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Sao Francisco River

Biggest River on Earth ::--|| 1.Nile River|| 2.Amazon River|| 3.Yangtze River|| 4.Missisipi River|| 5.Yenisei River|| 6.Yellow River|| 7.Ob River|| 8.Parana River|| 9.Congo River|| 10.Amur River|| 11.Lena River|| 12.Mekong River|| 13.Mackenzie River|| 14.Niger River|| 15.Murray/Darling River|| 16.Tocantins River|| 17.Volga River|| 18.Purus River|| 19.Madeira River|| 20.Sao Francisco River||List of River's.||

Sao Francisco River

The Sao Francisco is a river in Brazil. With a length of 2,914 kilometres (1,811 mi), it is the longest river that runs entirely in Brazilian territory, and the fourth longest in South America and overall in Brazil (after the Amazon, the Paraná and the Madeira). It used to be known as the Opara by the indigenous people before colonisation, and is still popularly known by the affectionate moniker of Velho Chico ("Old Frank").

The Sao Francisco originates in the Canastra mountain range in the central-western part of the state of Minas Gerais.


It runs generally north in the states of Minas Gerais and Bahia, behind the coastal range, draining an area of over 630,000 square kilometres (240,000 sq mi), before turning east to form the border between Bahia on the right bank and the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas on the left one.


After that, it forms the boundary between the states of Alagoas and Sergipe and washes into the Atlantic Ocean.


In addition to the five states which the Sao Francisco directly traverses or borders, its drainage basin also includes tributaries from the state of Goiás and the Federal District (Brasília).

It is an important river for Brazil, called "the river of national integration" because it unites diverse climes and regions of the country, in particular the Southeast with the Northeast.


It is navigable between the cities of Pirapora (Minas Gerais) and Juazeiro (Bahia), as well as between Piranhas (Alagoas) and the mouth on the ocean, but traditional passenger navigation has all but disappeared in recent years due to changes in the river flow .

Sao Francisco River
Country Brazil
States Minas Gerais, Bahia, Pernambuco,Alagoas, Sergipe
Region South America
Source Serra da Canastra, state of Minas Gerais
Length 2,830 km (1,758 mi)
Basin 641,000 km2 (247,491 sq mi)
 - average 2,943 m3/s (103,931 cu ft/s)
 - max 11,718 m3/s (413,817 cu ft/s)
 - min 1,480 m3/s (52,266 cu ft/s)
Sao Francisco river basin

The Sao Francisco River is the fourth longest river system in South America, and, at approximately 1,800 miles, the longest river that lies completely within Brazil.


The river was first discovered by Europeans on 4 October 1501 by the Florentine discoverer Amerigo Vespucci, who named it after Saint Francis of Assisi, whose feast day falls on 4 October.
In 1865 the British explorer and diplomat Richard Francis Burton was transferred to Santos in Brazil. He explored the central highlands, canoeing down the Sao Francisco river from its source to the falls of Paulo Afonso.


The Sao Francisco is naturally navigable all through the year between Pirapora (Minas Gerais) and the twin cities of Petrolina (Pernambuco) and Juazeiro (Bahia), a length of 1,371 kilometres (852 mi). However, there are large variations in depth depending on the rainfall. Because of the diversity of physical characteristics over the course of the navigable stretch, it may be divided into three substretches, as follows:
From Pirapora to Pilao Arcado (Bahia), a length of 1,015 kilometres (631 mi); differences in height up to 6 metres (20 ft) may occur due to rains and drought.
From Pilao Arcado to the Sobradinho dam; the latter's reservoir is 314 kilometres (195 mi) long, with a surface area of 4,214 square kilometres (1,627 sq mi) and a comfortable depth.
From the Sobradinho dam to Petrolina/Juazeiro, with a length of 42 kilometres (26 mi) and an average depth of 2 metres (6 ft 7 in), sustained by a flow of 1,500 m3/sec (about 53,000 cu.ft./sec).
Until recent years, the Sao Francisco was regularly navigated by a type of passenger boat called gaiola (Portuguese for "cage"). These were paddle-wheel steamboats, some of them having been Mississippi riverboats and dating from the time of the American Civil War. After the Sobradinho dam was built in Bahia, the conditions of navigability were altered considerably, since the reservoir's large size allowed for the formation of short waves of considerable height. Although the dam has a navigation lock, the waves and currents made traversing the lake difficult for the gaiolas. At the same time, deforestation and excessive agricultural use of the upper-course waters of the Sao Francisco and its tributaries greatly reduced the water flow in the middle course, creating sand banks and islands that hindered navigation.
In a short time, conditions were such that navigation became impossible for the large gaiolas, although still possible for smaller boats. The shells of those old riverboats can still be seen on the river at Pirapora. As of 2009, a single boat, the Benjamim Guimaraes, remains in activity, making short-distance tourist cruises from Pirapora to Sao Romao and back.

Towns and population

The area crossed by the river is vast and sparsely populated, but several towns lie on the river. Beginning in Minas Gerais, the river passes by Pirapora, Sao Francisco, Januária, Bom Jesus da Lapa, the twin cities of Petrolina and Juazeiro, and Paulo Afonso. The hinterland is arid and underpopulated, so most of the towns are small and isolated. Only Petrolina and Juazeiro have grown into medium-sized cities and have become prosperous because of fruit production based on irrigation.

Cultural significance

The Sao Francisco has great importance in history and particularly in folklore. That history is celebrated in song, legend and souvenirs based on the carrancas, a kind of gargoyle placed on the prow of the gaiola boats and intended to scare away river demons from the boat. Tourist shops far from the river have modernized replicas and miniatures of the vanishing originals. The stories of river demons and monsters persist today.
From Paulo Afonso to the historic town of Penedo (Alagoas), the river lies at the bottom of a gorge or steep sided valley. Piranhas, a nearby town, was once the terminus of a railroad. The town has a number of abandoned historical buildings from that period. They have been restored and are emerging as a tourist attraction.