Uruguay River

Coordinates: 34°12′S 58°18′W / 34.200°S 58.300°W / -34.200; -58.300
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Uruguay River
Sunset in the Uruguay River, from Misiones, Argentina
Map of the Uruguay River
Native name
Physical characteristics
SourcePelotas River
 • locationSerra Geral, Brazil
 • elevation1,800 m (5,900 ft)
2nd sourceCanoas River
 • locationSerra Geral, Brazil
MouthRío de la Plata
 • location
Argentina, Uruguay
 • coordinates
34°12′S 58°18′W / 34.200°S 58.300°W / -34.200; -58.300[1]
 • elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length1,838 km (1,142 mi)[2]
Basin size353,451 km2 (136,468 sq mi)[3] 365,000 km2 (141,000 sq mi)[4]
 • locationRio de La Plata (near mouth)
 • average(Period 1971–2010)7,058 m3/s (249,300 cu ft/s)[5]

(Period: 1971–2000)7,558.3 m3/s (266,920 cu ft/s)[6] 5,500 m3/s (190,000 cu ft/s)[4] 217 km3/a (6,900 m3/s)[7]

7,220 m3/s (228 km3/a)[8]
 • locationConcordia, Salto Grande (Basin size 243,404 km2 (93,979 sq mi)
 • average(Period 1971–2010)5,725 m3/s (202,200 cu ft/s)[5] 4,622 m3/s (163,200 cu ft/s)
 • locationPaso de los Libres (Basin size 191,242 km2 (73,839 sq mi)
 • average(Period 1971–2010)4,789 m3/s (169,100 cu ft/s)[5]
 • locationEl Soberbio (Basin size 83,949 km2 (32,413 sq mi)
 • average(Period 1971–2010)2,384 m3/s (84,200 cu ft/s)[5]
Basin features
ProgressionRío de la PlataAtlantic Ocean
River systemRío de la Plata
 • leftRio Negro, Ibicuí, Pelotas
 • rightGualeguaychú, Canoas
The Moconá Falls (also known as the Yucumã Falls), where the river passes between Argentina and Brazil, are up to 3 km wide
Map of the Rio de la Plata Basin, showing the Uruguay River joining the Paraná near Buenos Aires

The Uruguay River (Spanish: Río Uruguay [ˈri.o wɾuˈɣwaj]; Portuguese: Rio Uruguai [ˈʁi.u uɾuˈɡwaj]) is a major river in South America. It flows from north to south and forms parts of the boundaries of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, separating some of the Argentine provinces of La Mesopotamia from the other two countries. It passes between the states of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil; forms the eastern border of the provinces of Misiones, Corrientes and Entre Ríos in Argentina; and makes up the western borders of the departments of Artigas, Salto, Paysandú, Río Negro, Soriano and Colonia in Uruguay.


The name of the river tends to comes from the Spanish settlers' interpretation of the Guaraní language word the inhabitants of the region used to designate it. There are several interpretations, including "the river of the uru (an indigenous bird)", and "[river of] the uruguá" (an indigenous gastropod, Pomella megastoma).[9]


The river measures about 1,838 kilometres (1,142 mi) in length and starts in the Serra do Mar in Brazil,[10][11][12][13][14] where the Canoas River and the Pelotas River are joined, at about 200 metres (660 ft) above mean sea level. At this stage, the river goes through uneven, broken terrain, forming rapids and falls. Its course through Rio Grande do Sul is not navigable.

