The ‘Amazon River’ – this name has long been associated with many sci-fi movies, horror stories and nightmares. Its sheer length and its rich biodiversity have much to contribute to those stories and legends. Whether these stories have any real base or not are difficult to find but we can surely give you a list of 20 interesting Amazon River facts.
New facts added on Page 3. More to be added soon…
Before we start, let us understand Amazon at a glance…
|Passes through countries||Brazil, Peru and Colombia|
– Rio Negro/Guainía
|Cities covered in Brazil||
|Cities covered in Peru||– Iquitos|
|Cities covered in Colombia||– Leticia|
|Source of Amazon River||Rio Mantaro|
|Length of Amazon||3,977 miles or 6,400 kilometers|
|Discharge of Amazon||
– Minimum: 180,000 cu m/s or 6,357,000 cu ft/s
– Average: 209,000 cu m/s or 7,381,000 cu ft/s
– Maximum: 340,000 cu m/s or 12,007,000 cu ft/s
Interesting Amazon River Facts: 1-10
1. Amazon is the second largest river in this world in terms of length. The first position is taken by Nile.
2. In terms of amount of water discharged, Amazon is largest river in this world. It discharges 7,831,000 cubic feet or 209,000 cubic meters every second.
3. The total discharge by Amazon River alone is greater than the total discharge of 7 next largest rivers of world taken together!
4. Of the total river flow of the world, approximately 1/5th is accounted for by the Amazon basin spanning over 7,050,000 square kilometers or 2,720,000 square miles, making Amazon the largest drainage basin in the entire world.
5. During dry seasons, the width of Amazon ranges between 1.6 and 10 kilometers but during the wet seasons, the river’s width increases to 48 kilometers.
6. The Amazon River enters the Atlantic Ocean through a broad estuary that has a width of 150 miles or 240 kilometers with the main stem mouth spanning over 80 kilometers width. Because of its immense width, the estuary is often referred to as ‘The River Sea’.
7. The Amazon River is known by several names in different countries. In Brazil, above its confluence with Rio Negro, the river is known by the name Solimões.
8. In Colombia, Ecuador and Peru as well as other Spanish-speaking countries, the river is known as Amazon downstream from Ucayali and Marañón rivers confluence in Peru.
9. Amazon’s primary source is Ucayali-Apurímac river system with the main headstream being Carhuasanta glacial stream that flows off Nevado Mismi Mountain.
10. 20% of Earth’s fresh water that enters the oceans comes from Amazon. The fresh water that enters Atlantic from the Amazon River flows on top of the sea water because fresh water is lighter. This fresh water dilutes the salinity of the sea water and changes the color of ocean surface. This color change spans over 1,000,000 square miles.
Interesting Amazon River Facts: 11-20
11. The Amazon River surrounds the entire Amazon Rainforest and covers territories belonging to French Guiana, Suriname, Guyana, Bolivia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Brazil.
12. The Amazon Rainforest is a behemoth tropical forest that supports and nurtures the richest biodiversity in the world.
13. The forest covers an area of 5,400,000 square kilometers or 2,100,000 square miles.
14. More than 3000 species of fish have been identified so far in the Amazon basin and more are being discovered every year. The famed anaconda can be found in the basin’s shallow waters.
15. Amazon manatee, boto (Amazon river dolphin), tucuxi (another species of dolphin), various species of notorious piranhas, electric eels, giant otter and black caiman are some of the most commonly found creatures of Amazon.
16. The river is also known for supporting turtles, algae and crabs. The microbes that are generally found in Amazon River are Crenarchaeota, Gammaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria and Actinobacteria.
17. Going back in history, the Amazon River originated as a transcontinental river somewhere between 11.8 million and 11.3 million years back in the Miocene Epoch. The river took its current shape some 2.4 million years back.
18. Amazon dumps directly into the turbulent Atlantic. Because of the high tidal energy and the strong waves, sediments from Amazon flow out into the open ocean and thus, Amazon never really forms a true delta.
19. Amazon has over 1,100 tributaries. Out of these, 17 are 1,500 kilometers long. The Amazon floods every year because of the tidal wave known as ‘pororoca’.
20. The pororoca occurs at high tide during late winter when the river is overlapped by the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in 4 meter high waves, travelling 13 kilometers inland. Not all tributaries flood at the same time of the year.
Origins of Amazon River:
In this section, we will only speak about how the great Amazon River
1. Some 11.8 myBP to 11.3 myBP (myBP stands for Million Years Before Present), Amazon started off as a Transcontinental River. That was during Miocene Epoch.
2. The present shape of Amazon came some 2.4 myBP during Early Pleistocene.
3. Before the Miocene Epoch, during the Cretaceous Period, the proto-Amazon river had a westward flow. It was a part of a river system that scientists call proto-Amazon-Congo river system.
4. Back then, the proto Amazon that flowed west, passed through present day’s Africa. At that time, the continents of today’s South America and Africa were connected and formed the western part of the super continent called Gondwana or Gondwanaland.
5. Some 15 myBP, Andean chain’s tectonic uplift phases started because the Nazca plate went underneath South American plate. Because of the tectonic reshuffling, Andes rose up and Guyana and Brazilian bedrock shields fused together.
6. As a result of this, the proto-Amazon basin was totally blocked inland. It could no longer flow into the Pacific as the Andes blocked the river. This created a massive inland sea. Gradually over time, the inland sea turned into a swampy and freshwater lake.
7. Because the sea became freshwater lake, the marine life had to adapt as well. They gradually became adapted and changed to freshwater life. There are evidences for this. There are 20 stingray species that are found in Amazon today. These are freshwater stingrays but they are very closely related to those that are found in the Pacific Ocean.
8. Then something weird happened. As time passed by, a vertical crease was created along the center of South America. This crease is called Purus Arch – a small mountain ranged caused by tectonic movement.
9. This Purus Arch then sent the water of the Amazon lake on the east into the Atlantic Ocean. On the west, the water was sent tumbling towards Andes Mountains, which was still growing in height. So at this point, Amazon was actually flowing in both directions.
10. By the time the Cretaceous ended, Andes had grown tall and formidable enough to send the west-flowing water of Amazon Lake tumbling back towards the Purus Arch.
11. This is where something weird happened. The Andes also eroded and the sediments were carried down. The sediments settled in the Amazon basin between Andes and Purus Arch.
12. The water between the Andes and Purus Arch managed to breach the Purus Arch and flowed east without any obstruction.
13. On the eastern side of Purus Arch, the highlands had already eroded away because of already eastward-flowing water of the Amazon Lake [see #9 above].
14. Thus, the water on the west that now managed to breach the Purus Arch had literally no obstruction and managed to drain into the Atlantic.
15. So, the proto-Amazon that once flowed west and drained into Pacific starting flowing east and drained into Atlantic some 11 million years Before Present as a transcontinental river.
Image Credits: 1, 2