Magdalena River
The Magdalena River is the principal river
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 of Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, flowing northward about 1528 kilometres (949.5 mi) through the western half of the country. It takes its name from the biblical figure Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus' most celebrated disciples, and the most important woman disciple in the movement of Jesus. Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons", conventionally interpreted as referring to complex illnesses...

. It is navigable through much of its lower reaches, in spite of the shifting sand bars at the mouth of its delta
River delta
A delta is a landform that is formed at the mouth of a river where that river flows into an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, flat arid area, or another river. Deltas are formed from the deposition of the sediment carried by the river as the flow leaves the mouth of the river...

, as far as Honda
Honda, Tolima
Honda is a town and municipality in the Tolima department of Colombia. The population of the municipality was 26,873 as of the 2005 census. Along with Líbano, Honda is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Líbano-Honda...

, at the downstream base of its rapids. It flows through the Magdalena River Valley
Magdalena River Valley
The Magdalena River Valley is a valley in Colombia located within the Colombian Andes mountain ranges. The valley is specifically located between the Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental and crossed by the river of the same name, the Magdalena River....


Its drainage basin
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

 covers a surface of 27.3 million hectare
The hectare is a metric unit of area defined as 10,000 square metres , and primarily used in the measurement of land. In 1795, when the metric system was introduced, the are was defined as being 100 square metres and the hectare was thus 100 ares or 1/100 km2...

s, which is 24% of the country's area and where 66% of its population lives. Also 86% of Colombia's gross domestic product
Gross domestic product
Gross domestic product refers to the market value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a given period. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country's standard of living....

 is generated there.


Its headwaters are in the south of the country, where the Andean
The Andes is the world's longest continental mountain range. It is a continual range of highlands along the western coast of South America. This range is about long, about to wide , and of an average height of about .Along its length, the Andes is split into several ranges, which are separated...

 subranges Cordillera Central and Cordillera Oriental
Cordillera Oriental, Colombia
The Cordillera Oriental is one of three main mountain ranges that divides the Cordillera in the Andes Mountains of Colombia.It extends from southeast to northeast from the "Colombian Massif" in Huila to the Perijá Mountains in La Guajira....

 separate, in Huila Department
Huila Department
Huila is one of the departments of Colombia. It is located in the southwest of the country, and its capital is Neiva.-Geography:The south of the department is located in the Colombian Massif...

. The river then runs east of north in a great valley between the two cordilleras. It reaches the coastal plain at about nine degrees north, then runs west for about 100 kilometres, then north again, reaching the Caribbean Sea
Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....

 at the city of Barranquilla
Barranquilla is an industrial port city and municipality located in northern Colombia, near the Caribbean Sea. The capital of the Atlántico Department, it is the largest industrial city and port in the Colombian Caribbean region with a population of 1,148,506 as of 2005, which makes it Colombia's...

 in the zone known as Bocas de Ceniza.


The Magdalena River crosses a wide variety of ecosystems, like páramo
The term páramo can refer to a variety of ecosystems. Some ecologists describe the páramo broadly as “all high, tropical, montane vegetation above the continuous timberline”. A more narrow term classifies the páramo according to its regional placement - specifically located in “the northern Andes...

 in its headwaters, dry forest in the upper part of its valley, rain forest in its middle course, and swamps and wetlands in its lower course. The Spectacled Caiman
Spectacled Caiman
The spectacled caiman , also known as the white caiman or common caiman, is a crocodilian reptile found in much of Central and South America. It lives in a range of lowland wetland and riverine habitat types and can tolerate salt water as well as fresh; due in part to this adaptability it is the...

, iguana
Iguana is a herbivorous genus of lizard native to tropical areas of Central America and the Caribbean. The genus was first described in 1768 by Austrian naturalist Josephus Nicolaus Laurenti in his book Specimen Medicum, Exhibens Synopsin Reptilium Emendatam cum Experimentis circa Venena...

, pelican
A pelican, derived from the Greek word πελεκυς pelekys is a large water bird with a large throat pouch, belonging to the bird family Pelecanidae....

 and catfish
Catfishes are a diverse group of ray-finned fish. Named for their prominent barbels, which resemble a cat's whiskers, catfish range in size and behavior from the heaviest and longest, the Mekong giant catfish from Southeast Asia and the second longest, the wels catfish of Eurasia, to detritivores...

 are abundant in these ecosystems but other animal species like the Prochilodus magdalenae
Prochilodus magdalenae
Prochilodus magdalenae are tropical freshwater fish distributed through Colombia. They are found in the Atrato River, the Sinú River, and in the Cauca and Magdalena Rivers. They have been measured to reach , and reported to reach up to . They have a growing role in fisheries....

