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Amazon River

Amazon downstream from the conuence of the Maran

and Ucayali rivers in Peru. The Ucayali-Apurmac river
system is considered the main source of the Amazon, with
its main headstream being the Carhuasanta glacial stream
owing o the Nevado Mismi mountain.
The width of the Amazon is between 1.6 and 10 kilometres (1.0 and 6.2 mi) at low stage, but expands during the
wet season to 48 kilometres (30 mi) or more. The river
enters the Atlantic Ocean in a broad estuary about 240
kilometres (150 mi) wide. The mouth of the main stem is
80 kilometres (50 mi).[6] Because of its vast dimensions,
it is sometimes called The River Sea.
Amazon relief map

The total volume of water discharging from the Amazon

river in a year is about 6,591 cubic kilometers.
The largest city along the Amazon River is Manaus. Located in Brazil it is home to over 1.7 million people.[7]

1 Drainage area
Main article: Amazon basin
The Amazon basin, the largest in the world, covers
about 40% of South America, an area of approximately
7,050,000 square kilometres (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 Pacic Ocean. The locals often
refer to it as El Jefe Negro, referring to an ancient god
of fertility.

Floating houses of Leticia, Colombia

The Amazon River (US /mzn/ or UK /mzn/;

Spanish and Portuguese: Amazonas) in South America is the largest river by discharge of water in the
world, averaging a discharge of about 209,000 cubic meters per second (7,381,000 cu ft/s), (209,000,000 liters
or 55,211,960 gallons/sec) greater than the next seven
largest independent rivers combined. The Amazon basin
is the largest drainage basin in the world, about 7,050,000
square kilometres (2,720,000 sq mi), and accounts for approximately one-fth of the worlds total river ow. The
portion of the rivers drainage basin in Brazil alone is
larger than any other rivers basin. The Amazon enters
Brazil with only one-fth of the ow it nally discharges
into the Atlantic Ocean, yet already has a greater ow at
this point than the discharge of any other river.[4][5]

The Amazon River and its tributaries are characterized

by extensive forested areas that become ooded every
rainy season. Every year, the river rises more than 9 metres (30 ft), ooding the surrounding forests, known as
vrzea (ooded forests). The Amazons ooded forests
are the most extensive example of this habitat type in the
world.[8] In an average dry season, 110,000 square kilometres (42,000 sq mi) of land are water-covered, while
in the wet season, the ooded area of the Amazon basin
rises to 350,000 square kilometres (140,000 sq mi).[9]
The quantity of water released by the Amazon to the Atlantic Ocean is enormous: up to 300,000 cubic metres per
second (11,000,000 cu ft/s) in the rainy season, with an
average of 209,000 cubic metres per second (7,400,000
cu ft/s) from 1973 to 1990.[10] The Amazon is responsi-

In its upper stretches, above its conuence with the Rio

Negro, the Amazon is called Solimes in Brazil; however,
in Peru, Colombia and Ecuador, as well as the rest of the
Spanish-speaking world, the river is generally called the


ble for about 20% of the Earths fresh water entering the
ocean.[8] The river pushes a vast plume of fresh water into
the ocean. The plume is about 400 kilometres (250 mi)
long and between 100 and 200 kilometres (62 and 124
mi) wide. The fresh water, being lighter, ows on top of
the seawater, diluting the salinity and altering the color
of the ocean surface over an area up to 1,000,000 square
miles (2,600,000 km2 ) in extent. For centuries ships have
reported fresh water near the Amazons mouth yet well
out of sight of land in what otherwise seemed to be the
open ocean.[5]
The Atlantic has sucient wave and tidal energy to carry
most of the Amazons 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
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 ows southward into the Rio Negro, which in turn
ows into the Amazon. The Casiquiare is the largest river
on earth that links two major river systems, a so-called


The Amazon originates from the Apacheta cli in Arequipa at

the Nevado Mismi, marked only by a wooden cross.

