Putumayo River

Putumayo River
Río Içá
Putumayo at Puerto Asis, Colombia
Countries Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru
 - left Guamués River, San Miguel
 - right Cara Paraná
Source Andes Mountains
 - location East of Pasto, Colombia
 - elevation 6,000 m (19,685 ft)
Mouth Amazon River
 - location Santo Antônio do Içá, Brazil
 - coordinates 3°8′6″S 67°58′27″W / 3.13500°S 67.97417°W / -3.13500; -67.97417Coordinates: 3°8′6″S 67°58′27″W / 3.13500°S 67.97417°W / -3.13500; -67.97417
Length 1,610 km (1,000 mi) [1]
 - average 8,760 m3/s (309,356 cu ft/s)
Map of the Amazon Basin with the Putumayo River highlighted in pink

The Putumayo River (Spanish: Río Putumayo, Portuguese: Río Içá) is one of the tributaries of the Amazon River, west of and parallel to the Japurá River.[1][2] It forms part of Colombia's border with Ecuador, as well as most of the frontier with Peru. Known as the Putumayo in the former three nations, it is called the Içá when it crosses into Brazil. The Putumayo originates in the Andes Mountains east of the municipality of Pasto, Colombia. It empties into the Amazon River near the municipality of Santo Antônio do Içá, Brazil. Major tributaries include the Guamués River, San Miguel, Güeppí, Cumpuya, Algodón, Igara-Paraná, Yaguas, Cotuhé, and Paraná de Jacurapá rivers.[1][3]

In the late 19th century, the Içá was navigated by the French explorer Jules Crevaux (1847–1882). He ascended it in a steamer drawing 1.8 metres (6 ft) of water, and running day and night. He reached Cuembí, 1,300 kilometres (800 mi) above its mouth, without finding a single rapid. Cuembí is only 320 kilometres (200 mi) from the Pacific Ocean, in a straight line, passing through the town of Pasto in southern Colombia. Creveaux discovered the river sediments to be free of rock to the base of the Andes; the river banks were of argillaceous earth and the bottom of fine sand.

During the Amazon rubber boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the land around the Putumayo became a major rubber-producing region, where the Peruvian Amazon Company maintained a production network centered on the nearby city of Iquitos. This production network mainly relied on the labor of indigenous Indians, who suffered from widespread human rights abuses. From 1910 to 1911, the British consul Roger Casement (who had previously publicized Belgian atrocities in the rubber business of the Congo Free State) wrote a series of condemnatory reports criticizing the atrocities of the PAC, for which he received a knighthood.[4]

Casement's reports later formed much of the basis for the 1987 book Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man by the anthropologist Michael Taussig, which analyzed how the acts of terror committed by British capitalists along the Putumayo River in Colombia had created a distinct "space of death."

Today the river is a major transport route. Almost the entire length of the river is navigated by boats.[3]

Cattle farming, along with the rubber trade, is also a major industry on the banks of the Içá. Rubber and balatá (a substance very much like gutta-percha, to the point where it is often called gutta-balatá) from the Içá area are shipped to Manaus, Brazil.

On March 1, 2008, Raúl Reyes and 14 of his fellow Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla companions were killed while on the Ecuadorian side of the border by Colombian military forces.[5]


  1. 1 2 3 Ziesler, R.; Ardizzone, G.D. (1979). "Amazon River System". The Inland waters of Latin America. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. ISBN 92-5-000780-9. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014.
  2. "Informações do Rio Içá" (in Portuguese). Brasilia, Brazil: Brazilian Ministry of Transport. 2014. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  3. 1 2 "Putumayo River". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc. 2015. Retrieved 2015-01-10.
  4. Fintan O'Toole, "The Multiple Hero", The New Republic, 2 August 2012, accessed 23 October 2014
  5. Abatido ‘Raúl Reyes’
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