Geographers long agreed that, while the Amazon might be the world’s largest river by volume, the longest was likely the Nile. In 2007, however, the BBC reported that a team of Brazilian researchers challenged that long-held belief. After an expedition to Peru to locate the Amazon’s precise source, the team described a different starting point. The team claimed that the river originated not in northern Peru, where it had been thought to begin, but in southern Peru, somewhere on snowcapped Mount Mismi (or Nevado Mismi). The team narrowed down the starting point to one of two places, but concluded that either one would nudge the Amazon’s length past that of the Nile.
In 2000, NASA’s Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) gathered elevation data over Earth’s land surfaces. Scientists are using SRTM data (related feature story) to develop HydroSHEDS, a digital map of water channels. These images show SRTM elevation measurements combined with river and stream channels from HydroSHEDS. Elevation ranges from sea level (green) to 4,500 meters (14,764 feet) above sea level (white). Streambeds (identified on the basis of surrounding elevation and topography) appear in blue.
For clarity, the Amazon Basin and the watersheds feeding it appear bright, while the surrounding area appears darker. A white box outlines the region that the Brazilian researchers identified as the Amazon’s source; that area is enlarged in the bottom image. The larger image shows the rim of higher terrain along the western edge of the Amazon, where tributaries drain off mountain peaks in the Andes. A complicated network of riverbeds appears around Mount Mismi.
This page shows the location of Amazon River, Brazil on a detailed satellite map. Choose from several map styles. From street and road map to high-resolution satellite imagery of Amazon River. Get free map for your website. Discover the beauty hidden in the maps. Maphill is more than just a map gallery. Adult blue-and-yellow macaw (ara ararauna), amazon national park, upper amazon river basin, loreto, peru, south america - upper amazon basin stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images The pavonine quetzal is native to the upper Amazon Basin.
According to their new estimate, the Amazon is 6,800 kilometers (4,250 miles) long. The Nile is thought to be 6,695 kilometers (4,160 miles) long. As the BBC reported, assessing the exact length of a river can be difficult, and the calculation depends partly on identifying the river’s source. Before the announcement, the Nile had been regarded as only slightly longer than the Amazon, so this new finding was not shocking, but the Amazon’s new primacy in river length could face future challenges as both rivers continue to be explored.
NASA image created by Jesse Allen, using SRTM data provided courtesy of the University of Maryland’s Global Land Cover Facility, and river data provided courtesy of the World Wildlife Fund HydroSHEDS Project.
Editor’s Note: This story is the first part in a series. Please read part 2, part 3, and part 4 for a more complete picture of Amazon deforestation.
Amazon River Basin Map
The Amazon basin is exceptional. It spans at least 6 million square kilometers (2.3 million square miles), nearly twice the size of India. It is home to Earth’s largest rainforest, as well as the largest river for the volume of the flow and the size of the drainage basin.
The rainforest, which covers about 80 percent of the basin, is home to one-fifth of the world’s land species, including many found nowhere else in the world. It is also home to more than 30 million people, including hundreds of indigenous groups and several dozen uncontacted or isolated tribes.
The Amazon rainforest is also an enormous carbon sink—an area that draws down carbon from the atmosphere. It also pumps huge quantities of water into the air through a process called transpiration. Enough moisture rises out of the Amazon to supply vast “flying rivers” and about half of the rain that falls back down on the region, explained Thomas Lovejoy, a professor at George Mason University and a senior fellow at the UN Foundation for Science, Economics, and the Environment.
Amazon River Basin Plants
In spite of its vast size and clear significance to the planet, there is much about the Amazon that remains enigmatic because it is such a complex and challenging place to study. It is just as hard to manage. Surrounded by mountainous plateaus on most sides, much of the basin is remote and difficult to access. It covers about one-third of South America; it spans eight countries and many more state and tribal borders; and it features a mosaic of intersecting and overlapping ecosystems.