The Amazon river has a series of major river systems in

Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, some of which ow into
the Maran and Ucayali, others directly into the Amazon
proper. Among others, these include the following rivers:
Putumayo, Caquet, Vaups, Guaina, Morona, Pastaza,
Nucuray, Urituyacu, Chambira, Tigre, Nanay, Napo, and
The most distant source of the Amazon was established
in 1996,[12] 2001,[13] 2007,[14] and 2008,[15] as a glacial
stream on a snowcapped 5,597 m (18,363 ft) peak called
Nevado Mismi in the Peruvian Andes, roughly 160 km
(99 mi) west of Lake Titicaca and 700 km (430 mi) southeast of Lima. The waters from Nevado Mismi ow into
the Quebradas Carhuasanta and Apacheta, which ow
into the Ro Apurmac, which is a tributary of the Ucayali, which later joins the Maran to form the Amazon
proper. While the UcayaliMaran conuence is the
point at which most geographers place the beginning of
the Amazon proper, in Brazil the river is known at this
point as the Solimes das guas. Further downriver from
that conuence, the darkly colored waters of the Rio Negro meet the sandy colored Rio Solimes, and for over 6
km (4 mi) these waters run side by side without mixing.
After the conuence of Apurmac and Ucayali, the river
leaves Andean terrain and is surrounded by oodplain. Source of the Amazon
From this point to the Maran, some 1,600 km (990 mi),
the forested banks are just out of water and are inundated
long before the river attains its maximum ood stage. The

low river banks are interrupted by only a few hills, and the Annual ooding is caused by tidal waves called pororiver enters the enormous Amazon rainforest.
roca, which occur in late winter at high tide, when the
The river systems and ood plains in Brazil, Peru, Atlantic Ocean overlaps into the river. The resulting
be up to 4 meters high and travel 13 kilometers
Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela, whose waters drain waves can
into the Solimes and its tributaries, are called the Upper Amazon. The Amazon River proper runs mostly
through Brazil and Peru. It is part of the border between
Colombia and Per, and it has tributaries reaching into
Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Bolivia.

4 Geography


Meeting of Waters is the conuence of the Rio Negro (black) and

the Rio Amazonas (sandy) near Manaus, Brazil.

A NASA satellite image of a ooded portion of the river

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, at igap lands, which are
never more than 5 metres (16 ft) above low river, into
many islands.

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. At bidos, a blu 17 m (56 ft)
above the river is backed by low hills. The lower Amazon
The depth of the Amazon between Manacapuru and
bidos has been calculated as between 20 to 26 metres seems to have once been a gulf of the Atlantic Ocean, the
waters of which washed the clis near bidos.
(66 to 85 ft). At Manacapuru, the Amazons water level
is only about 24 metres (79 ft) above mean sea level. Only about ten percent of the Amazons water enters
More than half of the water in the Amazon downstream downstream of bidos, very little of which is from the
of Manacapuru is below sea level.[16] In its lowermost sec- northern slope of the valley. The drainage area of the
tion, the Amazons depth averages 20 to 50 metres (66 to Amazon basin above bidos city is about 5,000,000
164 ft), in some places as much as 100 metres (330 ft).[17] square kilometres (1,900,000 sq mi), and, below, only
The main river is navigable for large ocean steamers to about 1,000,000 square kilometres (390,000 sq mi)
Manaus, 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) upriver from the (around 20%), exclusive of the 1,400,000 square kilomouth. Smaller ocean vessels of 3,000 tons or 9,000 metres (540,000 sq mi) of the Tocantins basin. The
tons[6] and 5.5 metres (18 ft) draft can reach as far as Tocantins River enters the southern portion of the AmaIquitos, Peru, 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi) from the sea. zon delta.
Not all of the Amazons tributaries ood at the same time
of the year. Many branches begin ooding in November
and may 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.

Smaller riverboats can reach 780 kilometres (480 mi)

higher as far as Achual Point. Beyond that, small boats
frequently ascend to the Pongo de Manseriche, just above
Achual Point.

In the lower reaches of the river, the north bank consists

of a series of steep, table-topped hills extending for about
240 kilometres (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.

On the south bank, above the Xingu, a line of low blus
bordering the oodplain extends nearly to Santarm in
a series of gentle curves before they bend to the southwest, and, abutting upon the lower Tapajs, merge into
the blus which form the terrace margin of the Tapajs
river valley.


Amazon rainforest

A satellite image of the mouth of the Amazon River, looking south

The denition of where exactly the mouth of the Amazon is located, and how wide it is, is a matter of dispute,
because of the areas peculiar geography. The Par and
the Amazon are connected by a series of river channels
called furos near the town of Breves; between them lies
Maraj, the worlds largest combined river/sea island.

Characins, such as the piranha species, are prey for the giant
otter, but these aggressive sh may also pose a danger to humans.

A more conservative measurement excluding the Par

river estuary, from the mouth of the Araguari River to
Ponta do Navio on the northern coast of Maraj, would
still give the mouth of the Amazon a width of over 180
kilometres (110 mi). If only the rivers main channel
is considered, between the islands of Curu (state of
Amap) and Jurupari (state of Par), the width falls to
about 15 kilometres (9.3 mi).

