Río de la Plata: Wikis


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Río de la Plata estuary map and satellite view

The Río de la Plata (Spanish: "River of Silver") – always rendered River Plate in British English and the Commonwealth, and occasionally rendered [La] Plata River in other English-speaking countries – is the river formed by the combination of the Uruguay River and the Paraná River. It is a funnel-shaped indentation on the southeastern coastline of South America, extending 290 kilometres (180 mi) from the rivers' confluence to the Atlantic Ocean.



Not all people consider the Río de la Plata a river but to those who do it is the widest river in the world[1]. The Río de la Plata grows from 48 kilometres (30 mi) wide where the rivers meet to 220 kilometres (137 mi) wide to the southeast where it opens on the Atlantic Ocean. It forms part of the border between Argentina and Uruguay, with the major ports and capital cities of Buenos Aires in the northwest and Montevideo in the southeast.

The basin drained by the main tributaries of the Río de la Plata – the Uruguay and Paraná, and the important Paraná tributary, the Paraguay River – covers approximately one fifth of South America, including area in southeastern Bolivia, southern and central Brazil, the entire nation of Paraguay, most of Uruguay and northern Argentina. An estimated 57 million cubic meters (2 billion cubic feet) of silt is carried into the estuary each year, where the muddy waters are stirred up by winds and the tides. The shipping route from the Atlantic to Buenos Aires is kept open by constant dredging.


The International Hydrographic Organization defines the eastern extent of the Río de la Plata as "A line joining Punta del Este, Uruguay (34°58.5′S 54°57.5′W / 34.975°S 54.9583°W / -34.975; -54.9583) and Cabo San Antonio, Argentina (36°18′S 56°46′W / 36.3°S 56.767°W / -36.3; -56.767)".[2]


Buenos Aires as seen from the Río de la Plata, c. 1880
Coastline of Buenos Aires along the estuary
Satellite view of the estuary, looking southwards

The river's first sighting by a European was in 1516, when Spanish seaman Juan Díaz de Solís discovered it during his search for a passage between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. He and a group of his men disembarked in what is today the Uruguayan Department of Colonia and were attacked by the natives (probably Guaraní although for a long time the fact was adjudicated to the Charrúas). Only one of them survived, a 14-year-old cabin boy named Francisco del Puerto, allegedly because the natives' culture prevented them from killing elderly people, women and children.[citation needed]

Years later, from a ship commanded by Sebastián Caboto, "a huge native making signals and yelling from the coast" was seen; when some of the crew disembarked, they found Francisco del Puerto, brought up as a Charrúa warrior. He went back with the Spaniards and, after some time, returned to Uruguay, leaving no further trace of his whereabouts.[citation needed]

The area was visited by Francis Drake's fleet in early 1578, in the early stages of his circumnavigation. The first European colony was the city of Buenos Aires, founded by Pedro de Mendoza on 2 February 1536, abandoned and founded again by Juan de Garay on 11 June 1580.

In 1806 and 1807 the river was the scenery of an important British invasion that aimed to occupy the Spanish Viceroyalty.

The Battle of the River Plate, an early World War II naval engagement between the German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee and British ships, started several miles off the coast of the estuary. The German ship retired up the estuary and put into port at Montevideo. A few days later, rather than fight outgunned, she was scuttled in the estuary. These events were depicted in the 1956 British film The Battle of the River Plate – also known as The Pursuit of the Graf Spee – by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger,


The English name "River Plate" is not, as sometimes thought, a mistranslation, as "plate" was used extensively as a noun for "silver" or "gold" from the 12th century onwards, especially in Early Modern English[3] and the estuary has been known as the River Plate or Plate River in English since at least the time of Francis Drake.[4] A modern translation of the Spanish Río de la Plata is "Silver River", referring not to color but to the riches of the fabled Sierra de la Plata thought to lie upstream.

The English version of the name served as an inspiration for one of the Argentine's most important football clubs, Club Atlético River Plate.


The Río de la Plata is a habitat for the rare La Plata Dolphin, sea turtles (Caretta caretta, Chelonia mydas, and Dermochelys coriacea), and many species of fish.

See also



  1. ^ "Rio de la Plata" Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. ^ "Limits of Oceans and Seas, 3rd edition". International Hydrographic Organization. 1953. http://www.iho-ohi.net/iho_pubs/standard/S-23/S23_1953.pdf. Retrieved 7 February 2010. 
  3. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, online version.
  4. ^ Sir Francis Drake’s Famous Voyage Round the World; A Narrative by Francis Pretty, one of Drake's Gentlemen at Arms


  • Piola, A. R., R. P. Matano, E. D. Palma, and E. D. Campos (2005): "The influence of the Plata River discharge on the western South Atlantic shelf". Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 32, L01603, doi:10.1029/2004GL021638.
  • Real, Walter. España en el Río de la Plata: Descubrimiento y Poblamientos (1516–1588). Montevideo: Club Español. 2001. ISBN 9974-39-317-5.
  • Simionato, Claudia G., Vera, Carolina S., Siegismund, Frank (2005). "Surface Wind Variability on Seasonal and Interannual Scales Over Río de la Plata Area" Journal of Coastal Research. 21 (4): 770-783. Abstract online

External links

Coordinates: 34°30′S 58°10′W / 34.5°S 58.167°W / -34.5; -58.167

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