The Rivers of Paraguay Want Nothing to do with Each Other

Illustration for article titled The Rivers of Paraguay Want Nothing to do with Each Other

Rio Paraná and Rio Paraguay are like spoiled kids refusing to shake and make up in this photo from the International Space Station, one clear blue and the other dark with orange sediments.


The sediment-laden Rio Paraná runs 4,880 kilometres (3,030 miles) through Brazil, Paraguay,and Argentina as the second-longest river in South America. The meandering river is orange from carrying a heavy load of sediments from upstream floodplains. In the left of the photograph, abandoned riverbeds and meanders mark the river’s former path.

Rio Paraguay runs 2,621 kilometers (1,629 miles) through Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina before its confluence with Rio Paraná. Its waters are more clear, indicating a much lower sediment load. Smaller braids dart off to the sides of the main channel, encompassing countless tiny shifting isles into the river’s flow.


After merging, rios Paraná and Paraguay join up with Rio Uruguay to form Río de la Plata before draining into the Atlantic Ocean.

The photograph was taken by a member of the Expedition 12 crew on December 22, 2005.

Image credit: NASA

Contact the author at or follow her at @MikaMcKinnon.


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Either super interesting fluid dynamics... or maybe half the river is just shallow and makes the sediment more visible from above.