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Tapajós River
Front View of Itaituba, Brazil.jpg
The city of Itaituba on the banks of the Tapajós River
Map of the Amazon Basin with the Tapajós River highlighted
Physical characteristics
 • locationJuruenaTeles Pires junction, Brazil
 • coordinates7°20′15″S 58°8′35″W / 7.33750°S 58.14306°W / -7.33750; -58.14306
MouthAmazon River
 • location
Santarém, Pará State, Brazil
 • coordinates
2°24′30″S 54°44′12″W / 2.40833°S 54.73667°W / -2.40833; -54.73667Coordinates: 2°24′30″S 54°44′12″W / 2.40833°S 54.73667°W / -2.40833; -54.73667
Length840 km (520 mi)[1]
Basin size494,253.9 km2 (190,832.5 sq mi)[2]
 • locationSantarém, Pará State, Brazil (near mouth)
 • average13,540 m3/s (478,000 cu ft/s)
 • minimum2,500 m3/s (88,000 cu ft/s)
 • maximum28,000 m3/s (990,000 cu ft/s)
 • locationBarra de São Manuel (Basin size: 333,767.7 km2 (128,868.4 sq mi)[2]
 • average(Period of data: 1970–1996)8,339 m3/s (294,500 cu ft/s)[3] 8,419.286 m3/s (297,324.3 cu ft/s)[2]
 • locationJatobá (Basin size: 387,378 km2 (149,567 sq mi)
 • average(Period of data: 1970–1996)10,795 m3/s (381,200 cu ft/s)[3]
Basin features
 • leftJuruena, Arapiuns
 • rightTeles Pires, Cururu, Das Tropas, Crepori, Jamanxim

The Tapajós (Portuguese: Rio Tapajós [ˈʁi.u tɐpɐˈʒɔs]) is a river in Brazil. It runs through the Amazon Rainforest and is a major tributary of the Amazon River. When combined with the Juruena River, the Tapajós is approximately 2,080 km (1,290 mi) long.[1] It is one of the largest clearwater rivers,[4] accounting for about 6% of the water in the Amazon basin.[5]


For most of its length the Tapajós runs through Pará State, but the upper (southern) part forms the border between Pará and Amazonas State. The source is at the Juruena–Teles Pires river junction.[1] The Tapajós River basin accounts for 6% of the water in the Amazon Basin, making it the fifth largest in the system.[6]

From the lower Arinos River (a tributary of Juruena) to the Maranhão Grande falls are a more or less continuous series of formidable cataracts and rapids; but from the Maranhão Grande to the mouth of Tapajós, about 188 mi (303 km), the river can be navigated by large vessels.[7]

For its last 100 mi (160 km) it is between 4 and 9 mi (6.4 and 14.5 km) wide and much of it very deep. The valley of the Tapajós is bordered on both sides by bluffs. They are from 300 to 400 ft (91 to 122 m) high along the lower river; but a few miles above Santarém, they retire from the eastern side and do not approach the Amazon floodplain until some miles below Santarém.[citation needed]


The eastern border of Amazônia National Park is formed by the Tapajós River. From Itaituba and southwest a part of the Parque Nacional do Jacaré Branco e Azulado and the follows the river, while a part of Parque Nacional do Mico Verde de Olhos Azuis runs parallel to the river from Santarém and south.[citation needed]

The South American pole of inaccessibility is located close to the sources of Tapajós's tributaries, near Utiariti.[citation needed]

The Tapajós is named after the Tapajós people, an extinct group of indigenous people from Santarém.[citation needed]


Geophagus sp. "orange head", an undescribed species known only from the lower Tapajós basin[8]

The Tapajós is one of three major clearwater rivers in the Amazon Basin (the others are Xingu and Tocantins; the latter arguably outside the Amazon).[4][9] Clearwater rivers share the low conductivity and relatively low levels of dissolved solids with blackwater rivers, but differ from these in having water that at most only is somewhat acidic (typical pH ~6.5)[4] and very clear with a greenish colour.[9] Although most of the tributaries in the Tapajós basin also are clearwater, there are exceptions, including the blackwater Braço Norte River (southeastern Serra do Cachimbo region).[10] About 325 fish species are known from the Tapajós River basin, including 65 endemics.[11] Many of these have only been discovered within the last decade, and a conservative estimate suggests more than 500 fish species eventually will be recognized in the river basin.[11]

