Where Does the Amazon River Begin–And Where Does It Go?


The Amazon River is located in South America and is the second longest river in the world. Actually, according to some researchers, it may even be the longest river in the world. Scientists argue whether the Amazon or the Nile, over in Africa, holds the title for longest river; however, a little more research is needed before the Amazon takes definitive top prize.

There are other questions we can definitively answer, such as where the Amazon River begins, the history of the river, and why the river is as important today as in years past.

Geographical Features

Where does the Amazon River begin? According to a research trip directed by National Geographic it was determined that the Amazon River has its humble beginnings atop the Peruvian Andes. One might think that this massive river would have a thunderous beginning but it is just a tiny trickle of water high in the mountains. The river winds its way through South America to its final destination, the Atlantic Ocean, almost four thousand miles away. While it is not currently recognized as the longest river in the world, it is most definitely the largest river in the world as determined by water volume.


In 2009, a new study pinpointed the age of the Amazon River, as a transcontinental river, at 11 million years old, although it did not achieve its current shape and course until about 2.4 million years ago. While the oldest rivers in the world are older by hundreds of millions of years, the age of the Amazon River is still scientifically important. The age of a river is proportional to the age of the mountain range from which it originates. In the case of the Peruvian Andes, they began lifting only about 12 million years ago.

There is proof that an early incarnation of the river was flowing in the general area of the eastern portion of the river. However, this section did not stretch across the continent and it is thought to have flowed in the opposite direction. The river's flow would depend upon the location of the highest point of land.


The importance of the Amazon River and the rainforest through which she flows are still being discovered. This area has not been fully explored and there are plants, animals, and microorganisms which may hold the key to curing diseases or solving a variety of scientific problems. Additionally, the river is the largest source of fresh water in the world. It is utilized by the indigenous people for food, water, and transportation, and it is home to an enormous number of plants and wildlife.

You now know some basic facts about this majestic river. The river and rainforest are important natural resources that deserve great attention and scientific study. Learn more with the following resources:

Live Science by Robin Lloyd. Amazon River Dated to 11 Million Years Old.

National Geographic by Donald Smith. Explorers Pinpoint Source of the Amazon.

Photo Credit: Fabrico de Paula