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12 Longest Rivers in South America: Listed by Length (Quick Stats)

Rivers are considered to be a source of life and economy in many places around the world. In this article, we’ll look at the 12 longest rivers in South America. Learn about their length, depth, major features, and the countries they pass through.

What is the longest river in South America? The Amazon River is the longest at 3,977 miles (6,400 km). The second-longest river in South America is the Paraná River 3,030 miles (4,880 km). The remaining 10 longest rivers are between 1,100 and 2,040 miles (1,800 to 3,350 km).

rivers in south america

Longest Rivers: An Overview

The following list is a quick overview of the 12 longest rivers in South America:

RiverLength
Amazon3,899-4,365 miles (6,275-7,025 km)
Paraná River3,030 miles (4,880 km)
Juruá River2,040 miles (3,350 km)
Purus River1,995 miles (3,211 km)
Sao Francisco River1,811 miles (2,830 km)
Paraguay River1,675 miles (2,695 km)
Tocantins River1,520 miles (2,450 km)
Orinoco1,400 miles (2,250 km)
Rio Negro1,400 miles (2,250 km)
Japurá or Caquetá River1,265 miles (2,036 km)
Mamoré River1,200 miles (1,930 km)
Uruguay River1,142 miles (1,838 km)

Longest Rivers: Top 12

This list is an expansion of the one above, showing some more interesting details on the top 12 longest rivers in South America, like the source, which countries they pass through, and so on.

Amazon

The longest river in South America is the Amazon River. It supplies about 20 percent of the ocean’s freshwater supply.

  • Length: 3,899 to 4,365 miles (6,275 to 7,025 km)
  • Width: 0.62 to 62 miles (1 to 100 km)
  • Depth: 66 to 330 feet (20 to 100 m)
  • Source: Rio Apurimac, Mismi Peak, Arequipa Region, Peru
  • Mouth/End: Atlantic Ocean, Brazil
  • Basin Size: 2,702,715 sq miles (7,000,000 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: around 7,400,000 cu ft/s (209,000 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Brazil, Colombia, Peru

How long is the Amazon river? While there is a large variance in the length of the Amazon, it is generally accepted to be at least 3,977 miles (6,400 km).

A study published in 2007 measured it to be 4,345 miles (6,992 km). But this number met skepticism and the full study wasn’t published, making their methodology impossible to review.

amazon river longest south america
Food and supplies on the dock, on the edge of the Amazon River in Peru.

Here are some of the animals you’ll see in the Amazon rainforest.

Ecuador is home to the western fringe of the Amazon rainforest. Here’s what you need to know before visiting el Oriente, the Amazon jungle in Ecuador.

Learn about the largest rainforests in the world.

Paraná River

The Paraná River not only is one of the largest rivers in South America but its delta is also considered to be one of the greatest bird-watching destinations in the world.

  • Length: around 3,030 miles (4,880 km)
  • Width: up to 1.9 miles (3 km)
  • Depth: up to 558 ft (170 m)
  • Source:
    • Paranaíba River, Minas Gerais, Brazil
    • Rio Grande, Minas Gerais, Brazil
  • Mouth/End: Atlantic Ocean, between Argentina and Uruguay
  • Basin Size: 997,175 sq miles (2,582,672 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: around 611,000 cu ft/s (17,290 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay
Parana River south america
Itaipu Dam on Parana River, between Brazil and Paraguay (South America)

Itaipu Dam is a huge hydroelectric dam on Paraná River, on the Brazil and Paraguay border.

Iguazu Falls are on Iguazu River, an important tributary to Paraná River.

Juruá River

The Juruá provides economic activities like agriculture, fishing, logging, and construction.

  • Length: 2,040 miles (3,283 km)
  • Width: Unknown
  • Depth: Up to 49 feet (15 m)
  • Source: Ucayali River, Peru
  • Mouth/End: Amazon River, Brazil
  • Basin Size: around 72,600 sq miles (188,000 sq km)
  • Average Disharge: around 298,000 cu ft/s (8,440 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Brazil, Peru

Purus River

Considered a tributary of the Amazon, the Purus also supports much biodiversity in its basin.

  • Length: 1,995 miles (3,211 km)
  • Width: Unknown, though it is claimed to be uniform for 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers)
  • Depth: up to 45 feet (15 m) for around 800 miles (1,300 km)
  • Source: Ucayali Region, Peru
  • Mouth/End: Amazon River, Brazil
  • Basin Size: around 140,900 sq miles (365,000 sq km)
  • Average Dishcahrge: around 387,400 cu ft/s (10,970 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Brazil, Peru

São Francisco River

Named for a 16th-century Jesuit leader, the São Francisco is an important source of irrigation and hydroelectricity for parts of Brazil.

  • Length: 1,811 miles (2,914 km)
  • Width: Unknown
  • Depth: Varies depending on rain; average depth of 6 ft 7 in (2 m) from Sobradinho dam to Petrolina/Juazeiro
  • Source: Canastra Mountains, Minas Gerais state
  • Mouth/End: Atlantic Ocean
  • Basin Size: around 247,500 sq miles (641,000 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: around 103,900 cu ft/s (2,943 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Brazil
São Francisco River brazil
São Francisco River, Brazil

Paraguay River

In the 1500s, Venetian explorer Sebastian Cabot (son of John Cabot) was the first European on record to have discovered the Paraguay River and the Paraná River.

  • Length: 1,675 miles (2,695 km)
  • Width: up to 2,000 feet (610 m)
  • Depth: 20 feet (6 m) near Cáceres, Brazil
  • Source: Parecis plateau, Mato Grosso, Brazil
  • Mouth/End: Paraná River, Argentina
  • Basin Size: around 423,000 sq miles (1,095,000 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: 95,000 cu ft/s (2,700 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Argenitna, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay

Tocantins River

Although some consider the Tocantins as a tributary of the Amazon, technically it is a separate water system, with its mouth at Marajó Bay.