Proposed dams[edit]

Sketch map showing locations of dams

The fish, along with many other endemic species of flora and fauna are threatened by the Tapajós hydroelectric complex dams that are planned on the river.[11] The largest of those projects is the São Luiz do Tapajós Dam, whose environmental licensing process has been suspended – not yet cancelled – by IBAMA due to its expected impacts on indigenous and river communities.[12] It would flood a part of the area of the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory. Another is the planned 2,338 MW Jatobá Hydroelectric Power Plant.[13] A third dam, the controversial Chacorão Dam, would flood a large area of the Munduruku Indigenous Territory.[14]

The dams are part of a plan to convert the Tapajos into a waterway for barges to take soybeans from Mato Grosso to the Amazon River ports. A continuous chain of dams, with locks, would eliminate today's rapids and waterfalls.[14] The Washington Post has referred to this issue as the next battle over saving the Amazon as a result of its controversy involving Indigenous communities, the Brazilian government, large multinationals and international environmental organizations.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

The river is the sixth title of the album Aguas da Amazonia.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Ziesler, R.; Ardizzone, G.D. (1979). "Amazon River System". The Inland waters of Latin America. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 92-5-000780-9. Archived from the original on 21 October 2013.
  2. ^ a b c "Rivers Network". 2020.
  3. ^ a b Michael, T. Coe; Marcos, Heil Costa; Aurélie, Botta; Charon, Birkett (23 Aug 2002). "Long-term simulations of discharge and floods in the Amazon Basin". CiteSeerX {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b c Duncan, W.P.; and Fernandes, M.N. (2010). Physicochemical characterization of the white, black, and clearwater rivers of the Amazon Basin and its implications on the distribution of freshwater stingrays (Chondrichthyes, Potamotrygonidae). PanamJAS 5(3): 454-464.
  5. ^ "Waters". Amazon Waters. Retrieved 10 October 2017.
  6. ^ Hales, J., and P. Petry (2013). Tapajos – Juruena. Freshwater Ecoregions of the World. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  7. ^ Church, George Earl (1911). "Amazon" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 01 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 783–790, see page 784. Tributaries.....The Tapajos, running through a humid, hot and unhealthy valley....
  8. ^ "Geophagus sp. 'orange head'". SeriouslyFish. Retrieved 22 October 2017.
  9. ^ a b Giovanetti, T.A.; and Vriends, M.M. (1991). Discus Fish, p. 15. Barron's Educational Serie. ISBN 0-8120-4669-2
  10. ^ Ohara, W.M.; Mirande, J.M.; & Lima, F.C.T.d. (2017). Phycocharax rasbora, a new genus and species of Brazilian tetra (Characiformes: Characidae) from Serra do Cachimbo, rio Tapajós basin. PLoS ONE 12(2): e0170648.
  11. ^ a b c The Great Rivers Partnership: Tapajós River Basin. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  12. ^ "Amazon mega-dam suspended, providing hope for indigenous people and biodiversity". Conservation news. 2016-04-22. Retrieved 2016-04-22.
  13. ^ "Brazil sets concession auction for 8,040-MW Sao Luiz do Tapajos hydro project", Hydro World, Brasilia: PennWell Corporation, 17 September 2014, retrieved 2017-02-13
  14. ^ a b Fearnside, Philip M. (2015), "Amazon dams and waterways: Brazil's Tapajo´s Basin plans", Ambio, 44 (5): 426–39, doi:10.1007/s13280-015-0642-z, PMC 4510327, PMID 25794814
  15. ^ "This will be the next battle over saving the Amazon". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-04-22.

Further reading[edit]

  • Heinsdijk, Dammis, and Ricardo Lemos Fróes. Description of Forest-Types on "Terra Firme" between the Rio Tapajós and the Rio Xingú in the Amazon Valley. 1956.