Amazon River

The world’s second longest river, stretching
3,900 miles (6,275 km) from the foothills of the Andes to the
Atlantic Ocean. The Amazon begins where the Ucayali and
Maranon tributaries merge and drains into the Atlantic near
the city of Belem. The Amazon carries the most water and
has the largest discharge of any river in the world, averaging
150 feet (45 m) deep. Its drainage basin amounts to about 35
percent of South America, covering 2,500,000 square miles
(6,475,000 km2). The Amazon lowlands in Brazil include the
largest tropical rainforest in the world. In this region, the
Amazon is a muddy, silt-rich river with many channels that
wind around numerous islands in a complex maze. The delta
region of the Amazon is marked by numerous fluvial islands
and distributaries, as the muddy waters of the river get dispersed
by strong currents and waves into the Atlantic. A
strong tidal bore, up to 12 feet (3.7 m) high runs up to 500
miles (800 km) upstream.
The Amazon River basin occupies a sediment-filled rift
basin, between the Precambrian crystalline basement of the
Brazil and Guiana Shields. The area hosts economic deposits
of gold, manganese, and other metals in the highlands, and
detrital gold in lower elevations. Much of the region’s economy
relies on the lumber industry, with timber, rubber, vegetable
oils, Brazil nuts, and medicinal plants sold worldwide.
Spanish commander Vincent Pinzon was probably the
first European in 1500 to explore the lower part of the river
basin, followed by the Spanish explorer Franciso de Orellana
in 1540–41. De Orellana’s tales of tall strong female warriors
gave the river its name, borrowing from Greek mythology.
Further exploration by Pedro Teixeira, Charles Darwin, and
Louis Agassiz led to greater understanding of the river’s
course, peoples, and environment, and settlements did not
appear until steamship service began in the middle 1800s.
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