) (Lower Amazon)[7]
 • maximum150 m (490 ft) (Itacoatiara); 130 m (430 ft) (Óbidos)[7][8]
 • locationAtlantic Ocean (near mouth)
 • average215,000 m3/s (7,600,000 cu ft/s)–230,000 m3/s (8,100,000 cu ft/s)(Period: 2003–2015)[11][12] (Period: 1972–2003)206,000 m3/s (7,300,000 cu ft/s)(Basin size: 5,956,000 km2 (2,300,000 sq mi)[13]
 • minimum180,000 m3/s (6,400,000 cu ft/s)
 • maximum340,000 m3/s (12,000,000 cu ft/s)
 • locationAmazon Delta (Amazon/Tocantins/Pará)
 • average230,000 m3/s (8,100,000 cu ft/s)[6] (Basin size: 6,743,000 km2 (2,603,000 sq mi)[6] to 7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi)[3]
 • locationSantarém (704 km upstream of mouth; Basin size: 5,232,764 km2 (2,020,381 sq mi)
 • average(Period: 1971–2000)191,624 m3/s (6,767,100 cu ft/s)[15]
 • minimum(Period: 1998–2023)82,160 m3/s (2,901,000 cu ft/s)[14] 46,130 m3/s (1,629,000 cu ft/s)(Year: 2023)[14]
 • maximum(Period: 1998–2023)298,400 m3/s (10,540,000 cu ft/s)[14] (Year: 2022)406,000 m3/s (14,300,000 cu ft/s)[14]
 • locationÓbidos (800 km upstream of mouth – Basin size: 4,704,076 km2 (1,816,254 sq mi))
 • average(Period: 1903–2023)165,829.6 m3/s (5,856,220 cu ft/s)[17]

(Period: 1971–2000)173,272.6 m3/s (6,119,060 cu ft/s)[15] (Period: 1928–1996)176,177 m3/s (6,221,600 cu ft/s)[16]

(Period: 01/01/1997–31/12/2015)178,193.9 m3/s (6,292,860 cu ft/s)[18]
 • minimum(Period: 1928–1996)75,602 m3/s (2,669,900 cu ft/s)[16] (Period: 1903–2023)95,000 m3/s (3,400,000 cu ft/s)[17]
 • maximum(Period: 1928–1996)306,317 m3/s (10,817,500 cu ft/s)[16]

(Period: 1903–2023)260,000 m3/s (9,200,000 cu ft/s)[17]

394,000 m3/s (13,900,000 cu ft/s)(Year: 1953)
 • locationManacapuru, Solimões (Basin size: 2,147,736 km2 (829,246 sq mi)
 • average(Period: 01/01/1997–31/12/2015) 105,720 m3/s (3,733,000 cu ft/s)[18]
Basin features
 • leftMarañón, Nanay, Napo, Ampiyaçu, Japurá/Caquetá, Rio Negro/Guainía, Putumayo, Badajós, Manacapuru, Urubu, Uatumã, Nhamundá, Trombetas, Maicurú, Curuá, Paru, Jari
 • rightUcayali, Jandiatuba, Javary, Jutai, Juruá, Tefé, Coari, Purús, Madeira, Paraná do Raimos, Tapajós, Curuá-Una, Xingu, Pará, Tocantins, Acará, Guamá
Topography of the Amazon River Basin

The Amazon River (UK: /ˈæməzən/, US: /ˈæməzɒn/; Spanish: Río Amazonas, Portuguese: Rio Amazonas) in South America is the largest river by discharge volume of water in the world, and the longest or second-longest river system in the world, a title which is disputed with the Nile.[3][19][n 2]

The headwaters of the Apurímac River on Nevado Mismi had been considered for nearly a century the Amazon basin's most distant source until a 2014 study found it to be the headwaters of the Mantaro River on the Cordillera Rumi Cruz in Peru.[24] The Mantaro and Apurímac rivers join, and with other tributaries form the Ucayali River, which in turn meets the Marañón River upstream of Iquitos, Peru, forming what countries other than Brazil consider to be the main stem of the Amazon. Brazilians call this section the Solimões River above its confluence with the Rio Negro[25] forming what Brazilians call the Amazon at the Meeting of Waters (Portuguese: Encontro das Águas) at Manaus, the largest city on the river.

The Amazon River has an average discharge of about 215,000–230,000 m3/s (7,600,000–8,100,000 cu ft/s)—approximately 6,591–7,570 km3 (1,581–1,816 cu mi) per year, greater than the next seven largest independent rivers combined. Two of the top ten rivers by discharge are tributaries of the Amazon river. The Amazon represents 20% of the global riverine discharge into oceans.[26] The Amazon basin is the largest drainage basin in the world, with an area of approximately 7,000,000 km2 (2,700,000 sq mi).[3] The portion of the river's drainage basin in Brazil alone is larger than any other river's basin. The Amazon enters Brazil with only one-fifth of the flow it finally discharges into the Atlantic Ocean, yet already has a greater flow at this point than the discharge of any other river.[27][28]


The Amazon was initially known by Europeans as the Marañón, and the Peruvian part of the river is still known by that name today. It later became known as Rio Amazonas in Spanish and Portuguese.

The name Rio Amazonas was reportedly given after native warriors attacked a 16th-century expedition by Francisco de Orellana. The warriors were led by women, reminding de Orellana of the Amazon warriors, a tribe of women warriors related to Iranian Scythians and Sarmatians[29][30] mentioned in Greek mythology. The word Amazon itself may be derived from the Iranian compound * ha-maz-an- "(one) fighting together"[31] or ethnonym * ha-mazan- "warriors", a word attested indirectly through a derivation, a denominal verb in Hesychius of Alexandria's gloss "ἁμαζακάραν· πολεμεῖν. Πέρσαι" ("hamazakaran: 'to make war' in Persian"), where it appears together with the Indo-Iranian root * kar- "make" (from which Sanskrit karma is also derived).[32]

Other scholars[who?] claim that the name is derived from the Tupi word amassona, meaning "boat destroyer".[33]


Geological history

Recent geological studies suggest that for millions of years the Amazon River used to flow in the opposite direction - from east to west. Eventually the Andes Mountains formed, blocking its flow to the Pacific Ocean, and causing it to switch directions to its current mouth in the Atlantic Ocean.[34]

Pre-Columbian era

Old drawing (from 1879) of Arapaima fishing at the Amazon river. The arapaima has been on Earth for at least 23 million years.[35]

During what many archaeologists called the formative stage, Amazonian societies were deeply involved in the emergence of South America's highland agrarian systems. The trade with Andean civilizations in the terrains of the headwaters in the Andes formed an essential contribution to the social and religious development of higher-altitude civilizations like the Muisca and Incas. Early human settlements were typically based on low-lying hills or mounds.

