In Which Country Does the Amazon River Begin?

The Amazon River is considered one of the most intriguing in the world. Its size, benefits, and meandering through multiple countries attract scientists and visitors from across the globe.

But where does the Amazon River begin?

Modern research shows the Amazon River’s source as the Mantaro River in Peru. The river’s origin has sparked scores of debates since the 17th century.

Amazon River map

However, one thing everyone agrees on is that the source is in Peru.

Why is there so much disagreement regarding the Amazon River’s origin?

Mantaro River

Because of its enormous size, it’s been difficult to pinpoint its origin.

There have been at least five tributaries in southwest Peru that have been assigned the honor of being the Amazon River’s headwaters since the mid-1600s by explorers and scientists.

The Mantaro River in southern Peru, according to researchers who published their findings in the journal Area, is the river’s real source.

They may be right, and if so, their findings would increase Amazon’s reported stretch of 4,000 miles by approximately 47 to 57 miles.

What methods were used to discover the Amazon River’s new origin?

With the help of a grant from the National Geographic Society, expert kayaker James Contos and his crew were able to identify that the Mantaro River is around 10 percent longer than the Apurmac River, which has been presumed the Amazon’s source as of 1971.

They used six different analytical techniques, which include GPS tracking data and satellite visuals to make the discovery.

According to anthropologist Nicholas Tripcevich, a winding curve or kink in the bottom part of the Mantaro river leads one to believe it is much smaller than it is and might have contributed to its obscurity.

What determines where a river begins?

It all rests on whose interpretation of a river’s origin a geographer chooses to use, but a river’s source is defined as the place where it originates.

Different factors to consider when deciding what contributes to a river’s water supply include the river’s drainage basin, its largest branch, and its furthest upstream reaches.

The current worldwide definition is the point at which a river’s longest offshoot continues to flow for an extended period. Whether a tributary runs year-round or not.

What was first considered the Amazon River’s origin point?

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

Maraón River in northern Peru has been credited with being the Amazon’s origin for centuries, according to geographer Andrew Johnston from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

To put it another way, the Maraón tributary to the Amazon has the biggest amount of flowing water.

Over time, due to its reputation as the Amazon basin’s most extensive tributary, the Ucayali, a further extension of Apurmac took over as the official source of water.

Subsequently, a National Geographic mission headed by Loren McIntyre pinpointed Mismi as the origin of the Apurmac River as well as the Amazon River in 1971.

Johnston was part of a National Geographic trip in 2000 that verified Ticlla Cocha Lake at the foot of Mismi as the Amazon River’s origins and the Apurmac as the Amazon’s farthest upstream branch.

Why are some geologists skeptical of the Amazon River’s origin point?

This long-held belief, according to some geographers, has been overturned by Contos and Tripcevich since the Mantaro River goes dry for nearly five months each year because of the Tablachaca dam, erected in 1974, which deflects its stream around its bend.

Juan Valdés, a National Geographic geographer, states that a river’s source can only be determined if it is constantly flowing water. Having the biggest tributary doesn’t mean much as if does not have a constant flow.

The water in the canals of Mantaro doesn’t flow year-round, according to Valdés.

Why is the lack of constant flow of the Amazon River’s origin an issue?


According to some geographers, short-term variations in a river’s flow or man-made adjustments to the natural path of a river should not be taken into account when trying to determine a river’s origin.

One can consider a river’s mouth as the farthest section from any point in its path, regardless of how long it takes a raindrop to get there.

It is claimed that the Mantaro comes from the farthest away.

Smithsonian researcher Johnston believes the new study offers a fresh perspective despite his participation in the trip that verified Apurmac’s dominance.

“Yes, I think the Mantaro might be called the new origin of the Amazon,” he argues, however “the source” is a stretch.

The Mantaro River “possibly has a higher flow length than every Amazon tributary,” Johnston claims.

Whenever the Mantaro becomes dry, “the Apurimac is again the site where water is flowing the largest length into the Amazon.”

How long is the Amazon River?

The Amazon River is approximately 4,000 miles in length, according to the majority of scientists.

However, because no one knows exactly where the Amazon River finishes and starts, there is no precise measure of Amazon’s size.

In light of the river system’s intricacy, scholars have suggested several places in Peru as the headwaters.

When it comes to the Amazon’s terminus, it has three options: two on Brazil’s north section of Marajó Island and another one on the southern end of the island.

The second connects to the Pará River. Because the Pará River is an inlet of the Tocantins River and is essentially a different river from the Amazon, scientists have traditionally chosen one of the northernmost exits.

How is the Amazon River affected by Peru’s mining?

Peru's Mining

Silver, zinc, tin, copper, and gold are just a few of the metals mined in Peru. Peru’s economy relies on mining to meet the rising worldwide demand for precious metals like gold.

