São Francisco River

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São Francisco River

São Francisco River, waterway that rises in the Brazilian highlands and flows north and east through the semiarid backlands of the Northeast of Brazil for approximately 1,988 miles. About 44 percent of the population of Brazil (as of 1990) lives in the São Francisco River region.

Known as "the river of national unity," the São Francisco River is famed for the political, social, and economic union of northeastern and southern Brazil. André João Antonil spoke in 1711 of over five hundred large ranches in the vicinity of the São Francisco River. Since then the river has provided the water necessary for pastures and irrigated farmlands as well as a transportation system for the cattle ranches that dot the river region. It is also a major source of hydroelectric power in the Northeast. In its lower reaches the river drops abruptly over the Itapárica and Paulo Afonso falls. In 1955 the Paulo Afonso power plant, with a generating capacity of more than 1 million kilowatts, was constructed. Another large dam was built far inland at Três Marias in 1960.

See alsoBrazil, Geography .


Robert M. Levine, Historical Dictionary of Brazil (1979), pp. 192-193.

Christopher Richard, Brazil (1991), p. 20.

Additional Bibliography

Abrantes, José Israel. São Francisco: Rio abaixo. Belo Horizonte: Conceito, 2005.

Porto, Katia Cavalcanti, and Jarcilene S. de Almeida-Cortez. Diversidades biológica e conservaçao da floresta atlantica ao norte do Rio São Francisco. Brasília, DF: Ministério do Meio Ambiente, 2006.

Rocha, Geraldo. O rio São Francisco: Fator precípuo da existencia do Brasil. São Paulo: Companhia Editora Nacional, 2004.

                                 Orlando R. Aragona