How Long is the Amazon River?

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: July 25, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/gustavofrazao
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The Amazon River cuts across South America, twisting and turning through the rainforests of Brazil, and empties into the Atlantic Ocean. The Nile River which flows from south to north in the heart of Africa is the longest river in Africa. To this day there is debate whether the Amazon or the Nile is longer due to the difficulty of measuring rivers in remote areas. Most references list the Nile as the longest river in the world at 4,132 miles (6,600 kilometers). The Amazon’s length is very close to that so let’s find out, how long is the Amazon River?

Where is the Amazon River?

The Amazon River twists and turns through the rainforests of South America.

Curioso.Photography/Shutterstock.com

As we mentioned the Amazon River cuts across South America in the northern portion of the continent. It is believed to begin in the Andes Mountains in Peru although researchers debate the exact location due to the remoteness of the area. Then it flows north for a bit before turning east and heading east into Brazil. Due to the size of Brazil, two-thirds of the river flows through Brazil. On the eastern coast of Brazil, near Macapá, it branches off and empties at three different locations into the Atlantic Ocean. Just north of the Marajó Island there are two points that it empties and south of the island it joins the Pará River.

How Long is the Amazon River?

The Amazon River is 4,000 miles (6,400 km) long. Despite the debate about the accuracy of the length that is still a remarkable distance. If you moved the Amazon from South America to North America, to make it fit, you would have to have it start in Los Angeles, curve up the coast to Seattle, then cut across the northern states of Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota. Then have it cut down to Chicago and keep going east all the way to New York, NY. That path would be around 4,000 miles!

How Long is the Nile River?

The longest river in the world is the Nile River which is 4,132 miles long!

iStock.com/Phototreat

The Nile River is measured at 4,132 miles (6,600 km). Using the same analogy as above, if we laid the Nile River on top of the US it would reach from Houston, Texas all the way up to Anchorage, Alaska which is around 4,130 miles. Both of these rivers are impressively long by any measure! The Nile flows north due to the terrain that creates a downhill flow towards the north. It starts in Lake Victoria which borders Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. It then flows north through Uganda to South Sudan to Sudan to Egypt. It empties into the Mediterranean Sea.

How Much Water Flows through the Amazon River?

The Amazon River has the largest drainage flow of any river in the world. This next statistic is amazing, it empties 58 million gallons of water into the ocean per second! There are more than 1,000 tributaries that join the river to create that flow. Two of the largest rivers that empty into the Amazon are the Negro and the Paraná Rivers. The Paraná River is the second longest river in South America and flows north from Argentina to join the Amazon. It is 3,032 miles (4,880 km) long.

How Long is the Mississippi River in the US?

The Mississippi River is 2,320 miles long and runs down the middle of the US.

iStock.com/Willard

The Mississippi River that runs from Minnesota down to Louisiana into the Gulf of Mexico is 2,320 miles (3,770 km).

How long is the Missouri River in the US?

The Missouri River is actually a little longer than the Mississippi River. It is 2,341 miles long. It starts in Rocky Mountains in Three Forks, Montana and winds it way across the country and down to St. Louis, Missouri. The Missouri empties into the Mississippi River which keeps going south to empty into the Gulf of Mexico in New Orleans, Louisiana.

What Animals Live in and Around the Amazon River?

The Amazon River is in the Amazon Rainforest so there are millions of species of animals that depend on the river for water. There are more than 2,500 different fish species that have been identified and a variety of reptiles, birds and amphibians that make the Amazon basin their home. Let’s look at a few of the most common.

Giant Catfish

Large,Piraiba,Catfish,(brachyplatystoma,Filamentosum),Seaching,For,Food,In,Aquarium
Piraiba catfish seaching for food.

Pavaphon Supanantananont/Shutterstock.com

The dorado catfish can get to be six feet long! They don’t sit around either, when it is time for then to migrate they travel almost the full length of the Amazon River some 3,595 miles from the Andes Mountains almost to the Atlantic. Although the dorado catfish make an impressive journey they are not the largest catfish in the Amazon. The Piraiba catfish can get to be 12 feet long and weigh 440 pounds! You won’t find catfish that big in the Mississippi!

Silver Payara

Payara,(dogtooth,Tetra,,Species,,Hydrolycus,Scomberoides),-,The,Predatory,Fish
Payara (dogtooth tetra, species, Hydrolycus scomberoides) – the predatory fish living in a river basin Amazon, South America

zebra0209/Shutterstock.com

Have you ever seen a fish with fangs? The Payara has long fangs that jut out from its bottom jaw, that is why they are sometimes called vampire fish. There are at least two species of Payara that live in the Amazon River, but the larger one is the Silver Payara. They can get to be 35 pounds or more. Definitely an impressive selfie fish.

Pirarucu

Arapaima Teeth - Arapaima
The Pirarucu has a tongue studded with teeth! Wear gloves and keep your hands away from their mouth!

Aostojska/Shutterstock.com

 A large unique fish, the Pirarucu, also called an Arapaima, has a strong flat tongue with teeth all over it. It crushes its prey with its tongue and then finishes it off. Probably don’t want to do a lip grab with one of these fish. They are also one of the largest freshwater fish with some getting to be 10 feet long and weighing 485 pounds!

Caiman

Caiman are in the same family as alligators. They are a little smaller than alligators and have a shorter snout.

Stan Shebs / Creative Commons

In the US we have alligators (and some crocodiles) but in South America they have caiman. They look similar to alligators but are typically smaller and have a shorter snout. The exception is the black caiman which is the largest caiman species and can get to be 13 feet long and weigh 1,100 pounds.

River Dolphins

Pink River Dolphin
A pink dolphin? Yes! The Amazon River Dolphins are pink and are freshwater dolphins with a long snout.

We are quit familiar with dolphins that live in the ocean but what kind of dolphin lives in a river? The Amazon River dolphin lives in the Amazon, and get this, they are pink! No it is not from some cartoon, these dolphins actually have a pinkish hue to their skin. It has a long skinny snout quite different than bottlenose dolphins and they have large front flippers. They live completely in freshwater as opposed to the common dolphin which is a saltwater animal.

Manatee

Manatee swimming in Crystal River
There are manatees that only live in rivers. The River Manatees can get to be 9 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds.

Another animal you may think is only found in the ocean has one species that is a freshwater kind. The Trichechus inunguis is a manatee that can be found in the Amazon River and can be found in Brazil, Columbia, Guyana, Ecuador, and Peru. They can get to be 9 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds. The river manatee are considered “Vulnerable” by the IUCN and conservationists are trying to help regulate hunting for the manatee which is hunted for its meat and oil. They are also threatened by habitat loss like many other animals in the Amazon Basin. Several organizations are teaming up to help protect the manatees so that they don’t become endangered or worse.

You can read about the only species of shark that can be found in the Amazon River.

The Amazon River used to be a massive lake. Find out why here.

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".