Tocantins River

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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