Shell mounds were the earliest evidence of habitation; they represent piles of human refuse (waste) and are mainly dated between 7500 BC and 4000 BC. They are associated with ceramic age cultures; no preceramic shell mounds have been documented so far by archaeologists.[36] Artificial earth platforms for entire villages are the second type of mounds. They are best represented by the Marajoara culture. Figurative mounds are the most recent types of occupation.

There is ample evidence that the areas surrounding the Amazon River were home to complex and large-scale indigenous societies, mainly chiefdoms who developed towns and cities.[37] Archaeologists estimate that by the time the Spanish conquistador De Orellana traveled across the Amazon in 1541, more than 3 million indigenous people lived around the Amazon.[38] These pre-Columbian settlements created highly developed civilizations. For instance, pre-Columbian indigenous people on the island of Marajó may have developed social stratification and supported a population of 100,000 people. To achieve this level of development, the indigenous inhabitants of the Amazon rainforest altered the forest's ecology by selective cultivation and the use of fire. Scientists argue that by burning areas of the forest repeatedly, the indigenous people caused the soil to become richer in nutrients. This created dark soil areas known as terra preta de índio ("Indian dark earth").[39] Because of the terra preta, indigenous communities were able to make land fertile and thus sustainable for the large-scale agriculture needed to support their large populations and complex social structures. Further research has hypothesized that this practice began around 11,000 years ago. Some say that its effects on forest ecology and regional climate explain the otherwise inexplicable band of lower rainfall through the Amazon basin.[39]

Many indigenous tribes engaged in constant warfare. According to James S. Olson, "The Munduruku expansion (in the 18th century) dislocated and displaced the Kawahíb, breaking the tribe down into much smaller groups ... [Munduruku] first came to the attention of Europeans in 1770 when they began a series of widespread attacks on Brazilian settlements along the Amazon River."[40]

Arrival of Europeans

Amazon tributaries near Manaus

In March 1500, Spanish conquistador Vicente Yáñez Pinzón was the first documented European to sail up the Amazon River.[41] Pinzón called the stream Río Santa María del Mar Dulce, later shortened to Mar Dulce, literally, sweet sea, because of its freshwater pushing out into the ocean. Another Spanish explorer, Francisco de Orellana, was the first European to travel from the origins of the upstream river basins, situated in the Andes, to the mouth of the river. In this journey, Orellana baptized some of the affluents of the Amazonas like Rio Negro, Napo and Jurua. The name Amazonas is thought to be taken from the native warriors that attacked this expedition, mostly women, that reminded De Orellana of the mythical female Amazon warriors from the ancient Hellenic culture in Greece (see also Origin of the name).


Samuel Fritz's 1707 map showing the Amazon and the Orinoco

Gonzalo Pizarro set off in 1541 to explore east of Quito into the South American interior in search of El Dorado, the "city of gold" and La Canela, the "valley of cinnamon".[42] He was accompanied by his second-in-command Francisco de Orellana. After 170 km (106 mi), the Coca River joined the Napo River (at a point now known as Puerto Francisco de Orellana); the party stopped for a few weeks to build a boat just upriver from this confluence. They continued downriver through an uninhabited area, where they could not find food. Orellana offered and was ordered to follow the Napo River, then known as Río de la Canela ("Cinnamon River"), and return with food for the party. Based on intelligence received from a captive native chief named Delicola, they expected to find food within a few days downriver by ascending another river to the north.

De Orellana took about 57 men, the boat, and some canoes and left Pizarro's troops on 26 December 1541. However, De Orellana missed the confluence (probably with the Aguarico) where he was searching supplies for his men. By the time he and his men reached another village, many of them were sick from hunger and eating "noxious plants", and near death. Seven men died in that village. His men threatened to mutiny if the expedition turned back to attempt to rejoin Pizarro, the party being over 100 leagues downstream at this point. He accepted to change the purpose of the expedition to discover new lands in the name of the king of Spain, and the men built a larger boat in which to navigate downstream. After a journey of 600 km (370 mi) down the Napo River, they reached a further major confluence, at a point near modern Iquitos, and then followed the upper Amazon, now known as the Solimões, for a further 1,200 km (746 mi) to its confluence with the Rio Negro (near modern Manaus), which they reached on 3 June 1542.

Regarding the initial mission of finding cinnamon, Pizarro reported to the king that they had found cinnamon trees, but that they could not be profitably harvested. True cinnamon (Cinnamomum Verum) is not native to South America. Other related cinnamon-containing plants (of the family Lauraceae) are fairly common in that part of the Amazon and Pizarro probably saw some of these. The expedition reached the mouth of the Amazon on 24 August 1542, demonstrating the practical navigability of the Great River.

Masked-dance, and wedding-feast of Ticuna Indians, engravings for Bates's 1863 The Naturalist on the River Amazons

In 1560, another Spanish conquistador, Lope de Aguirre, may have made the second descent of the Amazon. Historians are uncertain whether the river he descended was the Amazon or the Orinoco River, which runs more or less parallel to the Amazon further north.

Portuguese explorer Pedro Teixeira was the first European to travel up the entire river. He arrived in Quito in 1637, and returned via the same route.[43]

From 1648 to 1652, Portuguese Brazilian bandeirante António Raposo Tavares led an expedition from São Paulo overland to the mouth of the Amazon, investigating many of its tributaries, including the Rio Negro, and covering a distance of over 10,000 km (6,200 mi).

In what is currently in Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela, several colonial and religious settlements were established along the banks of primary rivers and tributaries for trade, slaving, and evangelization among the indigenous peoples of the vast rainforest, such as the Urarina. In the late 1600s, Czech Jesuit Father Samuel Fritz, an apostle of the Omagus established some forty mission villages. Fritz proposed that the Marañón River must be the source of the Amazon, noting on his 1707 map that the Marañón "has its source on the southern shore of a lake that is called Lauricocha, near Huánuco." Fritz reasoned that the Marañón is the largest river branch one encounters when journeying upstream, and lies farther to the west than any other tributary of the Amazon. For most of the 18th–19th centuries and into the 20th century, the Marañón was generally considered the source of the Amazon.[44]

Henry Walter Bates was most famous for his expedition to the Amazon (1848–1859).

Scientific exploration

Early scientific, zoological, and botanical exploration of the Amazon River and basin took place from the 18th century through the first half of the 19th century.