Along with the Orinoco, the Amazon is one of the main

habitats of the boto, also known as the Amazon river dolphin (Inia georensis). It is the largest species of river
dolphin, and it can grow to lengths of up to 2.6 metres
(8 ft 6 in). The color of its skin changes with age; young
animals are gray, but become pink nd then white as they
mature. The dolphins use echolocation to navigate and
hunt in the rivers tricky depths.[21] The boto is the subject of a legend in Brazil about a dolphin that turns into a
man and seduces maidens by the riverside.

5,400,000 square kilometres (2,100,000 sq mi). It is the

richest tropical forest in the world in terms of biodiversity.
There are over 3,000 species of sh currently recognized
If the Par river and the Maraj island ocean frontage
in the Amazon basin, with more being discovered every
are included, the Amazon estuary is some 325 kilometres
year.[20] In addition to the thousands of species of sh,
(202 mi) wide.[9] In this case, the width of the mouth of
the river supports crabs, algae, and turtles.
the river is usually measured from Cabo Norte, the cape
located straight east of Pracuba in the Brazilian state of
Amap, to Ponta da Tijoca near the town of Curu, in
6.1 Mammals
the state of Par.


The tucuxi (Sotalia uviatilis), also a dolphin species, is

found both in the rivers of the Amazon basin and in the
More than one-third of all known species in the world coastal waters of South America. The Amazonian manlive in the Amazon rainforest,[19] a giant tropical for- atee (Trichechus inunguis), also known as seacow, is
est and river basin with an area that stretches more than found in the northern Amazon River Basin and its trib-

utaries. It is a mammal and an herbivore. Its population Betaproteobacteria,
is limited to fresh water habitats, and, unlike other man- Crenarchaeota.
atees, it does not venture into salt water. It is classied as
vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of
7 Geology
The Amazon and its tributaries are the main habitat of
the giant otter (Pteronura brasiliensis). It is a member of
the weasel family and is the largest of its kind. Because
of habitat destruction and hunting, its population has dramatically decreased.



The anaconda is found in shallow waters in the Amazon

basin. One of the worlds largest species of snake, the
anaconda spends most of its time in the water with just
its nostrils above the surface. The caiman, which is related to alligators and other crocodilians, also inhabits the
Amazon as do varieties of turtles.



The Amazonian sh fauna is the center of diversity for

Neotropical shes, of which more than 5,600 species are
currently known.[22] The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas)
has been reported 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi) up the
Amazon River at Iquitos in Peru. The arapaima, known
in Brazil as the pirarucu (Arapaima gigas), is a South
American tropical freshwater sh. It is one of the largest
freshwater sh in the world, reportedly with a maximum
length of 3 metres (9.8 ft) and weight up to 200 kilograms (440 lb).[23] Another Amazonian freshwater sh is
the arowana (or aruan 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 centimetres (47 in). Also present in large
numbers is the notorious piranha, an omnivorous sh that
congregates in large schools and may attack livestock and
even humans. There are approximately 30 to 60 species
of piranha. However, only a few of its species are known
to attack humans, most notably Pygocentrus nattereri, the
red-bellied piranha. The candir, native to the Amazon River, is a species of parasitic fresh water catsh in
the family Trichomycteridae.[24] The electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) and more than 100 species of electric
shes (Gymnotiformes) inhabit the Amazon basin. River
stingrays (Potamotrygonidae) are also known.





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.
The Amazon once owed west as part of a protoAmazon-Congo river system, from the interior of present
day Africa when the continents were joined as western
Gondwana. Fifteen million years ago, the Andes were
formed by the collision of the South American plate with
the Nazca plate. The rise of the Andes and the linkage of
the Brazilian and Guyana bedrock shields, blocked the
river and caused the Amazon 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. For example, over 20 species of stingray,
most closely related to those found in the Pacic Ocean,
can be found today in the freshwaters of the Amazon.
Ten to eleven million years ago, waters worked through
the sandstone from the west and the Amazon began to
ow eastward, leading to the emergence of the Amazon rainforest. During Ice Ages, sea levels dropped and
the great Amazon lake rapidly drained and became a
river, which would eventually become the worlds largest,
draining the most extensive expanse of rainforest on the

8 History
See also: Timeline of Amazon history

8.1 Precolonial civilization

During what many archaeologists call the formative period, Amazonian societies were deeply involved in the
emergence of South Americas highland agrarian systems, and possibly contributed directly to the social and
religious fabric constitutive of the Andean civilizational
8.1.1 Mounds of the Amazon

