Madre de Dios river basin, Peru
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Madre de Dios river basin, Peru

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Madre de Dios river basin, Peru

The Madre de Dios River also known as the Amaru River, its waters flow through the southeastern part of Peru in the Madre de Dios region and encompass the provinces of Manu and Tambopata. The Madre de Dios River is the main hydrographic basin in the region, it originates in the department of Cusco, at the headwaters of the Pilcopata River, located in the Nevado de Pucará to the southeast of the town of Paucartambo.


Curious Facts of the Madre de Dios River:

The Madre de Dios River and its tributaries are navigable at any time of the year, you can travel without difficulties from Puerto Maldonado to its convergence with the Beni River.


In the wet season it is brown in color, flows quickly and looks very impressive.


The main tributary of the Madre de Dios River is the Inambari River, which is born in the department of Puno.


The reason for its high flow is because it is located in a very humid area of ​​the Peruvian Amazon.


Among the activities that take place on its banks, the selective logging of fine woods and agriculture, there are also mango plantations and gold mining.


Along the river there are several national parks and reserves such as the Manu National Park, the Tampopata - Candamo Nature Reserve and the Bolivian Manuri-Heath National Reserve.


Nearby Puerto Maldonado it has a width of 150 meters.


Its main tributaries are:

  • The Manu River: it has an approximate length of 390 kilometers and is born in the Manú National Park and flows into the Madre de Dios.
  • The Inambari River: a tributary of the right bank, with a length of 390 kilometers passing through the city of Bethlehem and empties into the Madre de Dios near the city of Inambari.
  • The River of the Stones: a tributary of the left bank, with a length of 640 kilometers passing through the city of Las Piedras and empties into the Madre de Dios in Puerto Maldonado.
  • The Tambopata River: tributary of the right bank, with a total length of 350 kilometers passing through the city of San Rafael and empties into the Madre de Dios. 
  • The Heath River: a tributary on the right bank forms the international border between Peru and Bolivia and is 217 kilometers long. 
  • The river Sena: This river is a tributary of the Bolivian lands on the right bank in the lower course, and empties into the river Sena. 


The Madre de Dios River is born in the eastern foothills of the Vilcanota mountain range, part of the Oriental mountain range of the Peruvian Andes, northeast of Cuzco. The river, known in this first section as Alto Madre de Dios, runs north, bordering the protected area as Manú National Park (established in 1973 with an area of ​​15,328 km²). After leaving the mountain range behind, you reach the high jungle area, where the town of Pilcopata is. It follows a short section to the north and then describes a curve in a westerly direction, where it receives the Manu River (356 km) on the right, in the homonymous town of Manú or Boca Manu. The river is already a typical plain river, describing many meanders, with some sandy islands in its course.


It continues west, passing through Puerto Tahuantínsuyo, where it receives the Azul River on the right. Then it receives, also on the right, the Colorado River and then arrives at Madre de Dios, where it receives the Los Amigos River on the left. Continue until you reach Inambari, where it receives from the right the Inambari River (390 km), a long river that also descends from the eastern foothills of the Peruvian Andes and that crosses the Bahuaja Sonene National Park and in which the realization is under study. of an ambitious hydroelectric project. The river continues in a westerly direction and after passing through the small town of Pastora, it reaches Las Piedras, where it receives the Las Piedras river (640 km), its main tributary, on the left bank. It immediately reaches the city of Puerto Maldonado (at 183 masl), the capital of the department of Madre de Dios and of the province of Tambopata, which is one of the main commercial centers of the Amazon and which bears the official title of Capital of the Biodiversity of Peru. The city, which has an airport, had about 40,000 inhabitants. in 2005. In Puerto Maldonado it receives the Tambopata River (350 km) on the right bank.


From that point on, it became known as Bajo Madre de Dios, and after passing through the small towns of Colombia and San Francisco, it left Peru through Puerto Pando. It enters Bolivia arriving immediately at the city of Puerto Heath, where it receives the homonymous Heath River (217 km) on the right bank, a river that in all its course marks the Bolivian-Peruvian border. Here the river turns in a SW-NE direction, a direction that it will maintain for the remaining 483 km stretch until it flows into the Beni River.