An unusual feature of the Uruguay River is a submerged canyon. This canyon formed during the Ice Age, when the climate was drier and the river was narrower. Its depth is up to 100 metres (330 ft) below the bottom of the river channel and it is 1/8 to 1/3 as wide as the river.[13][15] The canyon is only visible in two places, one of which is the Moconá Falls (also called the Yucumã Falls). However, the falls are not visible for 150 days per year and become more like rapids when they are not visible. Unlike most waterfalls, the Moconá Falls are parallel to the river, not perpendicular. The falls are 10 metres (33 ft) to 12 metres (39 ft) high and between 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) and 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) wide. They are 1,215 kilometres (755 mi) from the mouth of the river.[13][15] The 17,491 hectares (43,220 acres) Turvo State Park, created in 1947, protects the Brazilian side of the falls.[16]

Together with the Paraná River, the Uruguay forms the Río de la Plata estuary. It is navigable from around Salto Chico. Its main tributary is the Río Negro, which is born in the south of Brazil and goes through Uruguay for 500 km until its confluence with the Uruguay River, which is located 100 km north of the Uruguay's confluence with the Río de la Plata, in Punta Gorda, Colonia Department, Uruguay.

The river is crossed by five international bridges called (from north to south): Integration Bridge and Paso de los Libres-Uruguaiana International Bridge, between Argentina and Brazil; and the Salto Grande Bridge, General Artigas Bridge and Libertador General San Martín Bridge between Argentina and Uruguay.

The drainage basin of the Uruguay River has an area of 365,000 square kilometres (141,000 sq mi).[4] Its main economic use is the generation of hydroelectricity and it is dammed in its lower portion by the Salto Grande Dam and by the Itá Dam upstream in Brazil.

Cellulose plant conflict[edit]

Argentina and Uruguay experienced a conflict over the construction of pulp mills on the Uruguay River. Two European companies, ENCE and Botnia, proposed building cellulose processing plants at Fray Bentos, Uruguay, opposite Gualeguaychú, Argentina. According to a 1975 treaty, Argentina and Uruguay were supposed to jointly agree on matters relating to the Uruguay River.[17] Argentina alleged that Uruguay broke the treaty. Additionally, Argentina believed the Finnish company Botnia was polluting the fish and the overall environment of the river while Uruguay believed that the plant was not depositing a large amount of toxins in the Uruguay River.[18]

Starting in April 2005, residents of Gualeguaychú, as well as many others, protested, claiming that the plants would pollute the river shared by the two countries. Early in 2006, the conflict escalated into a diplomatic crisis,[citation needed] compelling one of the companies move the project 250 kilometres (160 mi) south. Beginning in December 2005, the international bridges linking the Argentine province of Entre Ríos with Uruguay were intermittently blockaded by Argentine protesters, causing major disruptions in commercial traffic and tourism.

In 2006, Argentina brought the dispute before the International Court of Justice. The ICJ completed hearings between Argentina and Uruguay regarding the dispute on October 2, 2009. In 2010, the court ruled that although Uruguay failed to inform Argentina of the construction of the pulp mills, the mills did not pollute the river, so closing the remaining pulp mill would be unjustified. Later in 2010, Argentina and Uruguay created a joint commission to coordinate activities on the river.

Links across the Uruguay[edit]

The course of the Uruguay is crossed by the following bridges, beginning upstream:

