As well as referring to the system as a whole, the Pearl River (Zhu Jiang) name is also applied to a specific branch within the system. This Pearl River is the widest distributary within the delta, although considerably short. The waters that converge east of the Bei Jiang are first referred to as the Pearl River just north of Guangzhou. The Pearl River is famed as the river that flows through Guangzhou. The Pearl River's estuary, Bocca Tigris, is regularly dredged so as to keep it open for ocean vessels. The mouth of the Pearl River forms a large bay in the southeast of the delta, the Pearl River Estuary, the Bocca Tigris separates Shiziyang in the north, Lingdingyang in the south, and Jiuzhouyang at the southern tip of the estuary surrounded by the Wanshan Archipelago. This bay separates Macau and Zhuhai from Hong Kong and Shenzhen.
The Pearl River is so named because of the pearl-colored shells that lie at the bottom of the river in the section that flows through the city of Guangzhou.