Post-colonial exploitation and settlement

Amazonas state
Amazon Theatre opera house in Manaus built in 1896 during the rubber boom
Amazon Theatre opera house in Manaus built in 1896 during the rubber boom
Metropolitan Cathedral of Santarém, in Santarém, Brazil
Metropolitan Cathedral of Santarém, in Santarém, Brazil
Iglesia Matriz in Iquitos, Peru

The Cabanagem revolt (1835–1840) was directed against the white ruling class. It is estimated that from 30% to 40% of the population of Grão-Pará, estimated at 100,000 people, died.[46]

The population of the Brazilian portion of the Amazon basin in 1850 was perhaps 300,000, of whom about 175,000 were Europeans and 25,000 were slaves. The Brazilian Amazon's principal commercial city, Pará (now Belém), had from 10,000 to 12,000 inhabitants, including slaves. The town of Manáos, now Manaus, at the mouth of the Rio Negro, had a population between 1,000 and 1,500. All the remaining villages, as far up as Tabatinga, on the Brazilian frontier of Peru, were relatively small.[47]

On 6 September 1850, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil sanctioned a law authorizing steam navigation on the Amazon and gave the Viscount of Mauá (Irineu Evangelista de Sousa) the task of putting it into effect. He organised the "Companhia de Navegação e Comércio do Amazonas" in Rio de Janeiro in 1852; in the following year it commenced operations with four small steamers, the Monarca ('Monarch'), the Cametá, the Marajó and the Rio Negro.[47][48]

At first, navigation was principally confined to the main river; and even in 1857 a modification of the government contract only obliged the company to a monthly service between Pará and Manaus, with steamers of 200 tons cargo capacity, a second line to make six round voyages a year between Manaus and Tabatinga, and a third, two trips a month between Pará and Cametá.[47] This was the first step in opening up the vast interior.

The success of the venture called attention to the opportunities for economic exploitation of the Amazon, and a second company soon opened commerce on the Madeira, Purús, and Negro; a third established a line between Pará and Manaus, and a fourth found it profitable to navigate some of the smaller streams. In that same period, the Amazonas Company was increasing its fleet. Meanwhile, private individuals were building and running small steam craft of their own on the main river as well as on many of its tributaries.[47]

On 31 July 1867, the government of Brazil, constantly pressed by the maritime powers and by the countries encircling the upper Amazon basin, especially Peru, decreed the opening of the Amazon to all countries, but they limited this to certain defined points: Tabatinga – on the Amazon; Cametá – on the Tocantins; Santarém – on the Tapajós; Borba – on the Madeira, and Manaus – on the Rio Negro. The Brazilian decree took effect on 7 September 1867.[47]

Thanks in part to the mercantile development associated with steamboat navigation coupled with the internationally driven demand for natural rubber, the Peruvian city of Iquitos became a thriving, cosmopolitan center of commerce. Foreign companies settled in Iquitos, from where they controlled the extraction of rubber. In 1851 Iquitos had a population of 200, and by 1900 its population reached 20,000. In the 1860s, approximately 3,000 tons of rubber were being exported annually, and by 1911 annual exports had grown to 44,000 tons, representing 9.3% of Peru's exports.[49] During the rubber boom it is estimated that diseases brought by immigrants, such as typhus and malaria, killed 40,000 native Amazonians.[50]

The first direct foreign trade with Manaus commenced around 1874. Local trade along the river was carried on by the English successors to the Amazonas Company—the Amazon Steam Navigation Company—as well as numerous small steamboats, belonging to companies and firms engaged in the rubber trade, navigating the Negro, Madeira, Purús, and many other tributaries,[47] such as the Marañón, to ports as distant as Nauta, Peru.

By the turn of the 20th century, the exports of the Amazon basin were India-rubber, cacao beans, Brazil nuts and a few other products of minor importance, such as pelts and exotic forest produce (resins, barks, woven hammocks, prized bird feathers, live animals) and extracted goods, such as lumber and gold.

20th-century development

Manaus, the largest city in Amazonas, as seen from a NASA satellite image, surrounded by the dark Rio Negro and the muddy Amazon River
City of Manaus
Floating houses in Leticia, Colombia

Since colonial times, the Portuguese portion of the Amazon basin has remained a land largely undeveloped by agriculture and occupied by indigenous people who survived the arrival of European diseases.

Four centuries after the European discovery of the Amazon river, the total cultivated area in its basin was probably less than 65 km2 (25 sq mi), excluding the limited and crudely cultivated areas among the mountains at its extreme headwaters.[51] This situation changed dramatically during the 20th century.

Wary of foreign exploitation of the nation's resources, Brazilian governments in the 1940s set out to develop the interior, away from the seaboard where foreigners owned large tracts of land. The original architect of this expansion was president Getúlio Vargas, with the demand for rubber from the Allied forces in World War II providing funding for the drive.

In the 1960s, economic exploitation of the Amazon basin was seen as a way to fuel the "economic miracle" occurring at the time. This resulted in the development of "Operation Amazon", an economic development project that brought large-scale agriculture and ranching to Amazonia. This was done through a combination of credit and fiscal incentives.[52]

However, in the 1970s the government took a new approach with the National Integration Program (PIN). A large-scale colonization program saw families from northeastern Brazil relocated to the "land without people" in the Amazon Basin. This was done in conjunction with infrastructure projects mainly the Trans-Amazonian Highway (Transamazônica).[52]

The Trans-Amazonian Highway's three pioneering highways were completed within ten years but never fulfilled their promise. Large portions of the Trans-Amazonian and its accessory roads, such as BR-317 (Manaus-Porto Velho), are derelict and impassable in the rainy season. Small towns and villages are scattered across the forest, and because its vegetation is so dense, some remote areas are still unexplored.

Many settlements grew along the road from Brasília to Belém with the highway and National Integration Program, however, the program failed as the settlers were unequipped to live in the delicate rainforest ecosystem. This, although the government believed it could sustain millions, instead could sustain very few.[53]

With a population of 1.9 million people in 2014, Manaus is the largest city on the Amazon. Manaus alone makes up approximately 50% of the population of the largest Brazilian state of Amazonas. The racial makeup of the city is 64% pardo (mulatto and mestizo) and 32% white.[54]

Although the Amazon river remains undammed, around 412 dams are in operation in the Amazon's tributary rivers. Of these 412 dams, 151 are constructed over six of the main tributary rivers that drain into the Amazon.[55] Since only 4% of the Amazon's hydropower potential has been developed in countries like Brazil,[56] more damming projects are underway and hundreds more are planned.[57] After witnessing the negative effects of environmental degradation, sedimentation, navigation and flood control caused by the Three Gorges Dam in the Yangtze River,[58] scientists are worried that constructing more dams in the Amazon will harm its biodiversity in the same way by "blocking fish-spawning runs, reducing the flows of vital oil nutrients and clearing forests".[57] Damming the Amazon River could potentially bring about the "end of free flowing rivers" and contribute to an "ecosystem collapse" that will cause major social and environmental problems.[55]



The Amazon was thought to originate from the Apacheta cliff in Arequipa at the Nevado Mismi, marked only by a wooden cross.
Nevado Mismi, formerly considered to be the source of the Amazon
Marañón River in Peru

The most distant source of the Amazon was thought to be in the Apurímac river drainage for nearly a century. Such studies continued to be published even as recently as 1996,[59] 2001,[60] 2007,[21] and 2008,[61] where various authors identified the snowcapped 5,597 m (18,363 ft) Nevado Mismi peak, located roughly 160 km (99 mi) west of Lake Titicaca and 700 km (430 mi) southeast of Lima, as the most distant source of the river. From that point, Quebrada Carhuasanta emerges from Nevado Mismi, joins Quebrada Apacheta and soon forms Río Lloqueta which becomes Río Hornillos and eventually joins the Río Apurímac.

