The Madre de Dios River is a headwater tributary of the Amazon River. Shared by Peru and Bolivia, the river serves as the largest watershed in the area, as part of the vast Amazon River drainage basin. In addition, the river is a vital transportation waterway for the region.
Madre de Dios River
The Madre de Dios River is a headwater tributary of the Amazon River. Shared by Peru and Bolivia, the river is the largest watershed in the area as part of the vast Amazon River drainage basin. It is a vital transportation waterway for the department of Madre de Dios, particularly Puerto Maldonado, the largest town in the area and the department's capital.
The Madre de Dios River flows from the Cordillera de Carabaya in the eastern Peruvian Andes, meandering past Puerto Maldonado and continuing to the remote northwestern Bolivian tropical rainforest. The river basin is sparsely settled and uninhabited in parts of its upper course.
Numerous tributaries flow into the main river, the upper course of which can be navigated by small craft. The main branch of the Madre de Dios is the Inambari River. Other tributaries include the Manú, Colorado Arana, Pariamanu, and Tambopata.
The river again becomes a vital transportation artery below the rapids at Puerto Heath, on the Peru-Bolivia border. Due to the vast expanse of the area and its low population density, rivers provide the best way of getting from one town to another. Human activity is invariably confined to riverbanks.
Within Bolivian territory, after a course of more than 1,100 km (700 mi), the Madre de Dios combines with the waters of the Beni River. It later joins with the Mamoré to its confluence with the Madeira River.
Notable national parks and reserves that are situated along the length of the river in Peru include:
Map depicting the Amazon River drainage basin with the Madre de Dios River highlighted
The Huarayo people are a South American indigenous group living in the Madre de Dios department of Peru and the Pando department of Bolivia.
The Huarayo traditionally occupied the right side of the Madre de Dios River Basin to the Andean east slopes, the region demarcated by tributaries of the Inambari and Beni rivers. Today, the Huarayo live in only a few scattered locales:
the banks of the Madre de Dios River (the larger villages of Palmareal in Peru and Riberalta in Bolivia)
the Heath River (a small encampment)
the Tambopata River (Chonta and the settlement of Caserío de Infierno)