Atrato River

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Rivers in Colombia. Atrato is in the far northwest of the country near the Panama border Mapa de Colombia (rios).svg
Rivers in Colombia. Atrato is in the far northwest of the country near the Panama border
The Atrato River Rio Atrato.JPG
The Atrato River

The Atrato River (Spanish : Río Atrato) is a river of northwestern Colombia. It rises in the slopes of the Western Cordillera and flows almost due north to the Gulf of Urabá (or Gulf of Darién), where it forms a large, swampy delta. [1] Its course crosses the Chocó Department, forming that department's border with neighboring Antioquia in two places. Its total length is about 650 km (400 mi), and it is navigable as far as Quibdó (400 km / 250 mi), the capital of the department.

Flowing through a narrow valley between the Cordillera and coastal range, it has only short tributaries, the principal ones being the Truando, the Sucio, and the Murrí rivers. The gold and platinum mines of Chocó line some of its confluence, and the river sands are auriferous. [1] Mining and its toxic leavings have adversely affected river and environmental quality, damaging habitat for many species and affecting the ethnic groups: the predominately Afro-Colombian and Native American indigenous peoples who live along the river. The river is one of the only ways to move around in the Chocó region.

Northwestern Colombia encompasses an area of great diversity in wildlife. During the Pleistocene era at the height of the Atrato river, where it intersected the Cauca-Magdalena, the area was covered by a sea. It is proposed that this created a geographic barrier that may have caused many species to diverge through the process of allopatric speciation. [2] For example, Philip Hershkovitz proposed that the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) and the white-footed tamarin (Saguinus leocopus) diverged because of the rise of the Atrato, and today they are principally separated by the river. [2]


In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the San Juan and the Atrato rivers attracted considerable attention as part of a feasible route for a trans-isthmian canal in Colombia. [1] William Kennish, an engineer and inventor from the Isle of Man and Royal British Navy veteran, proposed an acqueduct making use of the Atrato River and its tributary, the Truando River, to cross the Colombian isthmus. After publishing a report in 1855 on this proposal for a New York firm, he was chosen to guide a US military expedition to explore and survey the proposed project in Colombia. [3] [4] In the early 20th century, the United States built the Panama Canal instead.

View from a side branch, in the Medio Atrato region Medio Atrato .jpg
View from a side branch, in the Medio Atrato region
The river seen from above, Medio Atrato region. Atrato river Medio Atrato region.jpg
The river seen from above, Medio Atrato region.

In November 2016 the Constitutional Court of Colombia ruled that the Atrato River basin possesses rights to "protection, conservation, maintenance, and restoration." This ruling came about as a result of degradation to the river basin from mining, which has adversely affected nature and harmed Afro-Colombian and Indigenous peoples and their cultures. The court referred to the New Zealand declaration of the Whanganui River as a legal person holding environmental personhood. The court ordered that joint guardianship would be undertaken in the representation of the Atrato River basin. Similarly to the New Zealand declaration, the representatives would come from the national government and the Indigenous peoples living in the basin. [5]

Related Research Articles

Geography of Colombia

The Republic of Colombia is situated largely in the northwest of South America, with some territories falling within the boundaries of Central America. It is bordered to the northwest by Panama; to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; and it shares maritime limits with Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, and Haiti.

Cauca Department Department of Colombia

Cauca Department is a Department of Colombia. Located in the southwestern part of the country, facing the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Valle del Cauca Department to the north, Tolima Department to the northeast, Huila Department to the east, and Nariño Department to the south. Putumayo and Caqueta Departments border the southeast portion of Cauca Department as well. It covers a total area of 29,308 km2 (11,316 sq mi), the 13th largest in Colombia. Its capital is the city of Popayán. The offshore island of Malpelo belongs to the department. It is located in the southwest of the country on the Andean and Pacific regions. The area includes 2.56% of the country.

Chocó Department Department of Colombia

Chocó Department is a department of Colombia known for its large Afro-Colombian population. It is in the west of the country, and is the only Colombian department to have coastlines on both the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. It contains all of Colombia's border with Panama. Its capital is Quibdó.

Quibdó Municipality and town in Pacific Region, Colombia

Quibdó is the capital city of Chocó Department, in western Colombia, and is located on the Atrato River. The municipality of Quibdó has an area of 3,337.5 km² and a population of 129,237, predominately Afro Colombian and Zambo Colombians.

Cotton-top tamarin species of mammal

The cotton-top tamarin is a small New World monkey weighing less than 0.5 kg (1.1 lb). This New World Monkey can live up to 24 years old, but most of them die at 13 years old. One of the smallest primates, the cotton-top tamarin is easily recognized by the long, white sagittal crest extending from its forehead to its shoulders. The species is found in tropical forest edges and secondary forests in northwestern Colombia, where it is arboreal and diurnal. Its diet includes insects and plant exudates, and it is an important seed disperser in the tropical ecosystem.

Emperor tamarin species of mammal

The emperor tamarin is a species of tamarin allegedly named for its resemblance to the German emperor Wilhelm II. It lives in the southwest Amazon Basin, in east Peru, north Bolivia and in the west Brazilian states of Acre and Amazonas.

White-footed tamarin species of mammal

The white-footed tamarin is a tamarin species endemic to Colombia. It is a silvery brown colour with pale streaks and russet underparts, and is very similar in appearance to the cotton-top tamarin, from which it is separated by the Atrato River. It is thought that the two species diverged during the Pleistocene, at a time when a sea occupied the area between their present ranges. This tamarin is an arboreal species, living in small family groups in the canopy. Females give birth to one to three young after a gestation period of about 140 days. This species has a relatively small range and is under threat from destruction and fragmentation of the forest in which it lives and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed its conservation status as "endangered".