A 2014 study by Americans James Contos and Nicolas Tripcevich in Area, a peer-reviewed journal of the Royal Geographical Society, however, identifies the most distant source of the Amazon as actually being in the Río Mantaro drainage.[24] A variety of methods were used to compare the lengths of the Mantaro river vs. the Apurímac river from their most distant source points to their confluence, showing the longer length of the Mantaro. Then distances from Lago Junín to several potential source points in the uppermost Mantaro river were measured, which enabled them to determine that the Cordillera Rumi Cruz was the most distant source of water in the Mantaro basin (and therefore in the entire Amazon basin). The most accurate measurement method was direct GPS measurement obtained by kayak descent of each of the rivers from their source points to their confluence (performed by Contos). Obtaining these measurements was difficult given the class IV–V nature of each of these rivers, especially in their lower "Abyss" sections. Ultimately, they determined that the most distant point in the Mantaro drainage is nearly 80 km farther upstream compared to Mt. Mismi in the Apurímac drainage, and thus the maximal length of the Amazon river is about 80 km longer than previously thought. Contos continued downstream to the ocean and finished the first complete descent of the Amazon river from its newly identified source (finishing November 2012), a journey repeated by two groups after the news spread.[62]

After about 700 km (430 mi), the Apurímac then joins Río Mantaro to form the Ene, which joins the Perene to form the Tambo, which joins the Urubamba River to form the Ucayali. After the confluence of Apurímac and Ucayali, the river leaves Andean terrain and is surrounded by floodplain. From this point to the confluence of the Ucayali and the Marañón, some 1,600 km (990 mi), the forested banks are just above the water and are inundated long before the river attains its maximum flood stage.[47] The low river banks are interrupted by only a few hills, and the river enters the enormous Amazon rainforest.

The Upper Amazon or Solimões

Amazon River near Iquitos, Peru

Although the Ucayali–Marañón confluence is the point at which most geographers place the beginning of the Amazon River proper, in Brazil the river is known at this point as the Solimões das Águas. The river systems and flood plains in Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela, whose waters drain into the Solimões and its tributaries, are called the "Upper Amazon".

The Amazon proper runs mostly through Brazil and Peru, and is part of the border between Colombia and Peru. It has a series of major tributaries in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, some of which flow into the Marañón and Ucayali, and others directly into the Amazon proper. These include rivers Putumayo, Caquetá, Vaupés, Guainía, Morona, Pastaza, Nucuray, Urituyacu, Chambira, Tigre, Nanay, Napo, and Huallaga.

At some points, the river divides into anabranches, or multiple channels, often very long, with inland and lateral channels, all connected by a complicated system of natural canals, cutting the low, flat igapó lands, which are never more than 5 m (16 ft) above low river, into many islands.[63]

From the town of Canaria at the great bend of the Amazon to the Negro, vast areas of land are submerged at high water, above which only the upper part of the trees of the sombre forests appear. Near the mouth of the Rio Negro to Serpa, nearly opposite the river Madeira, the banks of the Amazon are low, until approaching Manaus, they rise to become rolling hills.[47]

The Lower Amazon

Meeting of Waters; the confluence of Rio Negro (blue) and Rio Solimões (sandy) near Manaus, Brazil
Water samples of the Solimões (right) and Rio Negro (left)

The Lower Amazon begins where the darkly colored waters of the Rio Negro meets the sandy-colored Rio Solimões (the upper Amazon), and for over 6 km (3.7 mi) these waters run side by side without mixing. At Óbidos, a bluff 17 m (56 ft) above the river is backed by low hills. The lower Amazon seems to have once been a gulf of the Atlantic Ocean, the waters of which washed the cliffs near Óbidos.

Only about 10% of the Amazon's water enters downstream of Óbidos, very little of which is from the northern slope of the valley. The drainage area of the Amazon basin above Óbidos city is about 5,000,000 km2 (1,900,000 sq mi), and, below, only about 1,000,000 km2 (390,000 sq mi) (around 20%), exclusive of the 1,400,000 km2 (540,000 sq mi) of the Tocantins basin.[47] The Tocantins River enters the southern portion of the Amazon delta.

In the lower reaches of the river, the north bank consists of a series of steep, table-topped hills extending for about 240 km (150 mi) from opposite the mouth of the Xingu as far as Monte Alegre. These hills are cut down to a kind of terrace which lies between them and the river.[63]

On the south bank, above the Xingu, a line of low bluffs bordering the floodplain extends nearly to Santarém in a series of gentle curves before they bend to the southwest, and, abutting upon the lower Tapajós, merge into the bluffs which form the terrace margin of the Tapajós river valley.[64]


Satellite image of the mouth of the Amazon River, from the north looking south

Belém is the major city and port at the mouth of the river at the Atlantic Ocean. The definition of where exactly the mouth of the Amazon is located, and how wide it is, is a matter of dispute, because of the area's peculiar geography. The Pará and the Amazon are connected by a series of river channels called furos near the town of Breves; between them lies Marajó, the world's largest combined river/sea island.

If the Pará river and the Marajó island ocean frontage are included, the Amazon estuary is some 325 km (202 mi) wide.[65] In this case, the width of the mouth of the river is usually measured from Cabo Norte, the cape located straight east of Pracuúba in the Brazilian state of Amapá, to Ponta da Tijoca near the town of Curuçá, in the state of Pará.

A more conservative measurement excluding the Pará river estuary, from the mouth of the Araguari River to Ponta do Navio on the northern coast of Marajó, would still give the mouth of the Amazon a width of over 180 km (112 mi). If only the river's main channel is considered, between the islands of Curuá (state of Amapá) and Jurupari (state of Pará), the width falls to about 15 km (9.3 mi).

