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In the Amazon basin, some rivers run wild. With no dams or levees to control them, they are free to meander—some more than others.

For example, the Rio Mamoré, which flows north across Bolivia, is one such wanderer. It flows from the Andes Mountains and across the Bolivian lowlands into Brazil. Watching this river meander in Landsat images over the past few decades shows us how much a river can meander under natural conditions. The Mamoré has a large sediment load, so it meanders more than most.

These meandering river dynamics are important for maintaining a healthy habitat. The floodplains here depend on the river migration to maintain the wetland habitats.

The growing city of Trinidad, with a population of over 100,000, can be seen in the upper right of these images, just east of the river.

Imagery

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Aug. 11, 1984, Landsat 5 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
July 8, 1989, Landsat 5 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
Aug. 7, 1994, Landsat 5 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
July 1, 1998, Landsat 5 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
July 23, 2006, Landsat 5 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
July 2, 2010, Landsat 5 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
Aug. 1, 2015, Landsat 8 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
July 11, 2019, Landsat 8 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
June 30, 2021, Landsat 8 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia
June 30, 2021, Landsat 8 (path/row 232/70) — Mamoré River, Bolivia

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References (Earthshot Overview/Parent Only)

Aalto, R., Maurice-Bourgoin, L., Dunne, T., Montgomery, D.R., Nittrouer, C.A., and Guyot, J.-L., 2003, Episodic sediment accumulation on Amazonian flood plains influenced by El Niño/Southern Oscillation: Nature, v. 425, p. 493–497.

Constantine, J.A., Dunne, T., Ahmed, J., Legleiter, C., and Lazarus, E.D., 2014, Sediment supply as a driver of river meandering and floodplain evolution in the Amazon Basin: Nature Geoscience, v. 7, p. 899–903.

Guyot, J.L., Bourges, J., and Cortez, J., 1994, Sediment transport in the Rio Grande, an Andean river of the Bolivian Amazon drainage basin: Variability in Stream Erosion and Sediment Transport (Proceedings of the Canberra Symposium), IAHS Publ. no. 224, p. 223–231.

Hansen, Kathryn, 2014, Meandering in the Amazon: NASA Earth Observatory, accessed January 22, 2016, at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84833.

MinuteEarth, 2014, Why Do Rivers Curve?: MinuteEarth, accessed January 22, 2016, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a3r-cG8Wic.

NASA, 2003, Changes in the Mamore River, Bolivia: NASA Earth Observatory, accessed January 22, 2016, at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=3717.

National Geographic Education, 2016, Oxbow Lake: National Geographic, accessed January 22, 2016, at https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/oxbow-lake.

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