What Is The Source Of The River Amazon?

The Amazon River from above.
The Amazon River from above.

The Amazon River is among the longest rivers on the planet covering a distance of around 4,000 miles. It is the second longest after River Nile which holds the record as the longest river. However, the Amazon River is by far the biggest river in the world in volume of water and the breadth of its basin. It traverses through six South American countries that include Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Brazil, and Bolivia before draining into the Atlantic Ocean.

The Source Of The Amazon River

One of the most significant tributaries that feed into the Amazon River which has always been assumed to be the source is the Apurimac River. Apumaric originates from Peru; however, this claim has been contested on several occasions because Apurimac River’s source had always been assumed to be Lake Vilafro in Peru, but many believe the actual source of the river to be Mount Huagra. The uncertainty that surrounds Apurimac’s source has made it hard for people to determine the true source of the Amazon River. While this was still in contention, a Peruvian geographer, Carlos Penaherrera claimed the Nevado Mismi, a mountain in the Andes to be the source of the Apurimac River and by extension the Amazon’s. This claim was not taken as fact, more expeditions were made into the region, and in 2000 a new claim was made about a tributary called Carhuasanta to be the source of the Amazon River. The river is located in the Arequipa region of Peru and is fed by the winter snows of the Nevado. Although a small river in comparison to the others mentioned so far this, it is considered by cartographers as the furthermost water source of the Amazon. In 2014 another geographer came up with a new argument in regards to the source of the Amazon River. The geographer, Conto published a journal that attributed the source of the Amazon to a river called Mantaro that originates from Peru, and this was based on the fact that the Mantaro River was longer than the Apurimac River by 40 miles. Mantaro River itself has its source in the Cordillera Rumi Cruz Mountains. However, this was also quickly disputed by a majority of geographers who based their counter-argument on the fact that the Mantaro River dries up for five months of the year due to the diversion of its waters to the Tablachaca dam. As a result, this leaves the Apurimac River as the only tributary that so far is supported by a majority of people to be the actual source of the mighty Amazon River.

Types Of Tributaries In The Amazon

The Amazon River is fed by a series of tributaries that are categorized into three types depending on the terrain they pass through and the sediments they pick along the way. First is the Whitewater Rivers which are brown as a result of picking up large amounts of soil based sediments. Whitewater Rivers range from neutral to slightly acidic. Then there is the Blackwater Rivers which are are deep brown caused by decomposing plant materials, and these materials make the waters highly acidic and inhospitable to bacteria and parasites. Lastly, there is the Clearwater Rivers that run in highlands over ancient rocks whose sediments were washed off long ago. The waters in these rivers are slightly acidic, and at some places, the riverbed is visible from above.

Major Tributaries Of The Amazon River

The Amazon River is made up of network of tributaries from across different countries that link up to drain into the main body of the river. In total, the Amazon River has approximately 1,100 tributaries out of which 17 are the biggest and most notable. The principal tributaries include the following, The Madeira River which spans across Bolivia and Brazil and is 2,020 miles long and accounts for about 15% of the water volume in the basin. There is the Purus River that cuts through Peru and Brazil and is 1,995 miles long with a drainage basin of 24,389 square miles. Next is the Japura River that stands 1,750 miles long flowing through Colombia and Brazil. Japura has a drainage basin covering 98,726 square miles. Tocantins River in Brazil is another with a length of 1,640 miles, and its main tributary the Araguaia River with a length of about 1,632 miles. The Jurua River flows through Peru and Brazil and covers 1,500 miles long. Then there is the famous Rio Negro that flows through Brazil, Venezuela, and Colombia and is 1,400 miles long. It is the largest blackwater river that accounts for 14% of the water in the Amazon basin. Tapajos River comes next at 1,238 miles long and flows through Brazil. Then there is the Xingu River that also flows also through Brazil and is 1,230 miles long. There is also Ucayali River that flows through Peru covering 1,200 miles and is famous for its rapids that made navigation impossible in the past.

Minor Tributaries Of The Amazon River

These are tributaries that cover less than 1,100 miles, and most of them drain into the major tributaries. There is the Guapore River that flows through Brazil and Bolivia and is a tributary of the Madeira River. Guapore is 1,087 miles long. There is the Ica River also known as the Putumayo River that is 979 miles long. Next is the Maranon River flowing through Peru that was once considered to be the first source of the Amazon River, Maranon is 879 miles long. There is the Teles Pires River from Brazil that flows for 850 miles long. The Iriri River which is a tributary of the Xingu is 810 miles long. Next is the Juruena River, a tributary of the Tapajos Rover, it flows through Brazil, and it is 770 miles. Madre de Dios comes up next at 700 miles and flows through Peru and Bolivia, and it is also another tributary of the Madeira. Then there is the Huallaga River from Peru standing at 680 miles, and lastly, there is the Trombetas River that cuts through Brazil and is approximately 472 miles long.


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