The plume generated by the river's discharge covers up to 1.3 million km2 and is responsible for muddy bottoms influencing a wide area of the tropical north Atlantic in terms of salinity, pH, light penetration, and sedimentation.[26]

Lack of bridges

There are no bridges across the entire width of the river.[66] This is not because the river would be too wide to bridge; for most of its length, engineers could build a bridge across the river easily. For most of its course, the river flows through the Amazon Rainforest, where there are very few roads and cities. Most of the time, the crossing can be done by a ferry. The Manaus Iranduba Bridge linking the cities of Manaus and Iranduba spans the Rio Negro, the second-largest tributary of the Amazon, just before their confluence.

Dispute regarding length

River taxi in Peru

While debate as to whether the Amazon or the Nile is the world's longest river has gone on for many years, the historic consensus of geographic authorities has been to regard the Amazon as the second longest river in the world, with the Nile being the longest. However, the Amazon has been reported as being anywhere between 6,275 km (3,899 mi) and 6,992 km (4,345 mi) long.[4] It is often said to be "at least" 6,575 km (4,086 mi) long.[3] The Nile is reported to be anywhere from 5,499 to 7,088 km (3,417 to 4,404 mi).[4] Often it is said to be "about" 6,650 km (4,130 mi) long.[20] There are several factors that can affect these measurements, such as the position of the geographical source and the mouth, the scale of measurement, and the length measuring techniques (for details see also List of rivers by length).[4][5]

In July 2008, the Brazilian Institute for Space Research (INPE) published a news article on their webpage, claiming that the Amazon River was 140 km (87 mi) longer than the Nile. The Amazon's length was calculated as 6,992 km (4,345 mi), taking the Apacheta Creek as its source. Using the same techniques, the length of the Nile was calculated as 6,853 km (4,258 mi), which is longer than previous estimates but still shorter than the Amazon. The results were reached by measuring the Amazon downstream to the beginning of the tidal estuary of Canal do Sul and then, after a sharp turn back, following tidal canals surrounding the isle of Marajó and finally including the marine waters of the Río Pará bay in its entire length.[61][23] According to an earlier article on the webpage of the National Geographic, the Amazon's length was calculated as 6,800 km (4,200 mi) by a Brazilian scientist. In June 2007, Guido Gelli, director of science at the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), told London's Telegraph Newspaper that it could be considered that the Amazon was the longest river in the world.[67] However, according to the above sources, none of the two results was published, and questions were raised about the researchers' methodology. In 2009, a peer-reviewed article, was published, concluding that the Nile is longer than the Amazon by stating a length of 7,088 km (4,404 mi) for the Nile and 6,575 km (4,086 mi) for the Amazon, measured by using a combination of satellite image analysis and field investigations to the source regions.[4] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the final length of the Amazon remains open to interpretation and continued debate.[3][23]


The Amazon basin, the largest in the world, covers about 40% of South America, an area of approximately 7,050,000 km2 (2,720,000 sq mi). It drains from west to east, from Iquitos in Peru, across Brazil to the Atlantic. It gathers its waters from 5 degrees north latitude to 20 degrees south latitude. Its most remote sources are found on the inter-Andean plateau, just a short distance from the Pacific Ocean.[68]

The Amazon River and its tributaries are characterised by extensive forested areas that become flooded every rainy season. Every year, the river rises more than 9 m (30 ft), flooding the surrounding forests, known as várzea ("flooded forests"). The Amazon's flooded forests are the most extensive example of this habitat type in the world.[69] In an average dry season, 110,000 km2 (42,000 sq mi) of land are water-covered, while in the wet season, the flooded area of the Amazon basin rises to 350,000 km2 (140,000 sq mi).[65]

The quantity of water released by the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean is enormous: up to 300,000 m3/s (11,000,000 cu ft/s) in the rainy season, with an average of 209,000 m3/s (7,400,000 cu ft/s) from 1973 to 1990.[70] The Amazon is responsible for about 20% of the Earth's fresh water entering the ocean.[69] The river pushes a vast plume of fresh water into the ocean. The plume is about 400 km (250 mi) long and between 100 and 200 km (62 and 124 mi) wide. The fresh water, being lighter, flows on top of the seawater, diluting the salinity and altering the colour of the ocean surface over an area up to 2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi) in extent. For centuries ships have reported fresh water near the Amazon's mouth yet well out of sight of land in what otherwise seemed to be the open ocean.[28]

The Atlantic has sufficient wave and tidal energy to carry most of the Amazon's sediments out to sea, thus the Amazon does not form a true delta. The great deltas of the world are all in relatively protected bodies of water, while the Amazon empties directly into the turbulent Atlantic.[25]

There is a natural water union between the Amazon and the Orinoco basins, the so-called Casiquiare canal. The Casiquiare is a river distributary of the upper Orinoco, which flows southward into the Rio Negro, which in turn flows into the Amazon. The Casiquiare is the largest river on earth that links two major river systems, a so-called bifurcation.


Average discharge at the estuary; Period from 2003 to 2015: 7,200 km3/a (230,000 m3/s)[71][72]

Year (km3) (m3/s) Year (km3) (m3/s)
2003 6,470 205,000 2010 6,464 205,000
2004 6,747 214,000 2011 7,378 234,000
2005 6,522 207,000 2012 7,513 238,000
2006 7,829 248,000 2013 7,288 231,000
2007 7,133 226,000 2014 7,674 243,000
2008 7,725 245,000 2015 6,657 211,000
2009 8,200 260,000

Average discharge at Óbidos gauge station; Period from 1969 to 2018: 5,520 km3/a (175,000 m3/s)[71][72]

Year (km3) (m3/s) Year (km3) (m3/s)
1969 4,813 152,500 1994 6,184 196,000
1970 5,187 164,400 1995 4,887 154,900
1971 5,810 184,100 1996 5,685 180,300
1972 5,735 181,700 1997 5,336 169,200
1973 5,723 181,350 1998 4,713 149,400
1974 6,084 192,800 1999 5,860 185,100
1975 6,122 194,000 2000 5,735 181,800
1976 5,885 186,500 2001 5,536 175,500
1977 5,561 176,200 2002 5,598 177,500
1978 5,660 179,400 2003 5,387 170,800
1979 5,350 169,500 2004 5,207 165,100
1980 4,563 144,600 2005 5,104 161,800
1981 4,838 153,300 2006 5,825 184,700
1982 5,760 182,500 2007 5,490 174,100
1983 4,538 143,800 2008 6,090 193,000
1984 5,536 175,400 2009 6,264 198,500
1985 5,187 164,400 2010 5,233 165,800
1986 5,785 183,300 2011 5,568 176,400
1987 5,261 166,700 2012 5,877 186,200
1988 5,286 167,500 2013 6,083 192,800
1989 6,284 199,100 2014 6,212 196,850
1990 5,324 168,700 2015 5,890 186,650
1991 5,424 171,900 2016 5,025 159,200
1992 4,390 139,100 2017 5,710 180,900
1993 5,710 180,900 2018 5,685 180,150

