El Jefe Negro: The Amazon River

Amazon River
El Jefe Negro: Meaning “The Black Boss” in Spanish, there’s good reason why this river has numerous gods named after it. This large river is the 2nd longest behind only the Nile and are far as size, dwarfs the next seven largest rivers combined.

That means the Amazon river moves more water than the Yangtze river in China, The Congo in Africa, and The Orinoco in Venezuela, plus 4 other rivers, put together. This “river sea” accounts for 1/5 of all the river flow worldwide. However, this mighty river has humble origins before turning into the largest river on planet Earth.

There has always been some debate regarding the beginning of The Amazon River. Before, some had placed the beginning of The Amazon in one of it’s main tributaries, some distance to the east of the Peruvian Metropolis of Lima. Now, it’s established that The Amazon has it’s humble beginning in Nevado Mismi, in the southern Andes region of Arequipa in Peru.

From there, it drains into the Apurimac river, which has it’s confluence in the Ucayali river. From there, the mighty Ucayali river joins the Maranon to form The Amazon River, which continues all the way to it’s mouth in the Atlantic Ocean.

From the beginning of this River by the Peruvian city of Iquitos, the river racks up some impressive statistics. It gains it’s name “the river sea” from it’s impressive width: at times surpassing 30 miles (48km) during wet season! In the lower segments of the Amazon River, the depth is usually around twenty to fifty meters (66-160 feet), although in other segments up to 100 meters (330 feet), deeper than a lot of lakes.

Due to this massive quantity of water, the river also pushes obscene amounts of water into the atlantic. The River is so large it actually rids itself of having a delta, instead opening into a mouth about ~202 miles wide (matter of debate).

This large mouth has a plume of fresh water being pushed up to 250 miles (400 kilometers) into the ocean at a rate of about 300,000 cubic meters per second. The fresh water, being lighter than salt water, coasts on top of the ocean water. This phenomenon has caused sailors to report fresh water long before any land is visible. Truly, an impressive river which deserves its name as the “Boss”.

The river dramatically changes the ecosystem of a large portion of all of South America. Having a drainage basin of about 7,050,000 square kilometers (about 2,720,000 square miles), the river is responsible for the creation of The Amazon Rain Forest, “The Earth’s Lungs”.

The immense rainfall that this region experiences drastically changes the ecosystem from season to season as well. The river has been known to rise over 9 meters (30 feet) during rainy season, causing floodplains and what is known by the local people as varzea, or flooded forests.

These dense, flooded forests host a rich concentration of species, as well as the much prized Acai Palm. Interestingly enough, while a large portion of the river is above sea level, passing the city of Manacaparu in Brazil the river is mostly below sea level, causing scientists to believe the entire Amazon Basin used to be a gulf of the Atlantic Ocean.

The effects of this river can also be felt in the flora and fauna. The Amazon Rainforest accounts for one third of all Earth’s species. To be found in certain tributaries as well as The Orinoco River is the boto, the Amazon River dolphin. This dolphin ranges from gray when young to bright white and pink when mature! Also of interest is the Amazonian Manatee, and the predatory giant river otter.

The fish aren’t anything to ignore either. Whether you’re looking to try the Peruvian delicacy, the Arepaima, or you’re trying to avoid getting eaten alive by the notorious piranha, you’re never alone in the Amazon River. Aquarium hobbyists will also be delighted to know the Discus fish, one of the most beautiful freshwater fish out there, is typically found hiding under large tree roots in the Amazon’s floodplains.

Unfortunately however, as in many natural wonders of the world, the Amazon faces a strong enemy in man, and it could get worse in the future! Due to human involvement, many of these native species and habitats along the Amazon are in danger. Vast deforestation in Brazil and other countries harshly affects the former floodplains where these trees used to inhabit.

Also, due to the rivers size, freight ships and other boats can easily find their way higher and higher upstream, leading to development in some of the more formerly remote regions of the Amazon.

Because of human meddling, many unique Amazonian creatures, such as the aforementioned giant otter and manatee, are now endangered. Many fish and other fauna are also finding themselves on the critically endangered list. Many remote tribes have also had their way of life disrupted or outright destroyed by greedy corporations in search of rubber and other resources found in the area.

It’s clear, we as mankind should do our part in reversing the damage done by human selfishness. The river is not just rich in resources or water, it is rich in life. It is a lifeline for not just a large portion of not just Brazil, but South America itself, but due to the effects on the atmosphere from the rainforest, for the world. Protect what is ours, and we’ll continue to have this Natural Wonder of The World with us for a long time to come.