The Cauca River rises in southwestern Colombia and flows northward through the spectacular Cauca Canyon between the Occidental and Central Cordilleras of the Colombian Andes until it joins the Magdalena River before emptying into the Caribbean Sea.
The Cauca River rises in southwestern Colombia near the city of Popayán. It flows northward between the Occidental and Central Cordilleras of the Colombian Andes for 965 km (600 mi) until it joins the Magdalena River before emptying into the Caribbean Sea. As Colombia's second-largest river, it traverses a total length of 1,350 km (840 mi) from origin to sea mouth.
The Corporación Regional del Cauca and the Corporación Autonoma Regional del Valle del Cauca supervise the river, which is navigable for 640 km (400 mi) above its junction with the Magdalena River.
Its journey from headwaters to the sea takes it between the western and central cordilleras. Finally, it flows through a spectacular canyon carved out of the rock between the parallel mountain ranges.
In its middle reaches, the Cauca River flows through the broad, fertile intermontane depression of the Valle del Cauca, Colombia's largest sugarcane producer. This fertile region also hosts large rice fields and crops such as sorghum, yucca, coffee, cocoa, cotton, corn, and beans.
The river then descends into the largely impassable "Cauca Canyon" (a source of gold in the colonial period) through the departments of Caldas, Risaralda, and Antioquia until reaching the town of Valdivia.
A section of the Cauca River canyon passing through the Department of Antioquia in northwestern Colombia is of great interest due to its geological and geomorphological characteristics, which give rise to stunning landscapes. Research has concluded that tectonic processes have driven erosion in the Cauca River canyon.
Its fertile second valley merges into a vast swamp before joining the Magdalena Basin, the third zone. This was a desolate region until a coffee-based economy was developed in the early twentieth century.
Map depicting the Cauca River in Colombia