Major Rivers Of Colombia

The Magdalena River makes its way through the Colombian highlands.
The Magdalena River makes its way through the Colombian highlands.

Colombia is a transcontinental nation with the greater part of its area found in South America, and the remainder of the country lying in Central America. Bogota is both the largest and the capital city of the country. The official language is Spanish, and there are 68 recognized regional languages. Mestizo is the predominant ethnic group making up 86% of the total population. The country is a unitary presidential republic. Colombia has for main drainage systems and a network of rivers. In this article, we will discuss the major rivers found in Colombia.


The Amazon is the largest river by discharge globally, and is also considered to be the longest by some measures. It flows fro Rio Mantaro and flows a distance of 4,345 miles to drain in the Atlantic Ocean. The average discharge is 55,000,000 gallons per second which is equal to 1,581 cubic miles annually. The Amazon drainage basin covers an area of approximately 2,720,000 square miles and is the largest in the world. The first European to sail in the river was Vicente Yanez Pinzon from Spain in the year 1500. There has been an ongoing debate on the longest river in the world between the Nile and the Amazon. The consensus is that the Nile is the longer than the Amazon. The different tributaries of the river flood at distinct times of the year. No major flooding of the river has been documented so far. The river has a wide and diverse range of flora and fauna with over a third of all the species known in the world being found here. There are over 3,000 species of fish in the Amazon with more being discovered every year. The anaconda, which is the world’s largest snake, also inhabits the river.


It is also known as River Japura and is 1,750 miles long. It flows southeast into Brazil where it is called the Japura and enters the Amazon River through a network of channels. It is home to a variety of fish and reptiles which include catfish weighing 201 pounds and measuring up to 5.9 feet in length. The River Caqueta also serves a principal means of transport. Motorboats and river boats locally known as lanchas are used when crossing and fishing. Its source of water is River Orteguaza.


It is the largest tributary of the Amazon, the largest blackwater river in the world, and one of the world’s ten largest rivers in terms of average discharge. The river was named river Negro because it looks black from a distance. It has a length of 1,386 miles. It contains endemic species of fauna and flora. Its source of water is the Mahaweli River which is the longest in the island. It has an estimated of 800 to 900 fish species, including almost 100 endemic species and several unnamed species.


The River Orinoco is one of the longest rivers in South America at 1,330 miles in length, and having a drainage basin which covers 340,000 square miles. 76.3% of it is in Venezuela, and the remainder in Colombia. It is incredibly diverse and hosts a wide variety of flora and fauna. The river houses one of the rarest reptiles in the world, the Orinoco crocodile. It has more than 100 fish species recorded. Ships are used as a means of transport.


The Putumayo River is one of the major tributaries of the Amazon River, flowing west of and parallel to the Japura River. It forms part of Colombia’s border with Ecuador as well as most of the frontier with Peru. It originates in the Andes Mountains east of the municipality of Pasto, Colombia. Its empties into the Amazon River near the municipality of Santo Antonio do, Brazil. Cattle farming and rubber trade are a major industry on the banks of the river.

Economic and Cultural Significance of Colombia's Rivers

These rivers play a great role in the daily lives of the Colombians living around them. They provide water for the millions of people living along their banks, and provide fish for commercial and subsistence fishermen. The rivers maintain a constant ecosystems and help create conducive environments for supporting animal and plant life.

Major Rivers Of Colombia

RankMajor Rivers of ColombiaTotal Length
1Amazon4,345 miles (shared with Peru and Brazil)
2Caquetá (Japura)1,750 miles (shared with Brazil)
3Negro1,386 miles (shared with Brazil and Venezuela)
4Orinoco1,330 miles (shared with Venezuela)
5Putumayo1,000 miles (shared with Peru and Brazil)
6Magdalena950 miles
7Guaviare930 miles (shared with Venezuela)
8Arauca652 miles (shared with Venezuela)
9Cauca600 miles
10Meta500 miles (shared with Venezuela)

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