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10 Astonishing Facts You Didn’t Know About the Amazon

The Amazon River is astonishing. It is the world’s largest river, but there are many other fun facts about this massive body of water, too. Here are the 10 top facts about the Amazon that you probably didn’t know.

1. Volume of the Amazon

The Amazon river discharges more water than any other river. This is an understatement. Actually, the Amazon carries more water than the next seven largest rivers in the world, combined.

The average flow of the Amazon is about 3,300,000,000 (three billion, three hundred million) gallons of water per minute. That is enough water to fill around 5,000 Olympic-sized swimming pool every minute of every day. Put in yet another way, since a gallon of water weighs about 8 1/3 pounds, the Amazon discharges in excess of a mind-boggling 13,744,500 TONS of water each minute.

In fact, approximately one-fifth of the fresh water that empties from rivers into the oceans around the world is transported by the Amazon.

2. Amazon length

The Amazon is incredibly long, too. It is 4,225 miles long and flows eastward. This is much farther than the distance from Los Angeles to New York City. In fact, it is greater than the air distance from London, England to Delhi, India.

3. Area serviced by the Amazon

A staggering 40 percent of South America is drained by the Amazon River. This includes the largest rainforest in the world, in the Amazon Basin. This is also the largest lowlands in the world at almost 3 million square miles, which makes it almost the size of Australia.

4. Where the water comes from

The water that fills the Amazon falls mostly as rain, though there is also snow runoff from the Andes Mountains. In the Amazon basin, rain falls on an average of 250 days out of the year. Considering the huge size of the Amazon Basin, it is easy to understand how 250 days of rain can account for the vast amount of water that flows down the Amazon.

5. Life in the Amazon

According to, 20 percent of all bird species live in the Amazon Basin. It is also home to a bewildering assortment of other creatures, including 7,500 species of butterflies. To get an idea of how huge this number is, there are about 60 species of butterflies in the entire United States and about the same number found in the UK.

Even more amazing, counting all the animals in the river and around it, about one out of every 10 animals species in the world are found in the Amazon River and Basin, exclusively. This means that they don’t exist anywhere else in the world. The river also exclusively contains 15 percent of the world’s fish species.

We still don’t know what all of the creatures are, either. According to the World Wildlife Foundation, an average of three new species of animals or plants was discovered every day in the Amazon basin and Amazon River during the decade from 1999 to 2009. The number of discoveries hasn’t slowed down, either.

6. The Amazon’s position

The Amazon goes almost entirely across the widest part of South America. If the snow that is high in the Andes was counted as the actual source of the Amazon, which it is in a way, the Amazon would be nearly 5,600 miles long, which would easily make it the longest river in the world. Usually, the snow isn’t counted, even though melting snow leads to the beginning of the Amazon.

This also means that at one point, the Amazon River is only about 100 miles from the Pacific Ocean, to the west. In fact, it is believed that before the Andes Mountains formed about 16 million years ago, the Amazon actually flowed into the Pacific Ocean rather than into the Atlantic Ocean.

7. The mouth of the Amazon

Where the Amazon River flows into the Atlantic Ocean, the mouth is almost 150 miles wide. This is greater than the distance from London to Calais, France. The mouth of the Amazon does have a delta, but it isn’t extensive like those of most major rivers. The enormous amount of sediment carried down the Amazon is spread out on the ocean bottom, due to ocean currents that prevent the formation of a major delta.

The amount of fresh water flowing out of the mouth is so vast, though, that a boat 100 miles out to sea from the mouth of the Amazon would still be in fresh water. Many hundreds of miles from the mouth of the Amazon, the water is still brackish rather than being salt water.

8. Amazon’s carbon and oxygen

If major mountain ranges are the ‘backbone of the world’, surely the Amazon and the Amazon Basin would be its lungs. It is estimated that 20 percent of the oxygen in our atmosphere is ‘breathed out’ by the rainforests of the Basin. It is also believed that the plant life of the Basin contains over 100 billion tons of carbon. Interestingly, the topsoil of the Amazon Basin is quite shallow, despite the enormous amount of plant life. This is because falling branches, leaves, or trees decompose extremely rapidly and the nutrients are immediately used by living plants, so little is left to form topsoil.

9. Getting to the other side

Except for at its source, the only way to get across the Amazon is to wade, swim or use a boat. This is because through its enormous length, no bridges span the Amazon. A few of its tributaries have bridges, but the Amazon doesn’t. Since the Amazon is home to piranhas, which are well known for stripping the flesh from the bones of any animal they encounter, boating across is probably the safest way to get to the other side.

10. Amazonian climate

Even though the actual source of the Amazon River is in the snow zone of Andes, the entire river flows within 15 degrees of the equator. Because of this and the fact that most of the Amazon meanders through low country and rainforests, the climate around the Amazon averages a little less than 80 degrees F or 29 degrees C. The temperatures vary by only a few degrees F throughout the year.


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Written by Rex Trulove

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  1. Thanks for the tour of the Amazon. One place I would love to visit. I have read about these incredible modern hotels right in the Amazon and I think it would be awesome sitting by the pool listening to the jungle sounds all around and then getting boat tour right along the Amazon.

    • Thank you! I really appreciate it. I also agree. Nature never fails to amaze me. Every time man wants to think he is all-powerful, he ought to take a look at nature. In comparison, we aren’t even babies. Even our most powerful weapons are no match for the fury of nature and nature allows species to thrive when they shouldn’t.

  2. Great Article!! Very informative all around, you obviously spent a load of time researching all this. I am currently planning an Overland Expedition from Virginia to Patagonia, and am very appreciative of any information the pertains to my planned route.

    • Well, I’m not sure how much of this will be helpful for an overland journey of that sort but I’m glad if it helps at all. I think most people would be astonished by the sheer vastness of the Amazon Basin. It is huge. The population of Brazil makes it seem like there would be lots of people throughout, but about 95% of the population is found in larger towns and cities. Most of that country is jungle, with very few people.

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