What do we see in nature?
A coastal city, Buenos Aires is located along the Rio de la Plata. In this post, I investigate the past and present importance of this gigantic body of water. Every city and town has its one defining geographic feature. Chicago has Lake Michigan, New York the Hudson River, and in Buenos Aires there is La Río de la Plata. While in the English speaking world this body of water is known as the River Plate, its real translation from Spanish means the “River of Silver.” It was named this by Spanish explorers in the 1500s that believed that the ‘river’ would help bring silver from inside Argentina to Spain. While this did not end up happening, as there was little silver or gold beneath the earth in Argentina, the city did end up becoming a major center of commerce. Today, it is a vital part of the economies of both Argentina and its neighbor of Uruguay.
What does this landform look like?
While the Río de la Plata is called a river, it is fact considered an estuary. An estuary is an area of water that is enclosed by land on both sides at the point where river and the ocean meet. The Rio de la Plata is made up of the Uruguay and Paraná rivers feed into the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, at many points it is so wide one cannot even see the other side! At its most extreme, it is nearly 140 miles between the Argentine and Uruguayan coasts, which is about the same distance between where you all are in New York City and the city of Albany, New York!
Because it is partly a river, it is largely fresh water in that there is little salt in it. Therefore, the Rio de la Plata has a brownish color due in part to the sediment and mud that has washed into the sea.
How did I feel when I saw it?
Amazed! The Rio de la Plata really is a magnificent landform. It really blows me away to think that just over the horizon there are thousands of miles of land and millions of people living, working, and studying just like you and me.
Where is it?
If you look a map of South America, one can see a big stretch of water between the southern border of the country of Uruguay and Argentina. Buenos Aires, where I currently live, is located all the way at the body of water’s western end near the point where the two rivers meet the sea.
What is its environment like?
The Rio de la Plata is located where fresh water rivers and the salty ocean meets, there is a combination of fresh and salt water. The mix of salt and fresh water allows different species of fish to live in different areas and at different depths. Unlike a river though, the estuary is affected by tides, in that the sea lever rises and falls periodically throughout the day due to the moons gravitational pull.
What can harm the landform? Are we worried about it?
The biggest threat to the Rio de la Plata is most definitely pollution caused by humans. Walking along the shore, it is not uncommon to see cans, bottles, and other discarded trash littering the beach. One of the biggest threats though comes from commercial farming. Farmers throughout Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil put pesticides into their fields as ways of helping their crops for food and feed for cattle grow. As a result, many of these chemicals wash into neighboring creeks, lakes, and rivers in a process called ‘run off.’ With time, many of these chemicals eventually reach the Rio de la Plata making the water polluted and inhabitable for wildlife and plants.