American Way

Motoring out onto the Rio Negro, I cruised down one of the world’s great aquatic superhighways. Every bend revealed more and more three-tiered wooden riverboats — painted pink, blue, green and other vibrant shades — the primary form of long-distance conveyance in this remote corner of Brazil. Loaded heavy with people and cargo, they head into barely charted waters deep in the rainforest. With no actual roads to connect this area to the outside world, the river here provides the necessities of life, from food and water to commercial and personal transportation.

Leaving the bustle of the city behind, we slowed and I saw it, although it seemed at first unbelievable: the convergence of two mighty rivers, one of the most important intersections in South America. Before me, the two waterways flowed together side by side; one black, the other tan. On the right, the Solimões River, which flows cold and fast from high in the Andes. On the left, the Negro, the world’s largest black-water river, which flows slow and warm from the flatlands of Colombia. Like two petulant rivals, the -waterways refuse to mix, passing one another but remaining completely separate for about four miles. And when they finally merge, something special happens. There, at that moment, the great Amazon begins and rolls more than a thousand miles to its massive mouth at the Atlantic… [read more at]