The second largest river in South America, the Parana River, originates at the confluence of the Grande and Paranaiba rivers in South Eastern Brazil and flows in a general south western direction. The Parana and Paraguay River system is home to the world’s second largest water fall (Iguazu falls) and the largest wetland (the Pantanal). Flooding is common on the southern Parana River which contains many waterfalls. The mid section of the river is dominated by marshes where as the lower section is drier. In the lower reaches the river is joined by the Paraguay and Uruguay rivers to form the La Plata River. As a whole the La Plata River Basin drains one fifth of the South American Continent. The entire area is renowned for its exceptional freshwater biodiversity.
The river is a source of water, food and energy to millions of people, and South America’s largest cities (Brasilia, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo) are located within this watershed. The second largest hydroelectric dam (after the three gorges dam in China) the Itaipu Dam, is located on the river at the border between Brazil and Paraguay.