Average discharge (Q - 173,000 m3/s) and sediment load (S - 754 x 106 ton/year) at Óbidos gauge station (period from 1996 to 2007)[73]

Year Q S Year Q S
1996 180,300 672 2002 177,500 802
1997 169,200 691 2003 170,800 832
1998 149,400 652 2004 165,100 807
1999 185,800 732 2005 161,800 797
2000 181,800 692 2006 184,700 742
2001 175,500 787 2007 174,100 842

Average, minimum and maximum discharge at Itacoatiara and Santarém (Lower Amazon). Period from 1998/01/01 to 2022/12/31 (Source: The Flood Observatory):[74][14]

Year Discharge (m3/s)
Min Mean Max Min Mean Max
Itacoatiara Santarém
1998 41,312 139,002 240,396 69,202 175,218 278,306
1999 64,130 171,662 288,869 73,921 182,266 270,080
2000 52,870 161,345 261,176 73,306 171,899 275,060
2001 30,670 157,286 256,627 67,300 173,517 268,820
2002 67,979 164,171 252,425 92,711 207,186 296,805
2003 82,556 149,274 228,998 100,473 182,767 252,626
2004 66,183 139,926 223,929 100,986 184,880 265,644
2005 57,598 145,002 258,383 67,464 172,411 280,340
2006 61,265 168,975 268,108 91,126 192,500 301,860
2007 74,679 161,393 238,839 73,256 192,715 309,478
2008 71,572 168,065 259,841 101,146 198,128 316,669
2009 59,298 166,100 275,544 76,598 204,920 303,192
2010 53,715 128,035 215,638 72,101 172,255 255,208
2011 42,192 129,710 230,293 65,803 155,030 256,798
2012 29,489 172,103 291,537 50,070 194,883 323,680
2013 51,341 172,201 286,872 55,108 206,295 305,526
2014 85,599 192,462 324,191 151,997 235,390 338,905
2015 66,094 221,843 339,832 70,119 261,580 378,767
2016 41,063 167,746 311,494 69,995 230,788 367,296
2017 60,218 205,382 329,771 104,111 223,193 352,935
2018 65,629 202,838 316,291 95,376 262,946 386,022
2019 96,549 227,078 340,215 96,260 260,664 382,840
2020 44,698 214,586 352,671 72,955 234,725 388,213
2021 85,862 236,885 354,795 94,903 262,264 376,740
2022 56,758 214,763 337,412 101,693 259,902 405,999
2023 38,496 173,676 304,336 46,130 217,551 370,109
Average 59,532 175,058 284,173 82,158 208,303 298,444


NASA satellite image of a flooded portion of the river

Not all of the Amazon's tributaries flood at the same time of the year. Many branches begin flooding in November and might continue to rise until June. The rise of the Rio Negro starts in February or March and begins to recede in June. The Madeira River rises and falls two months earlier than most of the rest of the Amazon river.

The depth of the Amazon between Manacapuru and Óbidos has been calculated as between 20 and 26 m (66 and 85 ft). At Manacapuru, the Amazon's water level is only about 24 m (79 ft) above mean sea level. More than half of the water in the Amazon downstream of Manacapuru is below sea level.[75] In its lowermost section, the Amazon's depth averages 20 to 50 m (66 to 164 ft), in some places as much as 100 m (330 ft).[76]

The main river is navigable for large ocean steamers to Manaus, 1,500 km (930 mi) upriver from the mouth. Smaller ocean vessels below 9000 tons and with less than 5.5 m (18 ft) draft can reach as far as Iquitos, Peru, 3,600 km (2,200 mi) from the sea. Smaller riverboats can reach 780 km (480 mi) higher, as far as Achual Point. Beyond that, small boats frequently ascend to the Pongo de Manseriche, just above Achual Point in Peru.[63]

Annual flooding occurs in late northern latitude winter at high tide when the incoming waters of the Atlantic are funnelled into the Amazon delta. The resulting undular tidal bore is called the pororoca, with a leading wave that can be up to 7.6 m (25 ft) high and travel up to 800 km (500 mi) inland.[77][78]


The Amazon River originated as a transcontinental river in the Miocene epoch between 11.8 million and 11.3 million years ago and took its present shape approximately 2.4 million years ago in the Early Pleistocene.

The proto-Amazon during the Cretaceous flowed west, as part of a proto-Amazon-Congo river system, from the interior of present-day Africa when the continents were connected, forming western Gondwana. 80 million years ago, the two continents split. Fifteen million years ago, the main tectonic uplift phase of the Andean chain started. This tectonic movement is caused by the subduction of the Nazca Plate underneath the South American Plate. The rise of the Andes and the linkage of the Brazilian and Guyana bedrock shields,[clarification needed] blocked the river and caused the Amazon Basin to become a vast inland sea. Gradually, this inland sea became a massive swampy, freshwater lake and the marine inhabitants adapted to life in freshwater.[79]

Eleven to ten million years ago, waters worked through the sandstone from the west and the Amazon began to flow eastward, leading to the emergence of the Amazon rainforest. During glacial periods, sea levels dropped and the great Amazon lake rapidly drained and became a river, which would eventually become the disputed world's longest, draining the most extensive area of rainforest on the planet.[80]

Paralleling the Amazon River is a large aquifer, dubbed the Hamza River, the discovery of which was made public in August 2011.[81]

Protected areas

Name Country Coordinates Image Notes
Allpahuayo-Mishana National Reserve Peru 3°56′S 73°33′W / 3.933°S 73.550°W / -3.933; -73.550
Amacayacu National Park Colombia 3°29′S 72°12′W / 3.483°S 72.200°W / -3.483; -72.200
Amazônia National Park Brazil 4°26′S 56°50′W / 4.433°S 56.833°W / -4.433; -56.833
Anavilhanas National Park Brazil 2°23′S 60°55′W / 2.383°S 60.917°W / -2.383; -60.917

Flora and fauna



The tambaqui, an important species in Amazonian fisheries, breeds in the Amazon River

More than one-third of all known species in the world live in the Amazon rainforest.[86] It is the richest tropical forest in the world in terms of biodiversity.[87] In addition to thousands of species of fish, the river supports crabs, algae, and turtles.


