The Amazon River

See the wildlife of the Amazon River in Peru

About The Amazon River

The river was named by first European to explore the Amazon, Spanish soldier Francisco de Orellana, who reported pitched battles with tribes of female warriors resembling the Amazons of Greek mythology.
It is the largest river in the world by discharge volume of water, and the second longest. The Amazon flows 4,345 miles from its headwaters at Cordilliera Rumi Cruz, in Peru and Ecuador, through Colombia to Brazil, where it drains into the Amazon basin. Along its way, it nurtures one of the world’s wildest and most diverse ecosystems, with more than a third of the Earth’s animal species living in its rainforest.
To cruise along this dazzling river is to travel back in time, to a world ruled by the predators and pranksters of the jungle: tamarin monkeys, three-toed sloths, scarlet macaws, jaguars, Amazon River dolphins, giant otters, anacondas, caimans, bull sharks, piranhas, and more than the imagination can count. While the river is vast, the most popular section for river cruising is in Peru’s Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve, famous for its “Mirrored Forest” that floods each year during the rainy season. Encompassing three river basins, the region offers a lifetime’s worth of scenery and wildlife to explore.
Nearly every major river cruise line offers an Amazon cruise or includes one as part of a longer land and cruise South American tour. From educational cruises led by experts from organizations like National Geographic and the Smithsonian Institution, to luxury cruise experiences and increasingly popular eco-friendly operators, there are Amazon experiences for every age, level of interest, and budget. Cruises sail in Peru, Ecuador and Brazil so your choices are many if exploring the great Amazon is on your bucket list.

Amazon River Stats

Length: 4,345 miles
Depth: Up to 328 feet
Source: Rio Mantaro, Peru
Mouth: Atlantic Ocean near Macapa, Brazil
Locks: 0
Countries: Brazil | Colombia | Ecuador | Peru

Learn More About the Amazon River of South America

The Amazon River is a true marvel of nature, a sprawling waterway that stands as one of the most iconic and awe-inspiring features of our planet. Stretching approximately 6,400 kilometers (around 4,000 miles) from its source in the Andes Mountains of Peru to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean in Brazil, the Amazon River is the largest river in the world by volume and is often considered the lifeline of the South American continent. Its unique blend of superlatives, from its vast size and biodiversity to its ecological significance, makes it a subject of fascination for scientists, explorers, and nature enthusiasts alike.


Geographical and Hydrological Features

The Amazon River basin covers an immense expanse of approximately 7 million square kilometers (2.7 million square miles), making it the largest drainage basin in the world. This vast watershed spans across nine countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. The river itself flows through Brazil and Peru, forming a crucial part of these countries’ identities, economies, and ecosystems.  The river’s source, often debated among geographers, is commonly accepted to be the Apurímac River in southern Peru. It starts as a small stream in the high-altitude Andes, and as it meanders its way eastward through the jungle-clad mountains, it absorbs numerous tributaries, each adding to its growing volume. The Apurímac River eventually converges with other watercourses to form the mighty Amazon.  As the Amazon River courses through the tropical lowlands, it collects water from thousands of tributaries, such as the Madeira, Negro, and Juruá rivers, significantly expanding its width and depth. During the wet season, the river can reach staggering widths of over 24 kilometers (15 miles) in some places. Its discharge, estimated at over 200,000 cubic meters per second, surpasses that of the next seven largest rivers combined.


Biodiversity: A Treasure Trove of Life

The Amazon River basin is renowned for its unparalleled biodiversity. It is often referred to as the “Lungs of the Earth” due to its role in absorbing and storing vast amounts of carbon dioxide, which helps regulate the Earth’s climate. But its significance extends far beyond climate control; it is a biological treasure trove like no other.  This region is home to an estimated 10% of all known species on Earth. Scientists believe that countless undiscovered species still lurk within the rainforest’s depths. The lush rainforests, flooded wetlands, and pristine riverside habitats provide refuge to an astonishing array of flora and fauna. The Amazon Rainforest, which blankets much of the basin, contains an estimated 390 billion individual trees belonging to around 16,000 species.  The river itself hosts a diverse range of aquatic life, including piranhas, electric eels, catfish, and the infamous Amazon river dolphins. The river is also known for its unique freshwater stingrays and a plethora of fish species, some of which are yet to be scientifically described. The biodiversity of the Amazon River is so immense that it remains a hotspot for scientific exploration and discovery.


Cultural Significance

The Amazon River is not just a natural wonder; it also holds immense cultural and historical importance for the people who live along its banks. Indigenous communities have thrived in the Amazon for thousands of years, relying on the river’s resources for sustenance, transportation, and spirituality. The river serves as a source of food, water, and livelihood for countless communities.  For many indigenous groups, the Amazon River holds deep spiritual significance, often seen as a deity or a living entity. The river is integral to their cosmology and cultural practices. Unfortunately, these communities and their way of life are under constant threat from deforestation, resource extraction, and encroaching development.


Environmental Challenges and Conservation Efforts

The Amazon River faces numerous environmental challenges, including deforestation, illegal logging, mining, and habitat destruction. These activities not only harm the delicate ecosystems but also contribute to global climate change by releasing vast amounts of carbon stored in the rainforest.  Conservation efforts to protect the Amazon River and its surrounding rainforest are of global importance. Organizations, governments, and local communities are working together to combat deforestation, establish protected areas, and promote sustainable land-use practices. Initiatives like the Amazon Rainforest Conservation Program seek to address the root causes of deforestation and support sustainable livelihoods for local populations.


Tourism and Exploration

The Amazon River has long captivated the imaginations of adventurers, explorers, and tourists from around the world. River cruises and jungle expeditions offer visitors a chance to experience the beauty and wonder of the Amazon up close. Tourists can witness breathtaking sunsets over the river, encounter diverse wildlife, and learn about the rich cultures of the region’s indigenous peoples.  Exploration of the Amazon River continues to yield scientific discoveries, from new species to insights into the complex interactions that sustain this vast ecosystem. Researchers and explorers, equipped with modern technology and traditional knowledge, are continuously unraveling the mysteries of the river and the rainforest.


The Amazon River is not merely a geographical feature; it is a symbol of the natural world’s grandeur and complexity. Its colossal size, ecological importance, and cultural significance make it a subject of enduring fascination and concern. Protecting the Amazon River and its surrounding rainforest is not just a regional issue but a global imperative, as it plays a vital role in maintaining the health of our planet and preserving the incredible biodiversity it harbors. The Amazon River is a testament to the beauty and power of the natural world, a reminder of the need to safeguard our planet’s most precious treasures for generations to come.

Your Amazon River Cruise Awaits!

Are you ready to start planning your Amazon River Cruise Vacation Your Way? A River Cruise Artist at River Cruise Your Way is ready to be your vacation concierge. Contact us today at 1-800-259-7612 or use the form below and let us know when it is most convenient to call you, we will confirm via e-mail, and then reach out at the agreed upon time and date.