Crossing Location Built Carries Coordinates
Campos Novos–Barracão Bridge Campos NovosBarracão BR-470 27°36′12.1″S 51°28′10.6″W / 27.603361°S 51.469611°W / -27.603361; -51.469611
Machadinho Dam PiratubaMaximiliano de Almeida 2002 27°31′31.8″S 51°47′15.7″W / 27.525500°S 51.787694°W / -27.525500; -51.787694
Marcelino Ramos Railway Bridge Alto Bela VistaMarcelino Ramos 27°27′54.8″S 51°54′02.3″W / 27.465222°S 51.900639°W / -27.465222; -51.900639
Concórdia–Marcelino Ramos Bridge ConcórdiaMarcelino Ramos BR-153 27°22′32.8″S 51°59′11.2″W / 27.375778°S 51.986444°W / -27.375778; -51.986444
Itá Dam ItáAratiba SC-155 / RS-420 27°15′51.9″S 52°22′53.8″W / 27.264417°S 52.381611°W / -27.264417; -52.381611
Chapecó–Nonoai Bridge ChapecóNonoai SC-480 27°17′02.4″S 52°41′32″W / 27.284000°S 52.69222°W / -27.284000; -52.69222
Foz de Chapecó Dam Águas de ChapecóAlpestre 27°08′23.1″S 53°02′37.2″W / 27.139750°S 53.043667°W / -27.139750; -53.043667
Palmitos–Iraí Bridge PalmitosIraí BR-158 27°10′21.7″S 53°13′42.8″W / 27.172694°S 53.228556°W / -27.172694; -53.228556
Alba Posse–Porto Mauá Bridge Alba PossePorto Mauá Planned
San Javier–Porto Xavier Bridge San JavierPorto Xavier Planned
Integration Bridge Santo ToméSão Borja 1997 National Route 121 / BR-285 28°36′40.5″S 56°00′51.1″W / 28.611250°S 56.014194°W / -28.611250; -56.014194
Alvear-Itaqui Bridge AlvearItaqui Planned
Agustín P. Justo-Getúlio Vargas International Bridge Paso de los LibresUruguaiana 1945 National Route 117 / BR-290 29°44′36.5″S 57°05′34.1″W / 29.743472°S 57.092806°W / -29.743472; -57.092806
Monte Caseros–Bella Unión Bridge Monte CaserosBella Unión Planned
Salto Grande Bridge ConcordiaSalto 1982 National Route A015 / Acceso Puente Internacional 31°16′30″S 57°56′18.2″W / 31.27500°S 57.938389°W / -31.27500; -57.938389
General Artigas Bridge ColónPaysandú 1975 National Route 135 / Avenida de las Américas 32°15′52.7″S 58°06′01.4″W / 32.264639°S 58.100389°W / -32.264639; -58.100389
Libertador General San Martín Bridge GualeguaychúFray Bentos 1976 National Route 136 / Acceso Puente Internacional 33°05′55.7″S 58°14′55.5″W / 33.098806°S 58.248750°W / -33.098806; -58.248750
Zárate–Nueva Palmira ZárateNueva Palmira Planned

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Uruguay River at GEOnet Names Server
  2. ^ "Río de la Plata". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 14 August 2010.
  3. ^ "Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis for the La Plata Basin".
  4. ^ a b c Varis, Olli; Tortajada, Cecilia; Biswas, Asit K. (2008). Management of Transboundary Rivers and Lakes. Springer. p. 272. ISBN 978-3-540-74926-4.
  5. ^ a b c d "Balance hídrico en la Cuenca del Plata".
  6. ^ "Parana (La Plata)".
  7. ^ "Transboundary River Basin Overview – La Plata" (PDF).
  8. ^ Isupova, M. V.; Mikhailov, V. N. (16 November 2018). "Long-Term Variations of Water Runoff and Suspended Sediment Yield in the Parana and Uruguay Rivers". Water Resources. 45 (6): 846–860. doi:10.1134/S0097807818060088. S2CID 135342646. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  9. ^ El País newspaper: Presentan tesis del nombre Uruguay Archived 14 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine, (in Spanish) Retrieved 21 November 2014.
  10. ^ Rio Uruguay
  11. ^ "CONICET | Buscador de Institutos y Recursos Humanos". www.conicet.gov.ar. Retrieved 6 October 2019.
  13. ^ a b c "A particular canyon excavated in the large Uruguay River channel (South America)".
  14. ^ The fish fauna of two tributaries of the passo fundo river, uruguay river basin, rio grande do sul, brazil
  15. ^ a b "Moconá Falls (Yucumã Falls)". Wondermondo. 15 February 2012.
  16. ^ PES do Turvo (in Portuguese), ISA: Instituto Socioambiental, retrieved 11 November 2016
  17. ^ Helsingin Sanomat. "Pulp mill dispute between Argentina and Uruguay intensifies". Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  18. ^ "Argentina y Uruguay ya esperan fallo de la CIJ en diferendo sobre pastera". AFP, Por Anna Pelegrí. Retrieved 10 February 2009.

External links[edit]

Media related to Uruguay River at Wikimedia Commons