Amazon river dolphin

Along with the Orinoco, the Amazon is one of the main habitats of the boto, also known as the Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis). It is the largest species of river dolphin, and it can grow to lengths of up to 2.6 m (8.5 ft). The colour of its skin changes with age; young animals are gray, but become pink and then white as they mature. The dolphins use echolocation to navigate and hunt in the river's tricky depths.[88] The boto is the subject of a legend in Brazil about a dolphin that turns into a man and seduces maidens by the riverside.[89]

The tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis), also a dolphin species, is found both in the rivers of the Amazon basin and in the coastal waters of South America. The Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), also known as "seacow", is found in the northern Amazon River basin and its tributaries. It is a mammal and a herbivore. Its population is limited to freshwater habitats, and, unlike other manatees, it does not venture into saltwater. It is classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.[90]

The Amazon and its tributaries are the main habitat of the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis).[91] Sometimes known as the "river wolf," it is one of South America's top carnivores. Because of habitat destruction and hunting, its population has dramatically decreased. It is now listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which effectively bans international trade.[92]


Green anaconda is the heaviest and one of the longest known extant snake species

The Anaconda is found in shallow waters in the Amazon basin. One of the world's largest species of snake, the anaconda spends most of its time in the water with just its nostrils above the surface. Species of caimans, that are related to alligators and other crocodilians, also inhabit the Amazon as do varieties of turtles.[93]



Characins, such as the piranha species, are prey for the giant otter, but these aggressive fish may also pose a danger to humans.
Neon tetra is one of the most popular aquarium fish

The Amazonian fish fauna is the centre of diversity for neotropical fishes, some of which are popular aquarium specimens like the neon tetra and the freshwater angelfish. More than 5,600 species were known as of 2011, and approximately fifty new species are discovered each year.[94][95] The arapaima, known in Brazil as the pirarucu, is a South American tropical freshwater fish, one of the largest freshwater fish in the world, with a length of up to 15 feet (4.6 m).[96] Another Amazonian freshwater fish is the arowana (or aruanã in Portuguese), such as the silver arowana (Osteoglossum bicirrhosum), which is a predator and very similar to the arapaima, but only reaches a length of 120 cm (47 in). Also present in large numbers is the notorious piranha, an omnivorous fish that congregates in large schools and may attack livestock. There are approximately 30 to 60 species of piranha. The candirú, native to the Amazon River, is a species of parasitic fresh water catfish in the family Trichomycteridae,[97] just one of more than 1200 species of catfish in the Amazon basin. Other catfish 'walk' overland on their ventral fins,[98] while the kumakuma (Brachyplatystoma filamentosum), aka piraiba or "goliath catfish", can reach 3.6 m (12 ft) in length and 200 kg (440 lb) in weight.[99]

The electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) and more than 100 species of electric fishes (Gymnotiformes) inhabit the Amazon basin. River stingrays (Potamotrygonidae) are also known. The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) has been reported 4,000 km (2,500 mi) up the Amazon River at Iquitos in Peru.[100]



Freshwater microbes are generally not very well known, even less so for a pristine ecosystem like the Amazon. Recently, metagenomics has provided answers to what kind of microbes inhabit the river.[101] The most important microbes in the Amazon River are Actinomycetota, Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria and Thermoproteota.


The Amazon River serves as a vital lifeline for more than 47 million people in its basin and faces a multitude of challenges that threaten both its ecosystem and the indigenous communities dependent on its resources. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Yanomami, a tribe of approximately 29,000, struggles to preserve their land, culture, and traditional way of life due to encroaching illegal gold miners, malnutrition, and malaria. Meanwhile, in 2022, the region's severe drought, has led to a devastating increase in water temperatures, reaching 39.1 degrees Celsius, causing the tragic demise of 125 Amazon river dolphins.[102] This unfortunate event serves as a poignant marker of the deteriorating environmental conditions, indicating the increasing vulnerability of the river's ecosystem. In recent years, the Amazon River has experienced historically low water levels, the lowest in over a century. Brazil, the primary custodian of this invaluable natural resource, grapples with the challenges of mitigating the effects of this drought on communities and ecosystems, further emphasizing the urgency of sustainable environmental management and conservation efforts. [103]

Major tributaries

Solimões, the section of the upper Amazon River
Aerial view of an Amazon tributary

The Amazon has over 1,100 tributaries, twelve of which are over 1,500 km (930 mi) long.[104] Some of the more notable ones are:

List of major tributaries

The main river and tributaries are (sorted in order from the confluence of Ucayali and Marañón rivers to the mouth):

Left tributary Right tributary Length (km) Basin size (km2) Average discharge (m3/s)
Upper Amazon

(Confluence of Ucayali and Marañón rivers - Tabatinga)

Marañón 2,112 364,873.4 16,708
Ucayali 2,738 353,729.3 13,630.1
Tahuyo 80 1,630 105.7
Tamshiyaçu 86.7 1,367.3 86.5
Itaya 213 2,668 161.4
Nanay 483 16,673.4 1,072.7
Maniti 198.7 2,573.6 180.4
Napo 1,075 103,307.8 7,147.8
Apayaçu 50 2,393.6 160.9
Orosa 95 3,506.8 234.3
Ampiyaçu 140 4,201.4 267.2
Chichita 48 1,314.2 87.7
Cochiquinas 49 2,362.7 150.2
Santa Rosa 45 1,678 101.5
Cajocumal 58 2,094.9 141.5
Atacuari 108 3,480.5 236.8
Middle Amazon

(Tabatinga - Encontro das Águas)

Javary 1,056 99,674.1 5,222.5


943.9 58.3
Tacana 541 35.5
Igarapé de


1,299.9 85.4
Igarapé São


1,259.6 78.2
Jandiatuba 520 14,890.4 980


2,462.1 127.1
Putumayo 1,813 121,115.8 8,519.9
Tonantins 2,955.2 169.2
Jutai 1,488 78,451.5 4,000
Juruá 3,283 190,573 6,662.1
Uarini 7,195.8 432.9
Japurá 2,816 276,812 18,121.6
Tefé 571 24,375.5 1,190.4
Caiambe 2,650.1 90
Parana Copea 10,532.3 423.8
Coari 599 35,741.3 1,389.3
Mamiá 5,514 176.2
Badajos 413 21,575 1,300
Igarapé Miuá 1,294.5 56.9
Purus 3,382 378,762.4 11,206.9
Paraná Arara 1,915.7 78.2


1,318.6 52.9
Manacapuru 291 14,103 559.5
Lower Amazon

(Encontro das Águas - Gurupá)

Rio Negro 2,362 714,577.6 30,640.8
Prêto da Eva 3,039.5 110.8
Igapó-Açu 500 45,994.4 1,676.5
Madeira 3,380 1,322,782.4 32,531.9
Urubu 430 13,892 459.8
Uatumã 701 67,920 2,290.8

