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Which are the most impressive South American rivers and why? I have selected 15 rivers in South America that are absolutely incredible feats of nature that I am going to share with you in this article. Whether you are planning a trip to one of these impressive South American Rivers or you simply want to learn more, I have you covered in this post… keep reading to learn more…

The 15 Most Impressive South American Rivers

South American Rivers

Being the most diverse continent on earth, South America is a tourist destination for so many people all around the world. South America is said to be the hub of river tourism. Enormous and fastest-flowing rivers surround it. Not just Amazon, there are many other monumental water bodies as well that just stun the tourists.

If you’re considering visiting South America, do not miss out on its rivers. You can make your trip incredible by delving into the most impressive South American rivers and exploring different new species there.

But which rivers to traverse first? Are you banging your head to decide on that? In this article, I will tell you about the South American rivers you can’t afford to miss out on during your visit . Their captivating beauty is going to take your breath away.

1.  Amazon

South American Rivers
Amazon By MatthewWilliams-Ellis

The Amazon River is the longest, most impressive and most famous among the South American rivers. Its length is not just unbelievably stretched but also provocative for some people.

Its true length is suggested to be about 4,344 miles, which supports both human and animal life alike. It is the world’s 2nd largest river and has a massive drainage basin at 7,000,000 km².

The Amazon River starts flowing from Brazil and passes through Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela, draining into the Atlantic Ocean.

If you’re a wildlife admirer, it is an incredible place for you to spend your holiday (I travelled here for my honeymoon!). This river is home to River Dolphins, Amazonian Manatees, Giant Otters and many other mammalian species. Moreover, it also inhabits Anacondas and Caimans. There are also fish species, including Piranha, Arapaima, Electric Eel, and occasionally the Bull Shark, live in its waters.

2.  Tocantins-Araguaia

South American Rivers
Tocantins-Araguaia By jovempan

If you want to visit South American rivers, Tocantis-Araguaia is the river you must visit. It is among those rivers that are considered tributary of the Amazon, but technically, it is a separate water body.

It is a 2640km long river that stretches across Brazil and runs through Goiás, Tocantins, Maranhão and Pará. Unlike most South American rivers ending their course in the Amazon River, it end its journey into the Atlantic Ocean.

Visiting Tocantins River is quite adventurous as it is a habitat to diverse animal species like Amazonian Manatee and Araguaian River Dolphin. Also, you’ll spot Black Caiman and Yellow-Spotted River Turtles there.

3.  Purús

South American Rivers
Purús River By Britannica

Talking about South American rivers, The Purús River is the incredible one that is a biodiverse watery pathway between Peru and Brazil. It flows all the way through South America for approximately 2101 miles. It is a tributary river of the larger Amazon River with an ample drainage basin of 371,042 km2.

Purús River starts its course from the Ucayali Region in Peru, forms a union with the Cujar and Curiuja Rivers and empties in the Amazon River.

Like other rivers, it is a diverse species of animal that lives in and around the Purús. But, here, one mammal species is quite unique, that is, Purús Red Howler, a monkey, native to the Bolivian, Brazilian, and Peruvian areas.

4.  Rio de la Plata – Paraná River

South American Rivers
Rio de la Plata – Paraná River By diegograndi

The Rio de la Plata-Parana River is amongst the longest South American rivers that, flows over 3,000 miles. It begins in Brazil, runs through Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia, and eventually reaches the Atlantic Ocean.

The river has historical significance as it was the site of many battles, especially the Battle of the River Plate in World War II.

It’s quite a famous river and an attractive tourist site. On the Southern coast of the river, there is Buenos Aires.

It also has a wide variety of animal species that attract wildlife lovers. You’ll see Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Leatherback and Sea Turtle within the river. It also resides in the rare La Plata Dolphin.

5.  Sao Francisco River

South American Rivers
Sao Francisco River By Cleferson Comarela

The São Francisco River is located in Brazil and flows through the entire city. It is the largest river in the country. Among the South American rivers, it is the 4th largest river which covers 1,811 miles.

São Francisco River starts its course from the Canastra mountains, located in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais. It runs Northward unless it turns towards the towns of Barra and Xique-Xique, which are in the East. And at the end, its journey concludes in the Atlantic Ocean.

The river has got great significance as it flows alongside the borders of 5 states, supplying water to the semi-arid areas of Brazil. Among Brazilians, it’s termed Sao Francisco, the River of National Integration.

6.  Paraguay River

South American Rivers
Paraguay River River By MatthewWilliams-Ellis

In the list of the largest South American rivers, the Paraguay River comes at the 6th spot. It is stretched for about 1,584 miles from its origins in the Mato Grosso area of Brazil to its convergence with the Paraná River.

The Paraguay River starts its course in the Parecis plateau, Brazil and streams Southwest all over its run, dividing it into two halves. One-half of the country, the western portion, is mainly deserted, and the eastern section clutches about 98% of the country’s population.

The river is of great importance as it forms a border with Argentina at its lower end in the South. In addition, Paraguay River serves the purpose of hydroelectric power generation. Also, the water of the river is used for irrigation purposes alongside its route.

The banks of the river are the homeland for many poor fishermen who earn their living by selling the fish in the river.

7.  Orinoco  

South American Rivers
Orinoco By kimkim

Want to visit one of the longest South American rivers? Do visit The Orinoco River, which is 1,400 miles from its source in Venezuela to its end at the Atlantic Ocean. It’s also amongst the 4th largest rivers all around the world in terms of water discharge volume.

