Skip to main content

Tocantins River

Tocantins River

Tocantins River, a waterway in Brazil that rises from the central altiplano in the state of Goiás and flows about 1,500 miles north to empty into the bay of Marapatá across from the island of Marajó on the Atlantic coast near Belém. Its basin covers an area of 301,600 square miles in the Federal District and the states of Goiás, Tocantins, Mato Grosso, Maranhão, and Pará. Its entire course was once inhabited by indigenous tribes: Tocoiuna, Tocantin, Pacajá, Guaraju, Tupinambá, Inhaiguara, Bilreiro, Guaiase, Parissó, Apinage, and Cherente. The French explorers La Blanjartier (1610) and La Ravardière (1613) reached it by way of the Maranhão. During the seventeenth century, numerous raids and explorations out of São Paulo and Belém headed toward the Tocantins area in search of Indians to work on the religious settlements and farms.

When gold was discovered in the eighteenth century, settlements were established along the tributaries and affluents of the Tocantins. Once the gold was gone, the river became a trade route, despite its cataracts and the great distances it traversed, for towns in the north of Goiás and Pará, with a continuous series of cities: Palma, Porto Real, Pedro Afonso, Carolina, Boa Vista, Imperatriz, Marabá, Tucuruí, and Cametá. Since the 1960s, projects in agriculture, the raising of livestock, and mining have resulted in further settling of the Tocantins valley.

See alsoBandeiras; Brazil, Geography; Goiás; Maranhão; Mato Grosso; Mining: Colonial Brazil; Pará (Grão Pará); Tocantins.


Lysias A. Rodrigues, O Rio dos Tocantins (1945) and Roteiro do Tocantins, 3d ed. (1987).

Francisco Ayres Da Silva, Caminhos de outrora: Diário de viagens (1972).

Dalísia Elisabeth Martins Doles, As comunicações fluviais pelo Tocantins e Araguaia no século XIX (1973).

Additional Bibliography

Goulding, Michael; Ronaldo Barthem; Efrem Jorge Gondim Ferreira. The Smithsonian Atlas of the Amazon. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books, 2003.

Rocha, Jan. Brazil. Oxford: Oxfam, 2000.

Vincent, John S. Culture and Customs of Brazil. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.

                                          Luis PalacÍ n

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Tocantins River." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . 20 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Tocantins River." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . (January 20, 2019).

"Tocantins River." Encyclopedia of Latin American History and Culture. . Retrieved January 20, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.