Where Does the Amazon River Start?
| Amazon Facts
The question of where the Amazon River starts is one that has been plaguing scientists from across the globe for a while now. Yet, until recently there was some sort of universal agreement as to where the source of the Amazon River is. Five different rivers, located in Peru, have been argued as the start of the Amazon River. This theory has been jeopardised by one put forward by a team of Brazilian scientists who reckon that the start of the Amazon River is not where we thought it was.
It was thought for a long time that the start of the Amazon was on the North side of Marajó Island. But, the new school of thought, brought forward by this Brazilian team, suggests that the real source of the river is actually on the South side of this island. They found that the Pará River, which had not been included before, was actually an estuary of the Amazon River. This made the Amazon River longer than previous measurements had suggested and secured it the title of longest river in the world, overtaking the Nile in the process. However, this theory is yet to be fully acknowledged and agreed upon by the scientific community and it doesn’t look like that will happen anytime soon – or at least yet another conclusion has been made.
Science and common logic tell us that the start of a river must be somewhere up high. Somewhere that will allow snowmelt and rainfall to trickle down and become something larger and more powerful. For a river like the Amazon, hundreds of these tiny tributaries must exist for the river to be as magnificent as it is. Therefore, the question is: which of these tributaries can be considered as the starting point of the Amazon River?
Over the course of history, five different rivers, located in Peru, have been argued as the start of the Amazon River.
The criteria for measuring tributaries has also varied over the years, adding yet another layer of complexity to this already tricky debate. Some believe that the farthest point upstream that contributes the greatest volume of water should be the beginning of the river. Others are of the opinion that the farthest point upstream in the longest tributary in a river’s drainage area should be the beginning. The latter is generally agreed to be a better measurement, as the former does not take into account varying water levels in the wet and dry seasons. But, this definition is not set in stone and thus continues to cause confusion internationally.
Given these two definitions of how the find the source of a river, you could end up with multiple different answers to the question of where the Amazon River starts. In fact, the Amazon River has had its length measured as anything between 3,850 and 4,350 miles. That’s a 500-mile difference in length. To put that into perspective, that’s almost the same length as Great Britain from top to bottom. So, as you can see, deciding where the Amazon River begins is a much more challenging task that you probably realised.
So far, various parts of the Apurímac River in Peru have been the most popular proposals for the source of the Amazon River. First Lake Vilafro was generally agreed to be the source but then people started claiming that Mount Huagra was the true source. In the 1960s, both of these theories were discarded as new evidence pointed strongly towards Peru’s Nevado Mismi as the source of the Amazon River. This mountain is over 5,500m in height and for the next several decades, it was common knowledge that this was where the Amazon River started. In 2000, general opinion changed again and focus was shifted first to the Carhuasanta and then to the Mantaro River.
It looks like this question is going to be a point of contention for some time now but, while you are waiting for scientists to agree on one exact point as the river’s definite source, why not check out this mystical river for yourself? One of the best ways to explore the Amazon Rainforest is to hop aboard a boat and cruise along the Amazon River, which cuts through the vegetation of the rainforest like a sickle through corn. Marvel at the colours of the exotic animals that call this huge patch of natural beauty home; snap photos of the light filtering through the canopy; and kick back in the sunshine as you meander along the river.