The Amazon River is one of nature’s wonders; the world's second longest river in terms of length, the greatest though in terms of volume and a river that is vital to the global ecosystem. Some of the facts associated with the great river are astounding, and even those who have traversed the waterway have trouble taking all of it in.
The Amazon was named in about 1540 by the Spanish explorer, Francisco de Orellana, who having fought a local tribe comprising a large number of women, decided that the river should be named for the women warriors of Greek mythology. The Amazon though has been referred to as the Cinnamon River, the Great River and the Fresh Water Sea.
The Amazon travels in excess of 4000 miles from its source in Peru, through Brazil, to its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean. The measured length of the Amazon puts it second only to Africa’s Nile in terms of length, but in other measurements it outstrips all other rivers on earth. This amazing river descends from a height of about 5000m on the Nevado Mismi mountain peak down to sea level at the Atlantic coastline of Brazil.
The Amazon basin takes in some 30% of the South American continent and tributaries, including many major rivers, flow into the Amazon from countries including Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia. The amount of water that flows through the Amazon is enough to bring most people up short; 20% of the world’s entire river outflow is undertaken by the Amazon.
To cope with the flow of water, the Amazon River during the drier seasons will measure anywhere between one mile and six miles across. During the wet season though, an increased amount of water flows, causing the river to rise by nine metres. This rise in water level sees the width of the Amazon increase in some areas to 30 miles across, creating flooded forests as it does so.
The changing width of the Amazon makes it difficult to cross, and indeed there is no bridge spanning the Amazon River anywhere along its length. The fact that the river though flows through forests rather the populated areas though means this fact is rarely an inconvenience.
Whilst it can be difficult to cross the Amazon, the dimensions of the river though does make it fairly easy to navigate, and large ocean going vessels can travel almost a thousand miles up the river to the city of Manaus. Smaller vessels can indeed travel a further 1500 miles up the river if they so wish. Despite its importance most settlements along the Amazon are relatively small with the city of Manaus, in the Amazonas state, with a population of 1.7million, being the largest.
In addition to its length and size, the Amazon River is perhaps most famous for the creatures that live in it; and in particular the deadly ones that can be found in it. The Amazon is home to Anacondas, the world’s largest snakes; to piranhas; and even Bull Sharks. Additionally of course there are thousands of species of fish that live and breed in the Amazon River.
It is difficult to take in the importance and magnitude of the Amazon River, but it is a river that is vital to the local and global ecosystem.