Freshwater microbes are generally not very well

known, even less so for a pristine ecosystem like Early human settlements were typically based on lowthe Amazon.
Recently, metagenomics has pro- lying hills or mounds.
vided answers to what kind of microbes inhabit the
Five types of archaeological mound have
river.[25] The most important microbes in the Amazon River are Actinobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria,
been noted in the Amazon region: shell refuse

and articial mounds, articial earth platforms for entire villages, earth mounds and
ridges for cultivation, causeways and canals,
and gurative mounds, both geometric and

Shell mounds were the earliest; they represent piles of

human refuse and are mainly dated between 7500 and
4000 BP. They all represent pottery age cultures; no preceramic shell mounds have been documented so far by
Figurative mounds are the latest chronologically.


cinnamon".[32] He was accompanied by his second-incommand Francisco de Orellana. After 170 km, 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 conuence. They continued downriver through an uninhabited
area, where they could not nd food. Orellana oered
and was ordered to follow the Napo River, then known
as Ro 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
nd food within a few days downriver by ascending another river to the north.

Articial earth platforms for entire villages are the sec- Orellana took about 57 men, the boat, and some canoes
ond type of mounds. They are best represented by the and left Pizarros party on 26 December 1541. HowMarajoara culture.
ever, Orellana apparently missed the conuence (probaThere is ample evidence for complex large-scale, pre- bly with the Aguarico) where he was to look for food. By
Columbian social formations, including chiefdoms, in the time he and his men reached another village many of
many areas of Amazonia (particularly the inter-uvial re- them were sick from hunger and eating noxious plants,
gions) and even large towns and cities.[28] For instance the and near death. Seven men died at that village. His men
pre-Columbian culture on the island of Maraj may have threatened to mutiny if he followed his orders and the exdeveloped social stratication and supported a popula- pedition turned back to join Pizarros larger party. He
tion of 100,000 people.[29] The Native Americans of the accepted to change the purpose of the expedition to disAmazon rain forest may have used Terra preta to make cover new lands in the name of the King of Spain, and the
the land suitable for the large-scale agriculture needed to men built a larger boat in which to navigate downstream.
support large populations and complex social formations After a journey of 600 km down the Napo River they
reached a further major conuence, at a point near modsuch as chiefdoms.[29]
ern Iquitos, and then followed the upper Amazon, now
Many indigenous tribes engaged in constant warfare.
known as the Solimes, for a further 1,200 km to its conJames Stuart Olson wrote: The Munduruku expansion
uence with the Rio Negro (near modern Manaus), which
dislocated and displaced the Kawahb, breaking the tribe
they reached on 3 June 1542. On the Nhamunda River, a
down into much smaller groups... [Munduruku] rst
tributary of the Amazon downstream from Manaus, Orelcame to the attention of Europeans in 1770 when they
lanas party had a erce battle with warriors who, they rebegan a series of widespread attacks on Brazilian settleported, were led by erce female warriors who beat the
ments along the Amazon River.
men to death with clubs if they tried to retreat. Orellanas
men began referring to the women as Amazons, a reference
to the women of Greek Mythology. The river was
8.2 European discovery
initially known as the Maran (the name by which the
In March 1500, Spanish conquistador Vicente Yez Peruvian part of the river is still known today) or Rio de
Pinzn was the rst documented European to sail into the Orellana. It later became known as the Rio Amazonas,
river.[31] Pinzn called the river ow Ro Santa Mara del the name by which it is still known in both Spanish and
Mar Dulce, later shortened to Mar Dulce (literally, sweet Portuguese.
sea, because of its fresh water pushing out into the ocean).
Another Spanish explorer, Francisco de Orellana, was the
rst European man to travel from the founts situated in
the Andes to the end of the river. In this travel, Orellana
bapthized some of the auents of the amazonas like Rio
Negro, Napo or Jurua. The name Amazonas came from
the natives warriors that attacked this expedition, mostly
women, that reminded Orellana of the woman warriors
the Amazonas from the Hellenic culture.

Regarding the initial mission of nding cinnamon,

Pizarro reported to the King that they had found cinnamon trees, but that they could not be protably harvested.
In fact, 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.

In 1560, another Spanish conquistador, Lope de Aguirre,

may have made the second descent of the Amazon. HisGonzalo Pizarro set o in 1541 to explore east of Quito torians are uncertain whether the river he descended was
into the South American interior in search of El Do- the Amazon or the Orinoco River, which runs more or
rado, the city of gold and La Canela, the valley of less parallel to the Amazon further north.