, crocodile
A crocodile is any species belonging to the family Crocodylidae . The term can also be used more loosely to include all extant members of the order Crocodilia: i.e...

 and red-footed tortoise
Red-footed tortoise
The red-footed tortoise is a tortoise native to South America. It has also been introduced to many islands in the Caribbean. It draws its name from the red or orange scales visible on its limbs, as well as its head and tail...

 are in critical danger of extinction. In addition, there is a possible risk posed by invasive
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

The hippopotamus , or hippo, from the ancient Greek for "river horse" , is a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of only two extant species in the family Hippopotamidae After the elephant and rhinoceros, the hippopotamus is the third largest land mammal and the heaviest...

. Originally imported by Pablo Escobar
Pablo Escobar
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was a Colombian drug lord. He was an elusive cocaine trafficker and rich and successful criminal. He owned numerous luxury residences, automobiles, and even airplanes...

, these hippopotami became feral following his demise, and have since expanded beyond their original home on Hacienda Napoles
Hacienda Napoles
Hacienda Nápoles is the luxurious estate built and owned by Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar in Puerto Triunfo, Antioquia...

 into nearby regions of the Magdalena River.


Due to its geographical position in the north of South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, the Magdalena River was since precolumbian times
Pre-Columbian era
The pre-Columbian era incorporates all period subdivisions in the history and prehistory of the Americas before the appearance of significant European influences on the American continents, spanning the time of the original settlement in the Upper Paleolithic period to European colonization during...

 a route towards the interior of today Colombia and Ecuador
Ecuador , officially the Republic of Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. It is one of only two countries in South America, along with Chile, that do not have a border...

. The Carib people probably ascended trough the river, as well as other cultures from Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...


Likewise, the Spanish conquistador
Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492...

es who arrived to today's Colombia early in the 16th century
16th century
As a means of recording the passage of time, the 16th century lasted from 1501 to 1600. It is regarded by historians as the century in which the rise of the West occurred....

 used the river to push to the wild and mountainous inland after Rodrigo de Bastidas
Rodrigo de Bastidas
Rodrigo de Bastidas was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who mapped the northern coast of South America and founded the city of Santa Marta.-Early life:...

 discovered and named the river on April 1, 1501. During the Spanish colonization of the Americas
Spanish colonization of the Americas
Colonial expansion under the Spanish Empire was initiated by the Spanish conquistadores and developed by the Monarchy of Spain through its administrators and missionaries. The motivations for colonial expansion were trade and the spread of the Christian faith through indigenous conversions...

, the river was the only transport link communicating Bogotá
Bogotá, Distrito Capital , from 1991 to 2000 called Santa Fé de Bogotá, is the capital, and largest city, of Colombia. It is also designated by the national constitution as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca, even though the city of Bogotá now comprises an independent Capital district...

 with the Caribbean Sea port Cartagena de Indias
Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena de Indias , is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department...

 and thus with Europe.

In 1825, the Congress of Colombia
Congress of Colombia
The Congress of the Republic of Colombia is the name given to Colombia's bicameral national legislature.The Congress of Colombia consists of the 102-seat Senate , and the 166-seat Chamber of Representatives ...

 awarded a concession to establish steam navigation in the Magdalena River to Juan Bernardo Elbers, but his company closed shortly after. By 1845, steamboat
A steamboat or steamship, sometimes called a steamer, is a ship in which the primary method of propulsion is steam power, typically driving propellers or paddlewheels...

s regularly travelled on the river until 1961, when the last steamers ceased operation.

In mass media

Much of the film Love in the Time of Cholera
Love in the Time of Cholera
Love in the Time of Cholera is a novel by Nobel Prize winning Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez first published in the Spanish language during 1985. Alfred A. Knopf published the English translation during 1988...

takes place in the historic, walled city of Cartagena
Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena de Indias , is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department...

in Colombia. Some screen shots showed the Magdalena River and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range.
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