Top 10 Longest Rivers In The World

Last updated on April 12th, 2022

8. The Parana – the world’s eighth longest river

The Parana River is a long and winding waterway that connects the South American countries Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Its rich resources and trading importance created many conflicts among neighbors. Foreign powers were also keen on controlling the river for their own ends. Today, the parties are opting for peaceful means to share the bounties and solve environmental issues.

1. Etymology

“Parana” is a Guarani word that translates to river or sea. There is a large number of rivers in eastern South America that contains “para” in their names.

2. Seven Cascades

The Parana River supplied water to the massive Guaira Falls, a series of seven cascades in Paraguay. The falls are gone after flooding due to the construction of the Itaipu Dam.

3. Power Generation

The Itaipu Dam is the second biggest hydroelectric power plant with only the Three Gorges Dam in China beating it in power output.

4. Water Volume

The volume of water flowing to the Atlantic Ocean from the Parana is about the same as the volume at the Mississippi River Delta.

Parana river on map


5. Commercial Fishing

The Parana supports the livelihood of small fishermen who live along its banks. Among the most common catches are the surubi (a catfish) and the sabalo (a ray-finned fish).

6. Bird Watching

The river creates flooded savannas that many species of birds call home including aguila negra (Great Black Hawk), hoco colorado (Refuscent Tiger Heron), and lechuzon orejudo (Striped Owl).

7. Effects of Climate Change

The Parana River is experiencing its lowest level in almost 80 years because of an extended drought in Brazil. Climate change and deforestation is making matters worse.

8. Reduced Tonnage

The low waters make transport harder and more expensive. Vessels had to reduce their capacity by 20% in order to keep moving through the river. This has a major impact on the local economy.

Confluence of the Iguazu and Parana rivers, Puerto Iguazu, Misiones, Argentina.
Confluence of the Iguazu and Parana rivers, Puerto Iguazu, Misiones, Argentina. Top 10 rivers in the world. Image credit – Phillip Capper

9. Fresh Water Supply

The Parana River is a major source of fresh drinking water to roughly 40 million people living in Brazil and Argentina. The drought has resulted in an emergency alert in 5 Brazilian states.

10. First European

In 1526, Sebastian Cabot became the first European to reach the Parana. He headed a Spanish expedition that was supposed to trade with the east but he went to South America upon rumors of great wealth. The failed expedition resulted in his banishment to Africa.

11. Battle of Vuelta de Obligado

This naval military confrontation erupted in 1845 because of trading disputes between Argentina and Anglo-French forces. It was a Pyrrhic victory for the Europeans who eventually had to recognize Argentina’s right over the Parana.

12. First Steamboats

In 1840, the first steamboats sailed along the Parana. Their power to move against the current made movement easier. Trading grew across the region including the countries deep inside the continent like Paraguay.

The Parana River. World's top ten longest rivers
The Parana River. World’s top 10 longest rivers. Image credit – Rodrigo Soldon

13. Water Quality

The waters of the Parana have gotten murky over the past years because of rapid deforestation. The reduction of natural filters enable sediments to get into the river which threaten the ecosystem.

14. Reforestation Project

Brazilian water agencies and The Nature Conservancy are trying to perform strategic large-scale reforestation to improve water quality and protect the species living around the river.

15. Increased Fire Activity

Satellite sensors have detected increased fire activity around the Parana River delta in 2020 as waters receded. Many of these are intentional with the culprits clearing land for pasture, animal hunts, land reclamation, and dike construction.

16. The Mihanovich Company

Nicolas Mihanovich immigrated to Uruguay in 1864 and built the largest shipping company in Argentina. His steamers dominated the traffic in the Parana until 1948 when President Juan Peron’s populist government nationalized the company.

17. Parana River Aquarium

Those who are curious about the river’s ecosystem can go to the Parana River Aquarium to learn more about the subject and see examples in various fish tanks. The place also houses an aquatic biotech lab that studies the local marine life.

18. The Yacyreta Dam

The name translates into “land of the moon” in the Guarani language. This dam along the Parana generates hydroelectric power for Paraguay with the excess exported to Argentina.

Parana River – quick facts and statistics

NameThe Parana
Native nameParana River, Rio
SourceParanaíba River (Rio Paranaíba, Minas Gerais, Brazil)
MouthRio de la Plata
(Atlantic Ocean, Argentina, Uruguay)
Length4880 km (3,030 mi)
Widthup to 3 km
Basin size2,582,672 km2 (997,175 sq mi)
Direction of flownorth to south
Did you know?1. The Parana is the second largest river system in South America, outranked only by the Amazon River.

2. The parana river delta is the world's only delta that is in contact with a river and not with an ocean.
Some useful resources1.

Table last updatedDecember 6, 2021

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