The river follows in Bolivian territory, being the natural limit between the departments La Paz, to the south, and Beni, to the north. The river passes through some small towns, such as Puerto Pérez (549 inhabitants in 2001), Chivé, Santa Rosa, Candelaria, Constitución, Villa-Mar, Nazahuasama, Chaco and Independencia. The river is no longer a border and enters the department of Beni, continuing through small towns, such as Palmira, Carmen, Frontera, San Miguel, Vargas, Florencia and Sena, where it receives the Seine River on the right bank. The river continues passing through the small villages of Conquista, Chorillo, Purgatorio, Loreto, San Miguelito and Agua Dulce, in a section in which the old meanders have been forming small horseshoe lagoons, the most important being the Murillo lagoon (11 km long and a surface 7.6 km²), the Mentiroso lagoon (15 km long and a surface 6.9 km²) and the Diasada lagoon (5.5 km long and a surface 4.5 km²)


Finally it flows into the Beni River, in front of the city of Riberalta (at 134 meters above sea level), which had 64,511 inhabitants in 2001 and has an airport. Then the Beni joins in turn with the Mamoré river in Villabella to form the Madeira river.



The climate of Madre de Dios is tropical: warm, humid and with annual rainfall of over 1000 mm. The average annual temperature in Puerto Maldonado, capital of the department, is 26 ° C; the maximum reaches 38 ºC. in the months of August and September; the minimum drops to 8 ºC. There is a period of very little rainfall that covers the months of June, July and August. The rainy season is from December to March.


The climate of Madre de Dios is sometimes influenced by cold air masses that come from the southeast of the American continent, causing significant temperature drops, which lower the thermometer to 8ºC. and that are known locally with the names of "surazo" or "friaje"


Water quality in the Madre de Dios River Basin

In the Madre de Dios river basin, mining activity is dedicated almost exclusively to the gold, through small miners scattered along the Madre de Dios River, between Puerto Maldonado and its confluence with the Colorado River, and Huepetuhe.


These miners exploit the gold sands and gravels of the river beds and banks riverside. The exploitation method has two stages, the first is through selection gravimetric of the mineral, and the second by amalgamation of gold with mercury. The last stage is the contamination of the gold with mercury. In this last stage, pollution of the environment by dumping of surplus mercury into water courses water and miners by inhalation of the gases during the rewetting.


It should also be added that the indiscriminate felling of trees in riparian areas to use of gold banks, as well as the use of heavy construction equipment (front loaders) causes pollution of the environment by noise, degradation of the forests, accumulation of human waste, etc.


It should be taken into account that pollution is a seasonal phenomenon associated with periods of mining work that always occur in the low-water newspapers (June - September).


Main Tourist Attractions in Madre de Dios


1. Manu National Park

This conservation unit is located between the provinces of Paucartambo -The Convention of the department of Cusco, and those of Manu - Fitzcarrald from the department of Madre de Dios, it covers an area of ​​1,884,200 hectares.


It covers the Bioregions of: Low Forest, High Forest, High Andes and Puna, the Jungle being the largest go down with an impenetrable jungle. On correspondence with this geographical reality is there are also variations in the formation of forest, so, for example, on the first floor named you can see colorful fruits and flowers and trees that are up to 60 meters high.


The Manu National Park contains a great diversity of animal species, with 860 species of birds such as: the harpy eagle, macaws, heron parrots, etc. felines like jaguars, 13 species of monkeys, bats, river wolves, black and white lizards, the taricaya. In addition, the Park Nacional del Manu is currently inhabited by 30 peasant communities and various native Amazonian populations.


2. Heat pampas National Shrine

This conservation unit comprises a total of 102,109 hectares that are they extend towards the border republic of Bolivia. It was created especially for the deer safety and conservation the swamps in their only habitat at all the territory of Peru; also for the conservation of flora and fauna belonging to the Heath River area. On the latter was preferred Consideration Regarding Maned Wolf (Chysocyon brachiuyus), the most burly from South America, who lives lonely among the grass of the pampas.


Tambopata Candamo Reserved Zone This covers a total of 1,400,000 hectares, from Puerto Maldonado, it is reached by road fluvial (Tambopata river); or by the Puerto Maldonado - Cusco highway (kilometer 30). To the get there are appreciated: the enormous biodiversity and habitats of each of the ecosystems, representing native flora and fauna with: 165 species and 41 tree families, 103 species of mammals, 1300 species of butterflies and 90 species of amphibians.


Also existing: jaguars, capybaras, huanganas, monkeys, turtles, alligators, river wolves (otters).


