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. The river is an important 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 serves as the largest watershed in the area, as part of the vast Amazon River drainage basin.
The river is an important transportation waterway for the department of Madre de Dios, particularly Puerto Maldonado, which is the largest town in the area and the capital of the department.
The river flows from the Cordillera de Carabaya (the easternmost range of the Andes) near Cuzco in Peru, past Puerto Maldonado and on to the remote northwestern Bolivia tropical rain forest.
Rubber is gathered from the dense tropical rain forest along the river's banks. The basin is sparsely settled and in parts of the upper course is uninhabited.
Numerous tributaries, including the Manu, Colorado Arana, Pariamanu and Tambopata, flow into the main river, the upper course of which can be navigated by small craft. Below the rapids at Puerto Heath, on the Peru-Bolivia border, the Madre de Dios again becomes an important transportation artery.
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 the Madre de Dios combines with the waters of the Beni River. Later on it joins with the Mamore River 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 of the Amazon River drainage basin with the Madre de Dios River highlighted
The Huarayo are a South American indigenous group living in the Peruvian department of Madre de Dios and the Bolivian department of Pando.
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.
The Huarayo today live in only a few scattered locales:
- on the banks of the Madre de Dios River (the larger villages of Palmareal in Peru and Riberalta in Bolivia)
- on the Heath River (a small encampment)
- on the Tambopata River (Chonta and the settlement of Caserío de Infierno)
Some individuals live near a Dominican mission, El Pilar. The lower flows of rivers are in the Selva Baja (lower forest) region; upper flows of the tributaries of Río Madre de Dios reach the Selva Ceja region (cloud forest), where there is increased precipitation.