São Francisco River

São Francisco River

* "For other uses, see São Francisco (disambiguation)The São Francisco River is a river in Brazil with a length of 3,160 kilometres. It is the fourth largest river system in South America and the longest river wholly within Brazil. It begins in the state of Minas Gerais. It runs generally north behind the coastal range draining an area of over 630,000 square kilometers before turning east to form the border between the state of Bahia and the states of Pernambuco and Alagoas before entering the Atlantic Ocean between the states of Alagoas and Sergipe.

The main tributaries are the: Paraopeba, Abaeté, das Velhas, Jequitaí, Paracatu, Urucuia, Verde Grande, Carinhanha, Corrente, and Grande.

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


The river offers some conditions of navigability all year round, depending on the rains, from Pirapora to Petrolina (1,370 km), passing through the huge reservoir of Sobradinho (314 km on the lake). The river is navigable by small tourist vessels from the Paulo Afonso dam to the coast (308 km).

The "Velho Chico" (Old Francisco) had been navigable until recent years by a type of boat called "gaiolas" (cages). These were paddle-wheel steamboats dating from the time of the American Civil War.

This water route was always open in the stretch between the city of Pirapora (Minas Gerais) and Juazeiro (Bahia) or Petrolina (Pernambuco), the last two cities lying across from each other. This was a distance of 1,371 km.

With the coming of the artificial lake of Sobradinho in Bahia, the conditions of navigability were altered considerably, since the great size of the lake allowed for the formation of short waves of considerable height, similar to those in the ocean.

In a short time the folkloric navigation of the "gaiolas" became impossible because they could not cross the Sobradinho lake. The shells of these old river boats can still be seen on the river at Pirapora.

Plans have been made to try to make the river navigable again, especially for boats carrying freight, but the fluctuation of the water between Pirapora and Sobrabinho is an obstacle to be overcome.

Until the building of the hydroelectric dams at Paulo Afonso in 1955 the entire river was a major route of commerce and entry into the hinterland of the northeast region. Paulo Afonso's hydroelectric plant now provides electric power for the entire northeast.

In addition to the Paulo Afonso hydroelectric plant there are two other major plants and reservoirs on the São Francisco. The second major hydroelectric plant was built at Tres Marias in Minas Gerais in 1961 creating a reservoir of 1,040 square kilometers. In 1977 40 km from Petrolina (Pernambuco) and Juazeiro (Bahia) the Sobradinho dam was completed forming at the time the largest artificial lake in the world with an area of 4,214 square kilometers.

Importance and the Future

The São Francisco has great importance in history and particularly in folklore. That history is celebrated in song, legend and souvenirs based on the carranca that once kept river demons from São Francisco boats. Tourist shops far from the river have modernized versions of these 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 town up river, was once to be the terminus of a railroad. The town has a number of buildings built during this period and later abandoned. They have been restored and are emerging as a tourist attraction.

In 2005, the Brazilian government proposed an irrigation project that would bring water from the river to four Brazilian states. Environmentalists argue that the project will do more harm than good while the government insists that the project will give the people in the four states the much needed water supply. [http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/newsarticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyid=2005-10-07T015713Z_01_YUE682322_RTRUKOC_0_UK-BRAZIL-BISHOP.xml]

See also

*Companhia Hidro-Elétrica do São Francisco

External links

* [http://www.brcactaceae.org/hydrography.html#francisco Main Brazilian Hydrographic Basins] (Map and brief description.)
* [http://www.transportes.gov.br/bit/mapas/mapclick/hidro/bcsfran.htm "Detailed Basin map (in Portuguese)"]

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • São Francisco de Goiás — is a small town and municipality in central Goiás state, Brazil. Municipal boundaries: *North: Jaraguá *South: Petrolina de Goiás *East: Pirenópolis *West: Jesúpolis and JaraguáConnections from Goiânia are made by GO 080 / Nerópolis / Petrolina… …   Wikipedia

  • São Francisco — [soun΄ frän sēs′koo] river in E Brazil, flowing northeast and east into the Atlantic: c. 1,800 mi (2,897 km) …   English World dictionary

  • Sao Francisco — noun a river in eastern Brazil flowing into the Atlantic Ocean • Instance Hypernyms: ↑river • Part Holonyms: ↑Brazil, ↑Federative Republic of Brazil, ↑Brasil …   Useful english dictionary

  • São Francisco — geographical name river 1800 miles (2897 kilometers) E Brazil flowing from S central Minas Gerais NE & E into the Atlantic …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • São Francisco — /sowonn frddahonn sees koo/ a river flowing NE and E through E Brazil into the Atlantic. 1800 mi. (2900 km) long. * * * …   Universalium

  • São Francisco — /saʊ frɒ̃ˈsiskoʊ/ (say sow fron seeskoh) noun a river flowing through eastern Brazil into the Atlantic; Paulo Afonso falls. About 2900 km …   Australian English dictionary