Also, where Tambopata and the river La Torre (60Km. from Puerto Maldonado), is the center of the area reserved (since 1977) to keep the ecology. The 'Esse'eja' population o 'huarayos', which are Amazonian natives occupy the reserve, along with quechuas and aymarás; who are dedicated to agriculture (coffee), hunting, fishing and gathering.


3. The Baltimore Waterfall

It is located 85 km from Puerto Maldonado. To go to that place a boat is boarded to motor and sail against the current of the Tambopata River for 4 hours and 30 minutes.


Apart from enjoying observing the landscape along the way, at the end of it, It is interesting to contemplate how the waters of the river fall forming a impetuous waterfall of three meters high and that the rainy season impresses mainly due to the increase in its flow.


4. The Community of Palma Real

This is located on the right bank of the Madre de Dios River, 40 km from Puerto Maldonado and 2 hours of navigation by motorized boat, commonly known as "pequepeque". The attractions of greatest interest in this community are the typical houses, slightly raised on wooden posts to avoid humidity and the access of the vermin, the crafts consisting of arrows, bows, multi-colored seed necklaces and fabrics based on vegetable fibers. The The inhabitants of this community are mostly known by the name of "huarayos".


5. Community of Miraflores

It is located 50 km from Puerto Maldonado, of which the first 40 must be travel them by boat on the Heath River, for approximately 2 hours. The natives of this community belong to the same family of the huarayos with which they present very similar ethnic characteristics. However, it is possible to notice that the natives Miraflorinos conserve until now the uses and customs of their remote ancestors in comparison with the huarayos.


6. Community of Hell

The distance between this community and Puerto Maldonado is 25 km, which is covered in one hour and 25 minutes sailing in a boat against the current of the river. On the way can observe riverine populations such as Isuyana, Tambopata, Chontal and Cascajal. This group of natives is dedicated in preference to agriculture, wood extraction and chestnut harvesting, whose demand is increasing. fishing is abundant in the rivers of the area.


7. Sandoval Lake

Its origin is due to the strangulation of one of the meanders of the Madre de Dios River and It is located on the right bank of it, 8 km from the city of Puerto Maldonado. To get to this lake you have to sail by motor boat for 25 minutes following the current of the river, then you have to walk along a trail that advances in the woods for about an hour and thirty minutes. On the way enjoy observing a wide variety of plant species such as orchids, platanillos, ungurahuis and homiceas, within the lake itself the islets full of grasses existing swampy areas where the aguaje tree grow. As to wild animals, there is an abundance of ducks, otters, alligators, wild chickens, tapirs, toucans, macaws, water turtles like charapas. In this lake it is usually practice sport fishing by catching a wide variety of fish such as the paiche that It measures 1 to 4 meters in length. There is a sector of the lake in which the temperature fluctuates Between 20 ° C and 26 ° C, here visitors can enjoy a refreshing swim without run no danger.


8. Lake Valencia.

It is located 60 km from Puerto Maldonado downstream of the Madre de Dios River and the trip lasts approximately 4 hours. The flora and fauna distributed around this lake are varied and that is why they are tempting for the curiosity of visitors. The fishing enthusiasts find a suitable field to catch fish such as croaker, dorado, the maiden, among others. Some restaurants in Puerto Maldonado have specialized in the preparation of exquisite stews based on these fish.


9. Lake of Tres Chimbadas

It is located on the left bank of the Tambopata River, 55 km from Puerto Maldonado, distance that is covered in 3 hours, before reaching the lake you have to walk through a section pedestrian for about 30 minutes. The scenery around the lake is rewarding because it offers a lush vegetation populated with birds.


10. Lake Pastora Grande.

The route to this lake is constituted by the combination of a paved road, a carriage trail and a short section of navigation on the Madre de Dios River, downstream from the mining port of Laberinto. The total distance from Puerto Maldonado to the The referred lake is 65 km long, which is covered in approximately 3 hours. In the lush flora of this sector, stand out the palm trees, the ungurahui, the aguaje, the cetico and the rubber.


With regard to its fauna, it has herons, macaws, paujiles, partridges, turtles and other wildlife.


11. Lake Túpac Amaru

It is located 25 km from the city of Puerto Maldonado and can be reached there by a road of affirmed land after a journey of approximately one hour. This lake is appropriate for the practice of sport fishing, because in its waters there is abundance and variety of fish. On the other hand, the attractive landscape of its surroundings houses quantities appreciable lizards, charapas, monkeys, butterflies of different colors and sizes and many species of birds, among which the sticks stand out.


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