Post-colonial exploitation and settlement

Munduruk Indians. Painted by Hercules Florence

Portuguese explorer Pedro Teixeira was the rst European to travel up the entire river. He arrived in Quito in
1637, and then returned via the same route.[33]
From 1648 to 1652, Portuguese Brazilian bandeirante
Antnio Raposo Tavares led an expedition from So
Paulo overland to the mouth of the Amazon, investigating many of its tributaries, including the Rio Negro, and
covering a distance of more than 10,000 km (6,214 mi).
In what is currently Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia,
Peru, and Venezuela, a number of colonial and religious Henry Walter Bates was most famous for his expedition to the
settlements were established along the banks of primary Amazon (18481859).
rivers and tributaries for the purpose of trade, slaving and
evangelization among the indigenous peoples of the vast 8.5 Post-colonial exploitation and settlerain forest, such as the Urarina. In the late 1600s, Spanment
ish Jesuit Father Samuel Fritz, apostle of the Omaguas,
established some forty mission villages.
The Cabanagem revolt (1835-1840) was directed against
the white ruling class. It is estimated that from 30 to 40%
of the population of Gro-Par, estimated at 100,000
people, died.[35]


Scientic exploration

Early scientic, zoological and botanical exploration of

the Amazon River and basin occurred in the second half
of 18th century through the rst half of the 19th century.
Charles Marie de La Condamine explored the river
in 1743.[34]
Alexander von Humboldt 1799-1804

The total population of the Brazilian portion of the Amazon basin in 1850 was perhaps 300,000, of whom about
two-thirds were Europeans and slaves, the slaves amounting to about 25,000. The Brazilian Amazons principal
commercial city, Par (now Belm), had from 10,000
to 12,000 inhabitants, including slaves. The town of
Manos, now Manaus, at the mouth of the Rio Negro, had
a population between 1,000 to 1,500. All the remaining
villages, as far up as Tabatinga, on the Brazilian frontier
of Peru, were relatively small.

On 6 September 1850, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil sanctioned a law authorizing steam navigation on the Ama Johann Baptiste von Spix and Phillip von Martius, zon and gave the Viscount of Mau (Irineu Evangelista
de Sousa) the task of putting it into eect. He organized
the Companhia de Navegao e Comrcio do Amazonas in Rio de Janeiro in 1852; in the following year
William Henry Bates and Alfred Russell Wallace, it commenced operations with three small steamers, the
Monarch, the Maraj and Rio Negro.

At rst, navigation was principally conned to the main 8.6

river; and even in 1857 a modication of the government
contract only obliged the company to a monthly service
between Par 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 Par and Camet. This was the
rst step in opening up the vast interior.


20th-century development

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,
Purs and Negro; a third established a line between Par
and Manaus; and a fourth found it protable to navigate
some of the smaller streams. In that same period, the
Amazonas Company was increasing its eet. 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.
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 dened points: Tabatinga
on the Amazon; Camet on the Tocantins; Santarm
on the Tapajs; Borba on the Madeira, and Manaus
on the Rio Negro. The Brazilian decree took eect on 7
September 1867.

Manaus, the largest city in Amazonas, as seen from a NASA satellite image, surrounded by the dark Rio Negro and the muddy
Amazon River

For 350 years after the rst European encounter of the

Amazon by Pinzn, the Portuguese portion of the basin
remained an untended former food gathering and planned
Thanks in part to the mercantile development associ- agricultural landscape occupied by the indigenous peoples
ated with steamboat navigation coupled with the interna- who survived the arrival of European diseases.
tionally driven demand for natural rubber, the Peruvian Four centuries after the European discovery of the Amacity of Iquitos became a thriving, cosmopolitan center of zon river, the total cultivated area in its basin was probacommerce. Foreign companies settled in Iquitos, from bly less than 65 square kilometres (25 sq mi), excluding
whence they controlled the extraction of rubber. In 1851, the limited and crudely cultivated areas among the mounIquitos had a population of 200, and by 1900 its popula- tains at its extreme headwaters. This situation changed
tion reached 20,000. In the 1860s, approximately 3,000 dramatically during the 20th century.
tons of rubber was being exported annually, and by 1911
Wary of foreign exploitation of the nations resources,
annual exports had grown to 44,000 tons, representing
Brazilian governments in the 1940s set out to develop the
9.3% of Perus exports. During the rubber boom it is
interior, away from the seaboard where foreigners owned
estimated that diseases brought by immigrants, such as
large tracts of land. The original architect of this expan[37]
typhus and malaria, killed 40,000 native Amazonians.
sion was President Getlio Vargas, with the demand for
The rst direct foreign trade with Manaus commenced rubber from the Allied forces in World War II providing
around 1874. Local trade along the river was carried on funding for the drive.
by the English successors to the Amazonas Company
In 1960, the construction of the new capital city of
the Amazon Steam Navigation Companyas well as nuBraslia in the interior also contributed to the opening
merous small steamboats, belonging to companies and
up of the Amazon basin. A large-scale colonization prorms engaged in the rubber trade, navigating the Negro,
gram saw families from northeastern Brazil relocated to
Madeira, Purs and many other tributaries, such as the
the forests, encouraged by promises of cheap land. Many
Maran, to ports as distant as Nauta, Peru.
settlements grew along the road from Braslia to Belm,
By the turn of the 20th century, the exports of the Ama- but rainforest soil proved dicult to cultivate.
zon basin were India-rubber, cacao beans, Brazil nuts
Still, long-term development plans continued. Roads
and a few other products of minor importance, such
were cut through the forests, and in 1970, the work on
as pelts and exotic forest produce (resins, barks, woven
the Trans-Amazonian Highway (Transamaznica) nethammocks, prized bird feathers, live animals) and exwork began. The networks three pioneering highways
tracted goods, such as lumber and gold.
were completed within ten years but never fullled their
promise. Large portions of the Trans-Amazonian and its
accessory roads, such as BR-319 (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.
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 Brazilian
state of Amazonas, which is the largest state. The racial
makeup of the city is 64% Pardo (Mulatto and mestizo)
and 32% White.[38]

Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE),

told the Brazilian TV network Globo in June 2007 that
it could be considered as a fact that the Amazon was the
longest river in the world. However, other geographers
have had access to the same data since 2001, and a consensus has yet to emerge to support the claims of these
Brazilian scientists. The length of both the Amazon and
the Nile remains open to interpretation and continued

10 Underground river

Dispute regarding length

While debate as to whether the Amazon or the Nile is the

worlds 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 measured by dierent geographers as being anywhere between 6,259 and 6,800 kilometres (3,889 and
4,225 mi) long. It is often said to be at least 6,400
kilometres (4,000 mi) long.[39] The Nile is reported to
be anywhere from 5,499 to 6,690 kilometres (3,417 to
4,157 mi). Often it is said to be about 6,650 kilometres (4,130 mi) long.[40] There are many factors that can
aect these measurements.

River taxi in Peru

A study by Brazilian scientists concluded that the Amazon is actually longer than the Nile. Using Nevado Mismi,
which in 2001 was labeled by the National Geographic
Society as the Amazons source, these scientists made
new calculations of the Amazons length. They calculated
the Amazons length as 6,992 kilometres (4,345 mi). Using the same techniques, they calculated the length of
the Nile as 6,853 kilometres (4,258 mi), which is longer
than previous estimates but still shorter than the Amazon. They made it possible 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 Maraj and nally including the marine waters of the Ro Par bay in its entire length.[15][41] Guido Gelli, director of science at the

Scientists have discovered the longest underground

river (actually a saline water aquifer) in the world, in
Brazil. Water in the aquifer ows a distance of 6,000
kilometres (3,700 mi) at a depth of nearly 4,000 metres
(13,000 ft). It ows from the Andean foothills to the
Atlantic coast in a nearly west-to-east direction like the
Amazon River. The discovery was made public in August 2011[42] meeting of the Brazilian Geophysical Society in Rio de Janeiro. The river, named Hamza after the
discoverer, an Indian-born scientist Valiya Hamza who is
working with the National Observatory at Rio, makes it
the rst and geologically unusual instance of a twin-river
system owing at dierent levels of the earths crust in
Brazil. A combination of seismic data and anomalous
temperature variation with depth measured in 241 inactive oil wells helped locate the aquifer. Except for the
ow direction, the Amazon and the Hamza have very different characteristics. The most obvious ones are their
width and ow speed. While the Amazon is 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) to 100 kilometres (62 mi) wide, the Hamza
is 200 kilometres (120 mi) to 400 kilometres (250 mi)
in width. But the ow speed is 5 metres per second (16
ft/s) in the Amazon and less than 1 millimetre per second
(0.039 in/s) speed in the Hamza.[42]
Several geological factors have played a vital role in the
formation and existence of these subterranean water bodies. The large deep aquifer formed when the plate carrying the Pacic Ocean bottom was dragged and ends up
under the continental plate. Water at such depths would
normally escape upwards but the unusual conditions that
exist along the eastern Pacic Rim allow the moisture to
remain intact. In the case of the Hamza, the porous and
permeable sedimentary rocks behave as conduits for the
water to sink to greater depths. East-west trending faults
and the karst topography present along the northern border of the Amazon basin may have some role in supplying
water to the river. If the impermeable rocks stop the
vertical ow, the west to east gradient of the topography
directs it to ow towards the Atlantic Ocean.
Unlike the Hamza, the 153 km-long underground river
in Mexicos Yucatn Peninsula and the 8.2 km-long
Cabayugan River in the Puerto Princesa Subterranean
River National Park in the Philippines have come into being thanks to the karst topography. Water in these places



has dissolved the carbonate rock to form extensive underground river systems.