  • Length: around 1,520 miles (2,450 km)
  • Width: Unknown
  • Depth: Unknown
  • Source: Serra Dourada
  • Mouth/End: Marajó Bay
  • Basin Size: around 289,300 sq miles (749,200 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: 416,600 cu ft/s (11,796 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Brazil

Orinoco

The Orinoco is the fourth largest river in the world in terms of how much water it discharges.

  • Length: around 1,400 miles (2,250 km)
  • Width: up to 14 miles (22 km) in rainy season
  • Depth: up to 330 feet (100 m) in rainy season
  • Source:
    • Cerro Delgado-Chalbaud, Parima Mountains, Venezuela
    • Rio Sorrento, Paramo de Sumapaz, Meta, Colombia
  • Mouth/End: Delta Amacuro
  • Basin Size: around 340,000 sq miles (880,000 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: around 1,307,000 cu ft/s (37,000 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Colombia, Venezuela
rio orinoco delta

Rio Negro

The Rio Negro is the biggest blackwater river in the world. Blackwater rivers are rivers that are generally slow-moving, go through swampy forests or wetlands, and have dark coloration similar to black tea.

  • Length: around 1,400 miles (2,250 km)
  • Width: up to 19 miles (30 km)
  • Depth: up to 102 feet (31 m)
  • Source: highlands of Colombia
  • Mouth/End: Amazon River, Manaus, Brazil
  • Basin Size: around 267,000 sq miles (691,000 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: 1,269,300 cu ft/s (35,943 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela

Japurá or Caquetá River

The Japurá or Caquetá River is an east-flowing river, and some estimates actually have its length at 1,750 miles (2,820 km).

  • Length: 1,265 miles (2,036 km)
  • Width: Unknown
  • Depth: Unknown
  • Source: Páramo de Las Papas
  • Mouth/End: Amazon, Brazil
  • Basin Size: around 98,700 sq miles (255,700 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: around 658,000 cu ft/s (18,620 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Brazil, Colombia

Mamoré River

The Mamoré River joins up with the Beni River to form the Madeira, which is a major tributary of the Amazon.

  • Length: around 1,200 miles (1,930 km)
  • Width: Unknown
  • Depth: Unknown
  • Source: Sierra de Cochabamba
  • Mouth/End: Madeira River
  • Basin Size: around 236,200 sq mi (611,800 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: around 288,000 cu ft/s (8,150 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Bolivia, Brazil

Uruguay River

The Uruguay River has a submerged canyon that is said to have been formed during the Ice Age.

  • Length: 1,142 miles (1,838 km)
  • Width: Unknown
  • Depth: Up to 330 feet (100 m)
  • Source:
    • Canoas River
    • Serra Geral River
  • Mouth/End: Rio de la Plata, between Argentina and Uruguay
  • Basin Size: 141,000 sq miles (around 365,000 sq km)
  • Average Discharge: around 194,000 cu ft/s (5,500 cu m/s)
  • Countries: Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay

8 More Long Rivers in South America

The following is a list of rivers that didn’t quite make our top 12.

However, as you can see by their lengths, they are still quite expansive and impressive.

  • Marañón River: 1,079 miles (1,737 km)
  • Solimões River: 1,056 miles (1,700 km)
  • Xingu River: 1,019 miles (1,640 km)
  • Putumayo River: 1,000 mles (1,610 km)
  • Magdalena River: 949 miles (1,528 km)
  • Rio Guaviare: 930 mles (1,497 km)
  • Ucayali River: 910 miles (1,460 km)
  • Madeira River: 900 miles (1,450 km)
longest rivers in south america

Common Questions Answered

What is the longest river in South America?

The Amazon is by far the longest river in South America. Some estimates have the Amazon at 4,365 miles (7,025 km).

How many countries does the Amazon go through?

As big as it is, the Amazon only goes through 3 countries: Brazil, Colombia, and Peru.

How many tributaries does the Amazon River have?

A tributary is a freshwater stream or river that feeds into a bigger stream, river, or other bodies of water.

The Amazon is said to have around 1,100 tributaries, some of which can be found in the list above.

How does the Amazon compare to other large rivers?

The following are the top 10 rivers in the world:

  1. Nile: 3,417-4,404 miles (5,499-7,088 km)
  2. Amazon: 3,899-4,365 miles (6,275-7,025 km)
  3. Yangtze: 3,917-3,988 miles (6,300-6,418 km)
  4. Mississippi: 3,902 miles (6,275 km)
  5. Yenisei: 3,445 miles (5539 km)
  6. Yellow River: 3,395 miles (5,464 km)
  7. Ob-Irtysh: 3,364 miles (5,410 km)
  8. Paraná: 3,030 miles (4,880 km)
  9. Congo: 2,922 miles (4,700 km)
  10. Amur: 2,763 miles (4,444 km)

As you can see, the Amazon River holds its own.

Depending on the estimated length, some may consider the Amazon as the longest river in the world (though that is still up for debate).

Learn more about the Nile and 11 other largest rivers in Africa.

Why are different river lengths from different sources?

Looking at how long a river is could be confusing.

There are many different factors when it comes to discussing the length of a river. Such things as where the river actually starts, if you consider multiple branches of a river as part of the length, artificial cut-offs, and so on.

The list above should clarify some of the lengths. But there is always a degree of uncertainty when it comes to accurately defining the length of the river.

south america river
River in the Orinoco Delta

Your Turn!

What did we miss? What river would you like to visit? Let us know in the comments below!


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