|Rio Paraná, Río Paraná|
|Countries||Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay|
|Primary source||Paranaíba River|
|- location||Rio Paranaíba, Minas Gerais, Brazil|
|- elevation||1,148 m (3,766 ft)|
|- length||1,070 km (665 mi)|
|Secondary source||Rio Grande|
|- location||Bocaina de Minas, Minas Gerais, Brazil|
|- length||1,090 km (677 mi) |
|Source confluence||Paranaíba and Grande|
|Mouth||Rio de la Plata|
|- location||Atlantic Ocean, Argentina|
|- elevation||0 m (0 ft)|
|Length||4,880 km (3,032 mi) |
|Basin||2,582,672 km2 (997,175 sq mi)|
|- average||17,290 m3/s (610,600 cu ft/s) |
|- max||65,000 m3/s (2,295,500 cu ft/s)|
|- min||2,450 m3/s (86,500 cu ft/s)|
Map of the Rio de la Plata Basin showing the Paraná River and its major tributaries
The Paraná River (Spanish: Río Paraná, Portuguese: Rio Paraná) is a river in south Central South America, running through Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina for some 4,880 kilometres (3,030 mi). It is second in length only to the Amazon River among South American rivers. The name Paraná is an abbreviation of the phrase "para rehe onáva", which comes from the Tupi language and means "like the sea" (that is, "as big as the sea"). It merges first with the Paraguay River and then farther downstream with the Uruguay River to form the Río de la Plata and empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
The course is formed at the confluence of the Paranaiba and Grande rivers in southern Brazil. From the confluence the river flows in a generally southwestern direction for about 619 km (385 mi) before encountering the city of Saltos del Guaira, Paraguay. This was once the location of the Sete Quedas waterfall, where the Paraná fell over a series of seven cascades. This natural feature was said to rival the world famous Iguazu Falls to the south. The falls were flooded, however, by the construction of the Itaipu dam, which began operating in 1984.
For approximately the next 200 km (120 mi) the Paraná flows southward and forms a natural boundary between Paraguay and Brazil until the confluence with the Iguazu River. Shortly upstream from this confluence, however, the river is dammed by the Itaipu Dam, the second largest hydroelectric power station in the world (after the Three Gorges Dam in the People's Republic of China), and creating a massive, shallow reservoir behind it.
After merging with the Iguazu, the Paraná then becomes the natural border between Paraguay and Argentina. Overlooking the Paraná River from Encarnación, Paraguay, across the river, is downtown Posadas, Argentina. The river continues its general southward course for about 468 km (291 mi) before making a gradual turn to the west for another 820 km (510 mi), and then encounters the Paraguay River, the largest tributary along the course of the river. Before this confluence the river passes through a second major hydroelectric project, the Yaciretá dam, a joint project between Paraguay and Argentina. The massive reservoir formed by the project has been the source of a number of problems for people living along the river, most notably the poorer merchants and residents in the low lying areas of Encarnación, a major city on the southern border of Paraguay. River levels rose dramatically upon completion of the dam, flooding out large sections of the city's lower areas.
From the confluence with the Paraguay River, the Paraná again turns to the south for another approximately 820 km (510 mi) through Argentina, making a slow turn back to the east near the city of Rosario for the final stretch of less than 500 km (310 mi) before merging with the Uruguay River to form the Río de la Plata and emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. During the part of its course downstream from the city of Diamante, Entre Ríos, it splits into several arms and forms the Paraná Delta, a long flood plain which reaches up to 60 km in width.
The Rio Paraná along with its tributaries creates a massive watershed that spreads throughout much of the south central part of the continent, essentially encompassing all of Paraguay, much of southern Brazil, northern Argentina, and even reaching into Bolivia. If the Uruguay River is counted as a tributary to the Paraná, this watershed extends to cover much of Uruguay as well. The volume of water flowing into the Atlantic Ocean through the Río de la Plata is roughly equal to the volume at the Mississippi River delta. This watershed includes a number of large cities, including São Paulo, Buenos Aires, Asunción and Brasília.
The Paraná and its tributaries are a source of income and even daily sustenance for a number of fishermen who live along its banks; some fish species (such as the surubí and the sábalo) are commercially important and exploited for heavy internal consumption or for export.
Much of the length of the Paraná is navigable and is used as an important waterway linking inland cities in Argentina and Paraguay to the ocean, providing deep water ports in many of these cities. The construction of enormous hydroelectric dams along the river's length has blocked its use as a shipping corridor to cities further upstream, but the economic impact of those dams is considered to offset this. The Yacyretá and Itaipu dams on the Paraguay border have made the small, largely undeveloped nation the world's largest exporter of hydroelectric power.
The sun rising over the Paraná River, from the north-east of Rosario, Argentina.
Rio Parana seen from Spot Satellite.
Container ship, traveling downstream by the city of Ramallo, Argentina.
Links across the Paraná
The Argentine course of the Paraná is crossed by the following bridges, beginning upstream:
- The Friendship Bridge links Ciudad del Este, (Paraguay) and Foz do Iguaçu, (Brazil) and, though not passing over Argentine waters, the bridge is critical for the Triple Frontier area these cities share with Puerto Iguazú, Argentina.
- San Roque González de Santa Cruz Bridge, between Posadas, capital of Misiones Province, Argentina and Encarnación, Paraguay, capital of the Paraguayan department of Itapúa
- General Belgrano Bridge between Resistencia (capital of Chaco) and Corrientes (capital of Corrientes).
- Hernandarias Subfluvial Tunnel, which runs under the river between Santa Fe (capital of Santa Fe) and Paraná (capital of Entre Ríos).
- Rosario-Victoria Bridge between Rosario, Santa Fe, and Victoria, Entre Ríos.
- Zárate-Brazo Largo Bridge between Zárate, Buenos Aires and the Province of Entre Ríos.
Additionally, the bridges Reconquista, Santa Fe; and Goya, Corrientes; are under study. Also, as recent as 1998 there were joint studies carried out by the governments of Uruguay and Argentina for the construction of a bridge between the two countries over the Río de la Plata estuary, the exact location was not decided.
- "Monitoramento da Qualidade das Águas Superficiais da Bacia do Río Paranaíba: Relatório Annual 2007" (PDF in ZIP). Governo do Estado de Minas Gerais, Instituto Mineiro de Gestão das Águas. 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2010.
- "Parana River". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 26 May. 2012 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/443063/Parana-River>. "Rio de la Plata". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 26 May. 2012 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/463804/Rio-de-la-Plata>
- Río Paraná Guazú at GEOnet Names Server (main distributary)
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