You can find small amounts of gold near the base of the Andes after several millennia of sedimentary discharge.

Mining that takes place outside of legally recognized claims, where environmental norms are not strictly enforced, is problematic.

The Peruvian Amazon now faces devastation by an upsurge in illegal, small-scale gold extraction.

Mercury levels of as much as 30 tons are dumped into the Amazon each year due to this unchecked mining.

How does the Amazon River impact agriculture production in Peru?

The food we eat every day comes from all around the world, including the rainforest. Eighty percent of the foods we eat now originated in rainforests, including the majority of the staples of our diet such as coffee and chocolate.

Amazon River

There are several reasons why the Amazon River is well-known. A major river in Latin America and an enormous drainage system, the Amazon River is the largest in history in terms of both volume and space.

Although there is considerable disagreement over its exact length, the river is widely estimated to be in the region of 4,000 miles in length, making it second only to the Nile in Africa in terms of length.

Forests lining its banks are also a major draw of the Amazon. The Amazon Rainforest is the planet’s largest natural reservoir, supporting over a million species.

It makes up about half of the planet’s remaining rainforests.

What kind of wildlife can you find in the Amazon River?

More than 2,500 species of fish have been discovered in the Amazon Basin, but many more are still undiscovered.

A few of the most commercially important species include pirarucu, a big freshwater fish, and a variety of giant catfish.

Animals and humans may be attacked by the small, flesh-eating piranhas, although they usually feed on other fish.

In addition, there are manatees, river dolphins, and river turtles. The semi-aquatic capybara, the world’s largest rodent, and the nutria can also be found in the Amazon.

How big is the Amazon Basin?

Congo River

In comparison to the Congo River, the world’s second-largest tropical drainage system, the Amazon basin covers an area of around 2.7 million square miles but is roughly twice as massive.

At its broadest point, the basin encompasses most of Brazil and Peru, stretching 1,725 miles north to south.

Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia, as well as a small amount of Venezuela, make up the bulk of the Amazon basin, which is around two-thirds of the river’s mainstream and the greatest chunk of its basin.

Pará’s Tocantins-Araguaia catchment area encompasses an additional 300,000 square kilometers in the state.

Even though it isn’t essentially part of Amazonia, the Brazilian stakeholders and the general public treat it as such.

How much of the water on earth is the Amazon River responsible for?

As much as one-fifth of Earth’s surface water is transported by the Amazon River.

More than ten times as much as the Mississippi River carries at flood stage and four times more than that transported by the Congo River.

Upwards of 100 miles out to sea, this massive inflow of freshwater reduces the ocean’s salinity.

Why has the Amazon River basin drawn international concern?

Amazon River Basin

International attention to the Amazon basin has grown since the late 20th century because human activities are threatening the forest’s highly complex ecological balance.

There is a tidal surge of settlers, corporations, and academics moving to the Amazon basin, which has led to an increase in deforestation in the region’s piedmont region.

An increase in population has also resulted from significant mineral finds.

Scientific attention has been focused on potential ecological ramifications of these processes, which might extend further than the basin and even be of global significance.

Who first explored the Amazon River, and for what purpose?

In 1541, Spaniard warrior Francisco de Orellana became the first European to discover the Amazon, giving the river its name after describing pitched conflicts with female warrior tribes he equated to the Amazons of Greek myth.

In Peruvian and Brazilian nomenclature, the term “Amazon” is used to refer to certain stretches of the river, not the entire river as a whole.

The upper mainstream of Peru’s river system, fed by several tributaries from the Andes, flows down to the Ucayali River’s confluence.

There, officials call it Maraón; then from the Ucayali to the Brazilian borderline, they call the river Amazonas.

Amazonas is the Brazilian name for Peru’s Solimes River, which joins the Negro River at its confluence in Brazil’s Amazonas region.

What are blackwater and clearwater on the Amazon River?


Blackwater (Tocantins-Araguaia, Negro, and Jari) and clearwater (Tapajos, Xingu, and Trombetas) are the two types of old crystalline highlands streams.

Substantially lower in nutrients and silt, or dissolved solids, the blackwater rivers originate in nutrient-poor, sandy upland areas and carry a high concentration of humic acids, which are responsible for their dark hue.

There are fewer humic acids in clearwater tributaries because they have a greater mineral content.

Throughout the wet seasons, some rivers run with clear water, whereas during the dry season, they flow with black water.

A cylinder freshwater lake or estuary is formed near the mouth of the Tapajós where these blackwater branches enter the major river.

Bottom Line

Other rivers may be easier to trace back to the origin, but the Amazon is not so straightforward. Scientists believe they must look at the Mantaro, Apurmac, and Maraón to properly comprehend the Amazon.