Paraná do Urariá

400 127,116 4,804.4


744 150,032 4,127
Curuá 484 28,099 470.1
Lago Grande

do Curuaí

3,293.6 92.7
Tapajós 1,992 494,551.3 13,540
Curuá-Una 315 24,505 729.8
Maicurú 546 18,546 272.3
Uruará 4,610.2 104.8
Jauari 5,851 108.3
Guajará 4,243 105.6
Paru de Este 731 39,289 970
Xingu 2,275 513,313.5 10,022.6


1,819.9 50.8
Jari 769 51,893 1,213.5
Amazon Delta

(river mouth to Gurupá)

Braco do


4,732.4 157.1
Pará 784 84,027 3,500.3
Tocantins 2,639 777,308 11,796
Atuã 2,769 119.8
Anajás 300 24,082.5 948
Mazagão 1,250.2 44.4
Vila Nova 5,383.8 180.8
Matapi 2,487.4 81.7


400 87,389.5 2,550.7
Arari 1,523.6 80.2
Pedreira 2,005 89.9
Paracauari 1,390.3 67.9
Jupati 724.2 32.6


List by length

  1. 6,400 km (4,000 mi)[3] (6,275 to 7,025 km (3,899 to 4,365 mi))[4] – Amazon, South America
  2. 3,250 km (2,019 mi) – Madeira, Bolivia/Brazil[110]
  3. 3,211 km (1,995 mi) – Purús, Peru/Brazil[111]
  4. 2,820 km (1,752 mi) – Japurá or Caquetá, Colombia/Brazil[112]
  5. 2,639 km (1,640 mi) – Tocantins, Brazil[113]
  6. 2,627 km (1,632 mi) – Araguaia, Brazil (tributary of Tocantins)[114]
  7. 2,400 km (1,500 mi) – Juruá, Peru/Brazil[115]
  8. 2,250 km (1,400 mi) – Rio Negro, Brazil/Venezuela/Colombia[116]
  9. 1,992 km (1,238 mi) – Tapajós, Brazil[117]
  10. 1,979 km (1,230 mi) – Xingu, Brazil[118]
  11. 1,900 km (1,181 mi) – Ucayali River, Peru[119]
  12. 1,749 km (1,087 mi) – Guaporé, Brazil/Bolivia (tributary of Madeira)[120]
  13. 1,575 km (979 mi) – Içá (Putumayo), Ecuador/Colombia/Peru
  14. 1,415 km (879 mi) – Marañón, Peru
  15. 1,370 km (851 mi) – Teles Pires, Brazil (tributary of Tapajós)
  16. 1,300 km (808 mi) – Iriri, Brazil (tributary of Xingu)
  17. 1,240 km (771 mi) – Juruena, Brazil (tributary of Tapajós)
  18. 1,130 km (702 mi) – Madre de Dios, Peru/Bolivia (tributary of Madeira)
  19. 1,100 km (684 mi) – Huallaga, Peru (tributary of Marañón)

List by inflow to the Amazon

Rank Name Average annual discharge (m^3/s) % of Amazon
Amazon 209,000 100%
1 Madeira 31,200 15%
2 Negro 28,400 14%
3 Japurá 18,620 9%
4 Marañón 16,708 8%
5 Tapajós 13,540 6%
6 Ucayali 13,500 5%
7 Purus 10,970 5%
8 Xingu 9,680 5%
9 Putumayo 8,760 4%
10 Juruá 8,440 4%
11 Napo 6,976 3%
12 Javari 4,545 2%
13 Trombetas 3,437 2%
14 Jutaí 3,425 2%
15 Abacaxis 2,930 2%
16 Uatumã 2,190 1%

See also


  1. ^ The length of the Amazon River is usually said to be "at least" 6,400 km (4,000 mi),[3] but reported values lie anywhere between 6,275 and 7,025 km (3,899 and 4,365 mi).[4] The length measurements of many rivers are only approximations and differ from each other because there are many factors that determine the calculated river length, such as the position of the geographical source and the mouth, the scale of measurement, and the length measuring techniques (for details see also List of rivers by length).[4][5]
  2. ^ The Nile is usually said to be the longest river in the world, with a length of about 6,650 km,[20] and the Amazon the second longest river in the world, with a length of at least 6,400 km.[3] In 2007 and 2008, some scientists claimed that the Amazon has a length of 6,992 km and was longer than the Nile, whose length was calculated as 6,853 km.[21][22] A peer-reviewed article, published in 2009, states a length of 7,088 km for the Nile and 6,575 km for the Amazon, measured by using a combination of satellite image analysis and field investigations to the source regions.[4] According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, as of 2020, the length of the Amazon remains open to interpretation and continued debate.[3][23]


  1. ^ Amazon River at GEOnet Names Server
  2. ^ a b "The Amazon River".
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Amazon River". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Liu, Shaochuang; Lu, P; Liu, D; Jin, P; Wang, W (1 March 2009). "Pinpointing the sources and measuring the lengths of the principal rivers of the world". Int. J. Digital Earth. 2 (1): 80–87. Bibcode:2009IJDE....2...80L. doi:10.1080/17538940902746082. S2CID 27548511. Archived from the original on 23 December 2018. Retrieved 29 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b "Where Does the Amazon River Begin?". National Geographic News. 15 February 2014. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b c "CORPOAMAZONIA - TRÁMITES PARA APROVECHAMIENTO FORESTAL" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 January 2023. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e "Issues of local and global use of water from the Amazon". Archived from the original on 14 October 2023. Retrieved 1 November 2022.
  8. ^ a b Anderson da Silva, Layes; Marcondes Silva, E. Silva; Genilson Pereira, Santana. "Seasonal assessment of groundwater quality in the cities of Itacoatiara and Manacapuru (Amazon, Brazil)".
  9. ^ "Amazon River-Hidrology". Archived from the original on 14 October 2023. Retrieved 2 November 2022.
  10. ^ "Aguas Amazonicas". Archived from the original on 3 July 2023. Retrieved 1 November 2022.
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  • Garfield, Seth. In search of the Amazon: Brazil, the United States and the nature of a region (Duke University Press, 2013) online
  • Hecht, Susanna, et al. "The Amazon in motion: Changing politics, development strategies, peoples, landscapes, and livelihoods." Amazon Assessment Report 2021, Part II (2021): ch 14 pp 1-65. online, with long bibliography
  • Nugent, Stephen L. The rise and fall of the Amazon rubber industry: an historical anthropology (Routledge, 2017) online.
  • Schulze, Frederik, and Georg Fischer. "Brazilian history as global history." Bulletin of Latin American Research 38.4 (2019): 408–422. online
  • Wohl, Ellen (2011). The Amazon: Rivers of Blushing Dolphins. The University of Chicago Press. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
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