South America is famed for having the biggest river in the world, the Amazon. There are however, other rivers in the region that do drain large areas and support major cities. The Amazon itself runs for 7000 km and drains almost 7 million square km. Despite flowing mainly through tropical rainforest it does pass through some major cities. The largest city is Manaus which is situated in the north of the rainforest and has a population of just over 2 million people. The only ways in and out of the city are by boat or air due to the dense nature of the forest, and this has helped retain the culture of the area within the city. The city is actually on the banks of the Negros River and is close to its confluence with the Solimoes River where they both meet to join the Amazon.
The city does have a wide variety of industry but it is no surprise that the majority of economic activity is in some way related to the tropical rainforest. It actually has the sixth largest economy in Brazil so its remoteness has not stopped it from thriving economically. The Rio de Plata acts as a border between Argentina and Uruguay. It has been formed as the Uruguay and Parana Rivers have met forming one large body of water, around 290 km’s long that flows into the Atlantic Ocean. On the North shore lies Montevideo and on the western shore lies Buenos Aires. The Argentinians see it as a river although it is more like an estuary, but both of these capital cities do rely on it. Montevideo is the Capital of Uruguay and during its past Spain, Portugal and Britain have all competed to colonize the country.
Due to its ideal location the Battle of Montevideo in 1807 took place and there have been continuous conflicts to rule the country. The population of the city is only 1.3 million but this represents one third of the country’s total population, with much of its economic trade coming as a result of its natural harbor. On the other side of the water Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina. The city has a population of 17 million and was first colonized by the Spanish and now it represents a multi ethnic city with the main language being Spanish. The port of Buenos Aires is one of the busiest in South America and the area around the port is a hive of industrial activity. Its location on the Rio de Plate gives it access to both other areas of South America and the rest of the world.
On the opposite side of the continent very few major rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean, as most water is directed by the Andes Mountains eastwards towards the Atlantic. One exception is in Chile where the Maipo River flows into the Pacific Ocean having started from its source 250km upstream in the Andes. On its course one of its main tributaries is the Mapocho River which has its source high up in the Andes. This river flows straight through the centre of Santiago, the capital of Chile. The population of Santiago is just over 7 million people and the city lies mainly around 500 meters above sea level.
The water from the Mapocho River has historically been used to feed the population but today is one of the most polluted waterways in South America. There are currently plans to decontaminate the river and also make it navigable. There are many other rivers in South America but due to the extensive nature of the Amazon watershed they all tend to end up becoming tributaries of the world’s biggest river. A good example of a river flowing north and ending up in the Caribbean Sea is the Tuy River in Venezuela.
One of its major tributaries is the Guarie River which flows through the centre of Caracas the Capital of the country. It is only 72km in length but in the past it has provided water for the residents of the city. There are a number of rivers in South America that have had a huge influence on the development of the region.