Discovered by Columbus in 1498, it is the utmost well-documented river in South America. It is a remarkable site for travellers, and after exploring it for hundreds of years, pink river dolphins were discovered in 1800.

The river has 4 different portions named Upper, Middle, and Lower Orinoco, and the last stretch is named Delta Amacuro. It’s a perfect vacation spot for you if you love natural waterways.

8.  Rio Negro

South American Rivers
Rio Negro By Image-Source

Among the left tributaries of the great Amazon, Negro River is the largest river. It has been included in the list of the top 10 largest rivers globally. It emerges from Columbia, flows across Brazil, Venezuela and Columbia, and covers a distance of 2,250 kilometers.

Being one of the largest rivers in South America, it has a vast variety of fish species, roughly 800 and 900. 

This river is quite unique in its own way, so it attracts tourists towards it. Unlike other rivers, its water is jet-black due to the presence of decomposing organic matter found in marginal swamps.

9.  Japurá or Caquetá River

South American Rivers
Japurá or Caquetá River By Wikimedia

The Japurá, or Caquetá-Japurá, originated from Colombia and is another of the tributaries of the Amazon River. With a length of 1,750 it is the 4th longest river that falls in the Amazon River.

It is also among the longest South American rivers. It is divided into different portions. The first two-thirds of the river, called Caquetá, flows in Colombia, and when it enters Brazil, it becomes the Japurá River.

The river is exceptional and classifies as a muddled river because it has a misty coloration that is the outcome of clearwater and backwater tributaries.

On its banks, the Chiribiquete National Park and Cahuniari National Park, the two federally protected reserves, are located.

The Caquetá-Japurá is quite hard to navigate because it is filled with many kinds of large fish. In its water, you can see the piranhas, caimans, and the fascinating electric eel. It is quite a remarkable place to visit.

10.  Uruguay River

South American Rivers
Uruguay River By lacgeo

Rivers are the charm of South America and the center of tourist attractions. The country of Brazil has various rivers passing through it, but Uruguay River is amongst the most loved tourist spots there.

It is located in Southern Brazil, beginning its journey as Pelotas River about 40 miles inland from the Atlantic coast in Santa Catarina, Brazil. Later, it meets up with the Canoas River, and here it gets its name, the “Uruguay River.” The rivers keep flowing and head towards the Southwest to form a border between Argentina and Brazil.

It further continues its stream for about 990 miles to reach the Paraná River. The two rivers then join to form the estuary of the Rio de la Plata River.

11.  Pilcomayo

South American Rivers
Pilcomayo By Pattrön

Visiting rivers in South America is so mesmerizing. Amongst the generous rivers, Pilcomayo River has its own charm. It is the tributary to the Paraguay River that flows up to 1,550 miles.

Sources from the Andes Mountains, it starts its course in the Oruro Department in Bolivia. It then runs in a southeast direction to ultimately cross through the Gran Chaco plains in Paraguay.

Pilcomayo River forms a portion of the border between Argentina and as it passes through the Gran Chaco plains. It then splits up, forming large branches known as the North and South Pilcomayo, which then rejoin to create the Lower Pilcomayo.

12.  Madeira-Mamoré River

South American Rivers
Madeira-Mamoré River By Porto Velho

The Madeira is a South American river that is made up of many rivers. It forms a union with the Mamoré River and forms the major Madeira-Mamoré River. The collective length of these two conjoined rivers is nearly 2,020 miles or 2,100 miles.

This river is said to be the main tributary of the gigantic Amazon River. It also has many settlements like Borba, Manicoré, and Porto Velho and a drainage basin of 1,376,000 km2.

Like other South American rivers, it also serves as home to 900 fish species, making it one of the most biodiverse freshwater waterways worldwide. You will also encounter the rare Bolivian River Dolphin in its upper reaches.

13.  Juruá River

South American Rivers
Juruá River By Maria Helena Henriques

Juruá River is another tributary of the Amazon River with sources in Peru. To reach The Amazon River, it has to flow about 2,040 miles.

This river is spellbinding. Its bendy and completely unbarred flows make it hypnotic for tourists. It’s also significant for economic development.

You can enjoy pleasant weather sitting on the bank of the river and enjoying the magnificent view.

14.  Magdalena River

South American Rivers
Magdalena River By Worldatlas

Thinking about visiting South African rivers,Magdalena River must be on your go-to list. This river rises in Colombian lands and streams down into the Caribbean Sea.

On the bank of Magdalena River you’ll see  129 municipalities, 23 regional autonomous corporations, 46 indigenous reserves, and two peasant reserve areas.

If you’re planning your outing there, you can board a boat that is constructed from the ancient colonial ships named as “Florentino Ariza” and have fun on your water ride.

15.  Beni River

South American Rivers
Beni River By Arthur Chapman

The Beni River is among the most bountiful of all South American rivers. It is situated in Bolivia and meets with the Madre de Dios River to form the Amazon’s main tributary, the Madeira River.

If you’re considering visiting there, it’s a great choice because you can enjoy the sights of the Bolivian jungle near the river, which is rich in flora and fauna diversity.

The best South American Rivers- to conclude

South America is the land of divine beauty. It has a wide variety of animal and fish species. The water bodies are very abundant. There are so many incredible South American rivers to visit, as you can see! If you enjoyed this article on South American rivers, then I am sure you will like these too-