Major Rivers Of Ecuador

The Amazon River runs through Ecuador.
The Amazon River runs through Ecuador.

Ecuador has four major geographical regions including La Cost (the coast), La Sierra (the Highlands), La Amazonia, and La Region Insular which includes the Galapagos Islands. La Sierra, which consists of the Andean mountains, is a watershed which runs to the east and the Pacific. The rivers in Ecuador are formed in the La Sierra and flows towards the Amazon River and the Pacific Ocean. These rivers rise from the snowmelt peaks or the abundant rainfall at the higher elevations. The rivers at the La Sierra are narrow and flow rapidly over the slopes. The rivers in Ecuador form two water systems; Esmeraldas River and Guayas.

Major Rivers Of Ecuador


Amazon River is the world’s largest river by the discharge of water and also the longest by the length in the world. The river has a total length of 4,345 miles, and it is shared by four South American countries: Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, and Colombia. Amazon River originates from Rio Mantaro drainage and leaves Andean plain surrounded by floodplains. The river then runs through Brazil and Peru and forms part of the border between Peru and Colombia. Along its path, the Amazon River creates several tributaries and divides into multiple long channels. The river discharges its water into the Atlantic Ocean. The Amazon River is characterized by forested areas that are flooded every rainy season. The River is home to more than 30% of the world’s known species of birds, over 3,000 fish species, reptiles including Anaconda, and several microbes. Amazon River is a primary source of livelihood for several households in Ecuador. However, perennial flooding has led to loss of life and destruction of property.


Marañón River is the largest source of Amazon River. It rises to the north of Lima, Peru and flows through the Andean Valley before cutting through the jungle Andes and flowing into the Amazon Basin. Marañón River covers a distance of 1,079 miles from its source in Peru to the Amazon Basin. The river is characterized by 20 hydroelectric dams constructed in the Andes with most of the power generated exported to Brazil or used locally in Ecuador and Peru. The construction of dams on Marañón River has been vehemently opposed because they disrupt the major source of Amazon River and destroy habitat and migration of fish. Most of the villages along the banks of Marañón River depend on the river for their livelihood. The river is also an important transport route that connects different villagers.


Putumayo is one of the tributaries of the Amazon River. It forms part of the Ecuador-Colombia border and a frontier with Peru. Putumayo originates from the Andes Mountains in Columbia and empties into the Amazon River in Brazil covering a distance of 1,000 miles. The land around Putumayo was used for rubber production during the Amazon rubber boom in the 19th century. Today, Putumayo River is a major transport route with the entire length of the river being navigable by boat. Cattle farming are also a major industry on the banks of the Putumayo River.

Threats to the Rivers of Ecuador

The construction of dams along the rivers have affected the flow of water and led to the destruction of natural habitats for most of the reptiles and fishes. The dams have also interrupted the migration and movement of these water animals. Pollution is also a major threat to the rivers with most of the industrial wastes finding their way to the rivers. These pollutions also affect the water life and the quality of water accessible by the household. Overfishing has threatened some fish species in these rivers hence conservation efforts have been initiated to control and preserve the rivers.

Major Rivers Of Ecuador

RankMajor Rivers of EcuadorTotal Length
1Amazon4,345 miles (shared with Brazil, Colombia, and Peru)
1,079 miles (shared with Peru)
1,000 miles (shared with Brazil, Colombia, and Peru)
702 miles (shared with Peru)
497 miles (shared with Peru)
472 miles (shared with Peru)
7Pastaza441 miles (shared with Peru)
342 miles (shared with Peru)
242 miles (shared with Peru)

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