The Longest Rivers Of Chile

The Loa is Chile's longest river, flowing 273 miles and crossing the Atacama Desert between the Andes and Pacific Ocean.

Chile has a number of short-length rivers that typically flow from the Andean ranges to the Pacific Ocean. These rivers form water basins that are important to the local communities for irrigation and domestic purposes. While most rivers are not navigable, they are exploited commercially for the production of hydro-electric power which is used in the mines or exported to neighbouring countries. These rivers are facing major threat from deforestation and damming for hydro power production leading to reduced volume of the water on lower courses, pollution due to emissions by the power plants. The issue threaten the water availability to riverine communities.

The Longest Rivers Of Chile


Lao is the longest river in Chile with a length of 273 miles. The river flows from the Andean ranges through the Atacama Desert to the Pacific Ocean. Lao river has several tributaries including Salado River, San Salvador River, and San Pedro de Inacaliri River. The river is an important water source for the riverine communities and a home to a number of fish species such as the shrimp. Pollution of the river by mining companies has become a major concern as it compromises the value and usage of the water.

Bío-Bío River

Bio-Bio is Chile’s second longest river covering a distance of 236 miles. It is also the widest in Chile. the river flows from lakes Icalma and Galleutué and flows through the Andean valley before draining into the Pacific Ocean. Its tributaries include Rele, Tavolevo, Laja, Malleco, and Bureo rivers. The river is navigable for the lower courses where the water slows down due to increase in its width. The river has been negatively affected by deforestation leading to the erosion of the banks and siltation. Construction of the Pangue dam resulted in the displacement of the Penhuenche people who resided along the river.


Maipo river covers a distance of 155 miles making it the third longest river in Chile. The river flows from the Maipo volcano in the Andean range through the Maipo valley before finally draining into the Pacific Ocean. The River is the primary water source for the communities near the river who utilize it for irrigation and domestic purposes. River Mapocho is the main tributary of the Maipo. The greatest threat to the river and the communities around it is the construction of the Alto Maipo hydro-electric complex.


Cachapoal has a length of 155 miles flowing wholly through Chile. The river is the main tributary of River Rapel. The main tributaries are rivers Claro and Cortaderal. The river is mainly exploited for irrigation of the vineyards in the surrounding areas and for hydro-electric power production. The major hydroelectric projects on the river are Coya and Pangal which were established in the early 20th century.

Issues of exploitation of Chilean rivers

Other rivers in Chile include Futaleufu, Maule, Lauca, Perquilauquen, Cautin and Baker. The exploitation of rivers of Chile has been a source of conflict between locals and the government and other parties intending to exploit the rivers through damming and establishing of hydroelectric power projects. The development projects are mainly seen as a threat to the continuity of the rivers besides making them vulnerable to threats from climate change.

RankLongest Rivers of ChileTotal Length
1Loa273 miles
2Bío Bío
236 miles
155 miles
155 miles
153 miles (shared with Argentina)
149 miles
140 miles (shared with Bolivia)
118 miles
108 miles
10Baker106 miles

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