Is The Amazon River Freshwater Or Saltwater? (Detailed)

Is The Amazon River Freshwater Or Saltwater? The Amazon River is the largest river by volume of water on Earth. Most of its extension is in Brazil, but its origin is in the source of the Apurimac River (in the Andes Mountains) in southern Peru. From there, the river runs through Brazil and flows into the Atlantic Ocean in northern Brazil.

The Amazon basin is gigantic. It has more than tributaries, some of which are among the ten largest rivers on the planet (Madeira, Negro, and Japurá). But because of its enormous size, some wonder: Is the Amazon River freshwater or saltwater?

The Amazon River is freshwater and the largest river on Earth by volume. However, it’s possible to find saltwater in the region of the mouth of the Amazon River, where freshwater flows into the salt waters of the Atlantic Ocean, increasing the salinization levels of the river in this area.

So, most of the Amazon river is freshwater, but a natural salinization process occurs in the region where the river encounters the sea (Atlantic ocean), in the state of Amapá, Brazil. However, despite being natural, salinization can cause many problems for the riverside population in the affected areas. To learn all about it, keep reading.

Is The Amazon River Freshwater Or Saltwater?

Also, here are some posts that you may enjoy as well. In this article you’ll be able to find out if swimming in the Amazon River is a good idea. Read and decide for yourself: Can You Swim in The Amazon River? (Would You?) If you are encouraged for a little swim in the Amazon, remember to check: What Can Kill You In The Amazon River (Would You Visit)?

The Amazon River: Freshwater Or Saltwater?

The Amazon River is not just a gigantic river: about 20% of all the liquid freshwater on Earth passes through its waters and tributaries. From the beautiful Andes Mountains in Peru through the Amazon rainforest in Brazil, finally flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. That fact alone is the answer to the question if the Amazon River is freshwater or saltwater.

The Amazon River is so big that some of its more than 1000 tributaries (a freshwater stream that feeds into a more significant stream or river), usually “streams,” are in the list of the top 15 larger rivers by water flow rate on the planet!

1South AmericaAmazon6,4003,976209,000Atlantic Ocean
2AfricaCongo (Zaire)4,3702,71641,200Atlantic Ocean
2,7041,68038,129Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean
4South AmericaOrinoco2,2501,39837,740Atlantic Ocean
5South AmericaGuainía/Negro2,2301,39035,943Amazon River
6South AmericaMadeira1,45090031,200Amazon River
7AsiaYangtze6,3003,91530,146East China Sea, Pacific Ocean
8South AmericaRío de la Plata29018027,225Atlantic Ocean
9AsiaBrahmaputra2,9371,82319,824Ganges (Padma)
10AsiaYenisei3,4382,13619,800Kara Sea, Arctic Ocean
11South AmericaParaná4,8803,05019,706Río de la Plata
12AsiaGanga (Ganges)2,6001,56518,691Gulf of Bengal, Padma River
13North AmericaMississippi3,7662,34018,434Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic Ocean
14South AmericaJapurá (Caquetá)2,0361,26518,122Amazon River
15AsiaLena4,2942,66817,067Laptev Sea, Arctic Ocean
Source: List of rivers by discharge

It’s by far the river with the highest discharge, with an average higher than that of the following seven largest rivers combined (excluding Madeira and Rio Negro, which are tributaries of the Amazon). Its basin, with more than 7 million square kilometers, is responsible for about a fifth of the world’s total river flow.

Salinization: A Problem For The Riverside Population

The salinization in the mouth of the Amazon River is a natural process. However, it still causes problems for the riverside population.

According to the doctor in marine geology Admilson Torres, from Iepa, salinization occurs where there is little rainfall during a period, which reduces the volume of the river and, thus, allows the salty water of the sea to invade the continent.

“This phenomenon is typical and natural at the mouths of rivers that are very close to the ocean, so it happens. But it is much more evident when the rainfall periods are shorter. So you can have an advance of ocean waters towards the interior. continent, in this case the mouth of the Amazon”, he explained.

Admilson Torres, G1

Despite being natural, when it happens, the population suffer. The Atlantic Ocean advances over the river and this makes the daily life of riverine people difficult, who report that the water is unfit for consumption and even for performing basic activities such as washing clothes and dishes.

In these periods, families in the region, especially the poorest, feel the damage caused by the advance of sea water. Even fishermen struggle to make some money, as fish become scarce with the increasingly severe advance of salt water. As they depend on the river for everything, thirst and hunger are a tough reality brought by the salinization.

The Origin Of The Amazon River

The Amazon river has its origin more than four thousand miles away from the place where the salinization occurs when the freshwaters flows to the Atlantic Ocean, in Amapá, Brazil. This fantastic journey starts in the source of the Apurimac River, near the Andes Mountains, in southern Peru. Along its route, it receives, even in Peru, the names of Carhuasanta, Lloqueta, Apurimac, Ene River, Tambo River, Ucayali, and Amazonas (Amazon).

In Brazil, the freshwaters from the Amazon River enter the territory with the name of Solimões, and finally, in Manaus, after the junction with the Negro River, as soon as its waters mix, it receives the name of Amazonas (Amazon in Portuguese). From there, it goes as such to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean.

Its mouth is classified as mixed, as it has an estuary and a delta mouth. The Amazon River is the only one with a mixed mouth in the world.

The Meeting Of Waters

The natural phenomem called the Meeting Of The Waters is one of the main symbols and greatest tourist attractions in the Amazon River.

This unique moment occurs with the meeting of two rivers: Negro and Solimões, where the muddy waters of the Solimões and the dark waters of the Rio Negro do not mix, but continue flowing for more than 6 kilometers forming a espectacular color contrast. But why these rivers don’t mix?

The Rivers Negro and Solimões do not mix because of their chemical composition and differences in temperature and speed. Negro river has more organic matter and a dark color and runs at 2 km/h, at 28 °C. The Solimões has muddy-looking water from volcanic soils and travels at 4 to 6 km/h at 22 °C

The Rio Negro carries a large amount of organic matter from its source in Colombia (which gives its water its dark color), runs at about 2 km/h with a temperature of 28 °C. The Solimões, which rises in the Peruvian Andes and has a muddy-looking water, due to a load of sediments from the erosion of volcanic soils, travels at an approximate speed of 4 to 6 km/h at a temperature of 22 °C.

Related Questions

Is the Amazon river a freshwater river? The Amazon river is freshwater, and it holds 20% of all the liquid water in the world. However, in its mouth, it’s common to check high levels of water salinization due to the encounter of the river’s freshwater with the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Does the Amazon river have a mix of fresh and salty water? The Amazon river does not have a mix of fresh and salty water. Like most rivers, the Amazon river is freshwater. However, at the mouth of the river, where it encounters the ocean, the water has high levels of salinization.

Does the Amazon have salt water? The Amazon River only has salted water at its mouth, where the waters of the river flow into the Atlantic Ocean. However, in most of its course, the Amazon River is freshwater, holding 20% of all the liquid freshwater in the world.


G1 Globo: Mar avança no Rio Amazonas

BBC: Avanço do mar saliniza rio Amazonas 

Portal Amazônia: Meeting of Waters


What’s up! I’m André, a Brazilian born and bred living in the South of Brazil in a little city called Guarapuava. I’m passionate about traveling and knowing different cultures and that’s why I love to share useful information about the Food, Travel, Facts, and Culture of my beloved country, Brazil.

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