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Amazon River Facts

  |   Amazon Facts

One of the true natural wonders of the world, the Amazon River is an incredible stretch of water weaving through the remote Amazon rainforest in South America. The Amazon River is the second longest river in the world, and the largest in the quantity of water that it transports. Within the river resides a range of exotic aquatic life not found anywhere else, species that are as magnificent and unique as the river itself. Read on for the most interesting facts on the Amazon River and what makes it such an awe-inspiring feat of nature. 


amazon river facts



Interesting Amazon River Facts


  1. The first documented European to discover the Amazon River was Spanish conquistador Vicente Yanez Pinzon in March 1500, who first detected it when he was 200 miles (300 kilometers) out to sea. He noticed that he was sailing in freshwater and turned towards the shore in search of the source, where he then found the mouth of the Amazon. He called the river “Rio Santa Maria del Mar Dulce (later shortened to “Mar Dulce”, meaning “sweet sea”). 
  2. Francisco de Orellana was the first European to navigate the entire length of the Amazon River, after which it was called “Rio de Orellana” for a short time. He sailed from the founts in the Peruvian Andes to where the river meets the ocean in Brazil. 
  3. The name “Amazonas” was later given to the river (in English, the Amazon). The name Amazonas came from native warriors, mainly women, who attacked Orellana’s expedition. They reminded him of the women warriors “the Amazons” from the Herllenic culture. 
  4. The most distant source of the water in the Amazon River comes from melting glaciers in the mountains of Peru. For almost a century it has been agreed upon that this distant source if the headwaters of the Apurimac river on Nevado Mismi, but a 2014 study showed that the most distant course of the Aamazon is on the Cordillera Rumi Cruz at the headwaters of the Mantaro River in Peru.
  5. The mouths of the river are on the East side of Brazil, flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.


Amazon River near Manaus, Brazil. Ph. Neil Palmer 

Amazon River near Manaus, Brazil. Ph. Neil Palmer 




  • The Amazon River stretches 4,000 miles (6,400 km) from the Andes to the sea, and is the second-longest river in the world after the Nile. It is considered the largest river in terms of the volume of water that flows through it, into a number of tributary rivers, and into the sea at the end.
  • During the rainy season, the Amazon River can reach over 120 miles (190 kilometers) in width. 
  • The amount of water that the Amazon River deposits into the sea is so great that it accounts for one fifth of all freshwater in the world’s oceans. 
  • The Amazon River flows through six countries: Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Colombia.  


Anaconda snake in the Amazon.

Anaconda snake in the Amazon.


  • The Amazon River is home to more than 3,000 known species of fish, with new species constantly being discovered.

  • You’ll also find several notorious carnivorous fish swimming in Amazonian waters: the piranha and paiche (also known as arapaima or pirarucu). Piranhas are infamous for being small but vicious with razor-sharp teeth, usually attacking prey in groups. Paiche are lesser-known but even more menacing. Growing up to 9 feet (3 meters) in length, they have teeth on the roof of their mouth and tongue with which they can capture and eat just about any other fish in the river.

  • The largest snake in the world, the anaconda, lurks in the shallow waters of the Amazon River, known for attacking larger animals such as goats or small caiman that venture too close to the water’s edge. 

  • Of the several varieties of river dolphins living in the Amazon River, the most unique is the endangered pink river dolphin (yes, it’s actually pink!). They’re fairly friendly, a common sight for many travelers on the Amazon River!

  • Catfish found elsewhere in the world often weigh up to 60 pounds…Catfish in the Amazon have been known to weigh over 200!

  • Bull sharks are usually sea dwellers, but they’ve been found in the Amazon River as far as 2,300 miles inland! Having entered from the mouth in Brazil, these sharks were thriving in the Peruvian Andes!

Kids from a local Amazonian village. 

Kids from a local Amazonian village. 


People of the Amazon


  • Due to its massive size and span, there are many human inhabitants living along the Amazon River beside these exotic animals. Somewhere between 400-500 indigenous Amerindian tribes live in the rainforest, with about fifty tribes that have never had contact with the outside world. 
  • The largest city on the Amazon River is Manaus, Brazil. Despite being in the middle of the rainforest, it’s a huge city that is home to over 1.7 million people!
  • It may sound wild and untamed, but one man conquered it all! In 2007, Martin Skrel swam the entire length of the Amazon River, swimming up to ten hours a day for 66 days.


Map highlighting the Amazon River and its tributaries. Ph. Wikipedia. 

Map highlighting the Amazon River and its tributaries. Ph. Wikipedia. 


Expansive and sprawling, there is nowhere on Earth quite like the Amazon River. Travel to the wonder itself and see these Amazon River facts come to life right in front of you, or get the chance to learn even more from a knowledgeable guide as you cruise along it. See our Amazon River cruises or Contact Us for more information. 

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Rainforest Cruises is a boutique travel company specializing in Amazon river cruises, Galapagos Islands tours, and Southeast Asia cruises. We provide you with the finest collection of cruises in Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Panama and Southeast Asia. As travel experts we have all the advice you need to help you find and book your dream cruise and an unforgettable adventure.