8. 2,250 km (1,400 mi)




9. 1,992 km (1,238 mi) Tapajs, Brazil[52]


Major tributaries

The Amazon has over 1,100 tributaries, 17 of which are

over 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) long.[43] Some of the
more notable ones are:

10. 1,979 km (1,230 mi) Xingu, Brazil[53]

11. 1,900 km (1,200 mi) Ucayali River, Peru[54]
12. 1,749 km (1,087 mi) Guapor, Brazil/Bolivia
(tributary of Madeira)[55]
13. 1,575 km (979 mi) I (Putumayo), South America
14. 1,415 km (879 mi) Maran, Peru
15. 1,370 km (850 mi) Teles Pires, Brazil (tributary
of Tapajs)
16. 1,300 km (810 mi) Iriri, Brazil (tributary of
17. 1,240 km (770 mi) Juruena, Brazil (tributary of

Solimes, the section of the upper Amazon River


List by length

1. 6,259.2 km (3,889.3 mi) to 6,712 km (4,171 mi)

Amazon, South America[44]
2. 3,250 km (2,020 mi) Madeira, Bolivia/Brazil[45]
3. 3,211 km (1,995 mi) Purs, Peru/Brazil[46]

18. 1,130 km (700 mi) Madre de Dios, Peru/Bolivia

(tributary of Madeira)
19. 1,100 km (680 mi) Huallaga, Peru (tributary of

12 See also
Peruvian Amazon

4. 2,820 km (1,750 mi) Yapura, Colombia/Brazil[47]

5. 2,639 km (1,640 mi) Tocantins, Brazil[48]

13 References
[1] Amazon River at GEOnet Names Server
[2] Ziesler, R.; Ardizzone, G.D. (1979). Amazon River System. The Inland waters of Latin America. Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN
92-5-000780-9. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014.
[3] Seyler, Patrick; Laurence Maurice-Bourgoin; Jean Loup
Guyot. Hydrological Control on the Temporal Variability of Trace Element Concentration in the Amazon River
and its Main Tributaries. Geological Survey of Brazil
(CPRM). Retrieved 24 July 2010.
[4] Tom Sterling: Der Amazonas. Time-Life Bcher 1979,
7th German Printing, p. 19

An aerial view of an Amazon tributary

6. 2,627 km (1,632 mi) Araguaia, Brazil (tributary

of Tocantins)[49]
7. 2,400 km (1,500 mi) Juru, Peru/Brazil[50]

[5] Smith, Nigel J.H. (2003). Amazon Sweet Sea: Land, Life,
and Water at the Rivers Mouth. University of Texas Press.
pp. 12. ISBN 978-0-292-77770-5.
[6] Amazon (river) (2007 ed.). Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 31 October
2009. Retrieved 12 August 2007.


[7] http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/earth/
[8] Amazon River and Flooded Forests. World Wide Fund
for Nature. Retrieved 4 August 2010.

[26] Figueiredo, J.; Hoorn, C.; van der Ven, P.; Soares,
E. (2009). Late Miocene onset of the Amazon River
and the Amazon deep-sea fan: Evidence from the
Foz do Amazonas Basin.. Geology 37: 619622.

[9] Guo, Rongxing (2006). Territorial Disputes and Resource

Management: A Global Handbook. Nova. p. 44. ISBN

[27] Neil Asher Silberman, Alexander A. Bauer, The Oxford

Companion to Archaeology. Oxford University Press,
2012 ISBN 0199735786

[10] Molinier et al.


[28] Mann, C, C., ed. (2005). 1491: New Revelations of the

Americas Before Columbus. University of Texas. p. 296.
ISBN 1-4000-3205-9.

[11] Penn, James R. (2001). Rivers of the World. ABC-CLIO.

p. 8. ISBN 978-1-57607-042-0.

[29] Mann, C, C., ed. (2005). 1491: New Revelations of the

Americas Before Columbus. University of Texas. ISBN

[12] Source of the Amazon River Identicated (Jacek

Palkiewicz)". Palkiewicz.com. 19 November 1999. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[13] Explorers Pinpoint Source of the Amazon (National Geographic News)". News.nationalgeographic.com. 21 December 2000. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[14] Amazon river 'longer than Nile'". BBC News. 16 June
2007. Retrieved 3 August 2010.

