Tapajós River and Basin (Brazil)

Tapajós River and Basin (Brazil)

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The Tapajós is a significant river in Brazil that runs through the Amazon Rainforest and is a major tributary of the Amazon River. The union of the Juruena and Teles Pires rivers forms it. The Tapajós Basin is the fifth-largest tributary basin in the Amazon.

Tapajós River

The Tapajós is a significant river in Brazil. It generally runs north/northeast through the Amazon Rainforest and is a major tributary of the Amazon River. The union of the Juruena and Teles Pires rivers forms it.

One of the largest clearwater rivers, it flows north-northeastward approximately 650 km (400 mi) through the Mato Grosso plateau before it empties into the Amazon River just past Santarém. However, combined with the Juruena River, the Tapajós is approximately 2,080 km (1,290 mi) long.

From the Maranhão Grande to the mouth of the Tapajós, about 300 km (186 mi), the river can be navigated by large vessels. The city of Santarém, the only major city on the river, lies at the river's mouth. The river is about 12 - 16 km (8 - 10 mi) wide here.

Map of Amazon drainage basin with Tapajos River highlighted

Map depicting the Amazon River drainage basin with the Tapajós River highlighted

Tapajós Basin

The Tapajós Basin is the fifth-largest tributary basin in the Amazon and covers approximately 492,000 sq km (190,000 sq mi). More than 95% of the basin is divided between Mato Grosso and Pará.

The Tapajós Basin encompasses approximately 7% of the Amazon Basin. It lies mainly on the Brazilian Shield and within the Amazon Rainforest zone.

The basin has rich and diverse habitats, with two-thirds rainforest and one-third Cerrado, or Savanna. Home to well over 300 identified fish species, the region ranks within the top 25% for global importance of rare land and water species.

Teles Pires River

The Teles Pires River (also called the São Manuel River or São Manoel River) is a river in central Brazil that initially rises as the Paranatinga River in the Serra Azul (the Amazon-Paraguay River divide) in central Mato Grosso state and generally flows north-northwestward, where it joins the Juruena River to form the Tapajós River, a major tributary of the Amazon River. Its 1,400-km (870-mile) course is frequently interrupted by falls and rapids.

Juruena River

The Juruena is a 1,240-km (770-mi) long river in west-central Brazil, in Mato Grosso. The river originates in the Parecis Plateau. For the last 190 km (120 mi) of its lower part, the river becomes the border between the states of Mato Grosso and Amazonas.

The Juruena finally joins the Teles Pires River to form the Tapajós River. The Juruena is not navigable due to its many waterfalls and rapids. It is known for the Salto Augusto Falls.