São Francisco River and Basin (Brazil)

São Francisco River and Basin (Brazil)

Fri, 05/21/2021 - 14:49

The São Francisco is a major river that rises in the Brazilian highlands and is the fourth largest river system in South America. The river and its basin are an important source of hydroelectric power and irrigation.

São Francisco River

The São Francisco is a major river that rises in the Brazilian highlands and flows north and east through the semiarid backlands of northeast Brazil for approximately 2,900 km (1,800 miles). It is the fourth largest river system in South America (after the Amazon, the Paraná and the Madeira) and the largest river wholly within Brazil.

The river originates in the Canastra mountain range in the central-western part of the state of Minas Gerais and runs generally north before turning east and eventually draining into the Atlantic Ocean.

The river is an important source of hydroelectric power and irrigation, it has been called the "river of national unity" for enabling the political, social and economic union of northeastern and southern Brazil. 

The São Francisco river is named for the 16th-century Jesuit leader St. Francis Borgia (São Francisco de Borja). Its indigenous name is Opará and it is also affectionately called Velho Chico.

The river is navigable between the cities of Pirapora (Minas Gerais) and Juazeiro (Bahia), as well as between Piranhas (Alagoas) and the mouth on the ocean.

Location of the São Francisco River Basin and its sub-basin

Location of the São Francisco River Basin and its sub-basin

São Francisco River Basin

The São Francisco River Basin (SFRB) covers an area of nearly 637,000 sq km (246,000 sq mi), draining areas of the States of Minas Gerais, Goias, Bahia, Pernambuco, Alagoas and Sergipe, as well as part of the Federal District.

A portion of the Basin is in the semi-arid Northeast Region of Brazil, where the river accounts for roughly two-thirds of the freshwater available.

The river obtains water from 168 rivers and streams, of which 90 are on the right bank and 78 on the left bank. The main tributaries are:

  • Paraopeba River
  • Abaeté River
  • Das Velhas River
  • Jequitaí River
  • Paracatu River
  • Urucuia River
  • Verde Grande River
  • Carinhanha River
  • Corrente River
  • Grande River
Map of the São Francisco river drainage basin in Brazil

Map of the São Francisco river drainage basin in Brazil