Paraná River

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Paraná River

The Paraná River, the world's thirteenth longest, flows through Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. At just over 1 million square miles, the basin of the Paraná is the second largest in South America, behind the Amazon River basin. The Paraná empties into the Río de la Plata estuary via a large delta that borders on Greater Buenos Aires at El Tigre. The tributaries of the Paraná flow from the highlands of the Brazilian shield in the east (Paranaíba, Tietê, Paranapanema, Iguaçú), from the Mato Grosso tablelands in the north, and from the eastern slopes of the Andes in the west (Pilcomayo, Bermejo, and Salado). The climatic diversity of its vast drainage basin explains the variations in flow of the Paraná River, which peaks in February and March, during the rainy season, and is at its lowest in October. Seasonal level variations account to 16 feet where the river empties into the Río de la Plata estuary.

Ocean freighters can reach Santa Fé, 150 miles upstream from the delta, and from there barges continue on the Paraguay River to Asunción and Concepción (Paraguay) and to Corumbá (Brazil). Navigation up the Paraná itself is impeded by the Iguaçú waterfalls, a majestic system of cascades located at the boundary of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay (25 degrees south latitude). Considered an important waterway into the subtropical interior of South America, the Paraná and its tributaries encompass a system of rivers within Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Bolivia. Stretching as it does into so many counties, this basin has gained in geopolitical importance. The construction of the Itaipú hydroelectric plant, a joint project of Brazil and Paraguay, is a monument to international cooperation. The creation of a navigable waterway along the Pilcomayo River will allow freight from eastern Bolivia to reach international routes via the Argentine ports of Corrientes or Rosario. The river is home to over 350 fish species.

See alsoIguaçu Falls; Itaipú Hydroelectric Project; Río de la Plata.


Organization of American States, Cuenca del Río de la Plata: Estudio para su planificación y desarrollo (Washington, DC, 1969).

Additional Bibliography

Albornoz, Miguel. Biografía del Paraná. Buenos Aires: El Elefante Blanco, 1997.

Elhance, Arun P. Hydropolitics in the Third World: Conflict and Cooperation in International River Basins. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace Press, 1999.

Giardinellif, Mempo. Padre rio: Cuentos y poemas del Rio Parana. Buenos Aires: Ediciones Instituto Movilizador de Fondos Cooperativos, 1997.

Iriondo, Martin, Juan Cesar Pagg, and Maria Julieta Parma. The Middle Paraná River: Limnology of a Subtropical Wetland. London: Springer, 2007.

Juzarte, Teotônio José. Souza, Jonas Soares de and Miyoko Makino, eds. Diário da navegação. São Paulo: Edusp: Imprensa Oficial SP, 2000.

                                        CÉsar N. Caviedes