[30] Olson, James Stuart (1991). The Indians of Central and

South America: an ethnohistorical dictionary. Greenwood
Publishing Group. pp. 57248. ISBN 0-313-26387-6.
[31] Morison, Samuel (1974). The European Discovery of
America: The Southern Voyages, 14921616. New York:
Oxford University Press.
[32] Francisco de Orellana Francisco de Orellana (Spanish explorer and soldier). Encyclopdia Britannica.

[15] Studies from INPE indicate that the Amazon River is 140
km longer than the Nile. Brazilian National Institute for
Space Research. Retrieved 3 August 2010.

[33] Graham, Devon. A Brief History of Amazon Exploration. Project Amazonas. Retrieved 18 July 2014.

[16] Junk, Wolfgang J. (1997). The Central Amazon Floodplain: Ecology of a Pulsing System. Springer. p. 44. ISBN

[34] Charles-Marie de La Condamine (French naturalist and

mathematician)". Encyclopdia Britannica Online. Retrieved 18 July 2014.

[17] Whitton, B.A. (1975). River Ecology. University of California Press. p. 462. ISBN 978-0-520-03016-9.

[35] Renato Cancian. Cabanagem (18351840): Uma das

mais sangrentas rebelies do perodo regencial. Universo
Online Liao de Casa (in Portuguese). Archived from the
original on 2 November 2007. Retrieved 12 November

[18] http://amazingstuff.co.uk/sport/surfing-the-pororoca-2/
[19] Amazon rainforest fact sheet. Web.worldbank.org. 15
December 2005. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[20] Albert, J. S.; Reis, R. E., eds. (2011). Historical Biogeography of Neotropical Freshwater Fishes. Berkeley: University of California Press.
[21] Amazon River Dolphin. Rainforest Alliance. Retrieved
20 March 2011.
[22] James S. Albert; Roberto E. Reis (8 March 2011).
Historical Biogeography of Neotropical Freshwater Fishes.
University of California Press. p. 308. Retrieved 28 June

[36] Historia del Peru, Editorial Lexus. p. 93.

[37] La Republica Oligarquica. Editorial Lexus 2000 p. 925
[38] Sntese de Indicadores Sociais 2000 (PDF) (in Portuguese). Manaus, Brazil: IBGE. 2000. ISBN 85-2403919-1. Retrieved 31 January 2009.
[39] Amazon River. Encyclopdia Britannica. 2010.
Archived from the original on 9 September 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2010.
[40] Nile River. Encyclopdia Britannica. 2010. Retrieved
3 August 2010.

[23] Megashes Project to Size Up Real Loch Ness Monsters. National Geographic.

[41] Amazon Longer Than Nile River, Scientists Say.

News.nationalgeographic.com. 28 October 2010. Retrieved 13 February 2011.

[24] Candiru (sh)". Encyclopdia Britannica Online. Retrieved 18 July 2014.

[42] Massive River Found Flowing Beneath the Amazon at the

Wayback Machine (archived September 25, 2011)

[25] Ghai R, Rodriguez-Valera F, McMahon KD et al. (2011).

Metagenomics of the water column in the pristine
upper course of the Amazon river.. PloS ONE 6
(8): e23785. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0023785. PMC
3158796. PMID 21915244.

[43] Tom Sterling: Der Amazonas. Time-Life Bcher 1979,

8th German Printing, p. 20
[44] Greatest River. Extremescience.com. Retrieved 13
February 2011.



[45] Madeira (river)". Talktalk.co.uk. Retrieved 13 February

[46] Purus River: Information from. Answers.com. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[47] Japura River (river, South America) Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[48] Private Tutor. Infoplease.com. Retrieved 13 February
[49] Araguaia River (river, Brazil) Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved 13 February
[50] Juru River: Information from. Answers.com. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[51] Negro River: Information from. Answers.com. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[52] Tapajos River (river, Brazil) Encyclopdia Britannica.
Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[53] Xingu River. International Rivers. Retrieved 13 February 2011.
[54] HowStuWorks The Ucayali River"".
Geography.howstuworks.com. 30 March 2008. Retrieved 13
February 2011.
[55] Guapore River (river, South America) Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia Britannica. Retrieved 13
February 2011.

This article incorporates text from a publication now

in the public domain: George Earl Church (1911).
"Amazon". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopdia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.


External links

Bibliography on Water Resources and International

Law Peace Palace Library
Information on the Amazon from Extreme Science
A photographic journey up the Amazon River from
its mouth to its source
Amazon Alive: Light & Shadow documentary lm
about the Amazon river
Amazon River Ecosystem
Research on the inuence of the Amazon River on
the Atlantic Ocean at the University of Southern
Geographic data related to Amazon River at




Text and image sources, contributors, and licenses


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