The Embera–Wounaan are a semi-nomadic indigenous people in Panama living in Darién Province on the shores of the Chucunaque, Sambú, Tuira Rivers and its water ways. The Embera-Wounaan were formerly and widely known by the name Chocó, and they speak the Embera and Wounaan languages, part of the Choco language family.

The Choco tinamou or Chocó tinamou is a type of tinamou found in lowland forest and montane forest in subtropical and tropical regions of Colombia and Panama.

Acandí Municipality and town in Chocó Department, Colombia

Acandí is a town in Colombia at the northern end of the department of Chocó in northwest of Colombia, bordering the Caribbean Sea. It is 366 km (227 mi) from the provincial capital, Quibdó. Its average temperature is 28 degrees Celsius (82 °F). It was founded around the year 1887, and it became a municipality in 1905, previously being part of Turbo. The name "Acandí" is a corruption of the indigenous word "Acanti", which means "River of Stone".

Riosucio, Chocó Municipality and town in Chocó Department, Colombia

Riosucio is a municipality and town in the Department of Chocó, Colombia. The municipality and town are located in the Atrato River basin, on the Chocoan side of Urabá, a region spanning the departments Chocó and Antioquia.

Natural regions of Colombia

Because of its natural structure, Colombia can be divided into six very distinct natural regions. These consist of the Andean Region, covering the three branches of the Andes mountains found in Colombia; the Caribbean Region, covering the area adjacent to the Caribbean Sea; the Pacific Region adjacent to the Pacific Ocean; the Orinoquía Region, part of the Llanos plains mainly in the Orinoco river basin along the border with Venezuela; the Amazon Region, part of the Amazon rainforest; and finally the Insular Region, comprising the islands in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Colombia is located in South America.

Luis Gilberto Murillo Colombian politician

Luis Gilberto Murillo Urrutia is a Colombian politician and Mining Engineer who was the Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development from 2016 to 2018. He has also served as Governor of the predominantly Afro-Colombian Department of Chocó in Colombia. Murillo was kidnapped in 2000 and after his release he went into and moved to the United States and only returned to Colombia in 2011.

William Kennish, was an engineer, inventor, explorer, scientist, and poet, known primarily for inventions developed while he served in the British Royal Navy (1821-1841). They ranged from improvements for artillery to navigation and steering devices.

Frederick M. Kelley (1822–1905) was a Wall Street banker, who sponsored 7 expeditions to discover the purported "Sea Level Interoceanic Canal" of the Isthmus of Darien.

Caquetá moist forests

The Caquetá moist forests (NT0107) is an ecoregion of tropical moist broad leaf forest to the east of the Andes in the east of Colombia, with a small section in Brazil, in the Amazon biome. The forests are in the transition between the Guiana and Amazon regions, and have highly diverse flora and fauna. They are relatively intact, although they are mostly unprotected and are threatened with deforestation to create cattle pastures.

Magdalena-Urabá moist forests

The Magdalena-Urabá moist forests (NT0137) is an ecoregion in the north of Colombia. The terrain is largely flat or undulating, but includes mountainous areas in the south. It contains moist forests and large wetlands that are important to resident and migratory birds. The ecoregion forms a bridge between the Pacific coast ecoregions of Colombia and Central America, and the ecoregions of the Andes and Amazon. It is surrounded by the more populated parts of Colombia and is threatened by farming, ranching, logging, oil exploitation and water pollution in the main rivers.

Chocó-Darién moist forests A Choco- Darien moist forests

The Chocó-Darién moist forests (NT0115) is an ecoregion in the west of Colombia and east of Panama. The region has extremely high rainfall, and the forests hold great biodiversity. The northern and southern parts of the ecoregion have been considerably modified for ranching and farming, and there are threats from logging for paper pulp, uncontrolled gold mining, coca growing and industrialisation, but the central part of the ecoregion is relatively intact.

Eastern Panamanian montane forests

The Eastern Panamanian montane forests (NT0122) is an ecoregion in the east of Panama and the extreme northwest of Colombia. It contains diverse flora and fauna, with considerable endemism. The ecoregion is largely intact due to its inaccessibility, although the opening of an extension of the Pan-American Highway has introduced threats from human activity.

Northwestern Andean montane forests

The Northwestern Andean montane forests (NT0145) is an ecoregion on the Andes mountains in the west of Colombia and Ecuador. Both flora and fauna are highly diverse due to effect of ice ages when the warmer climate zones were separated and the cooler ones combined, and interglacial periods when the reverse occurred. Because the environment is hospitable to humans, the habitat has been drastically modified by farming and grazing since the Pre-Columbian era.


  1. 1 2 3 Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Atrato". Encyclopædia Britannica . 2 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 876.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  2. 1 2 Hershkovitz, P (1977). Living New World Monkeys (Platyrrhini): with an introduction to Primates .
  3. Stimpson, Robert (2011). William Kennish Manninagh Dooie - True Manxman (1st ed.). Ramsey, Isle of Man: Lily. ISBN   9781907945083.
  4. "Interoceanic river aqueduct connecting the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans: [Colombia] (map)". Library of Congress. 1855?. Retrieved 6 April 2020.Check date values in: |date= (help)
  5. "Press Release: Colombia Constitutional Court Finds Atrato River Possesses Rights". CELDF. 2017-05-04. Retrieved 2019-03-25.

Coordinates: 7°22′56″N77°06′39″W / 7.38222°N 77.11083°W / 7.38222; -77.11083