There are many natural phenomenons in this world that seem implausibly strange - at least until one finally understands scientifically how they actually work. One of these hard-to-explain phenomena is a boiling river that kills everything that falls into it in the Amazon rainforests of Peru.

The best way to see and explore the Amazon Basin and rain forest is with a river cruise and there are many options in the various countries that host parts of the mighty basin. It may seem strange but there are still many mysteries hidden deep in the Amazon Rain Forest that are still not fully understood.


Legends And Oral Traditions of Boiling River

The Boiling River in Peru seemingly hovers on the boundary between scientific fact and myth. Until recently it was only known from the tales of myth and hadn't been scientifically investigated. Now it is one of the last secrets that the Amazon basin has given up.

  • Legend: It Was Told As Part Of A Lost City of Gold

The tail of the river was told as part of a legend of a lost city of gold in the Amazon. The river was discovered by exploring geologists looking for the source of the river in the legend. They found it in the central Peruvian Amazon snaking its way through the middle of a low jungle.

There are two shamanic Amazonian communities on the Boiling River. One is called the Mayantuyacu and according to their oral traditions, the Boiling River is a place of tremendous spiritual power. It is home to very powerful jungle spirits and a place that only the most powerful shamans can go to because everyone else is afraid of the spirits.

Related: Why Everyone Should Visit Australia's Ancient Rainforest At Daintree National Park

What The Boiling River Is

What is strange about the river is that it starts off as a cold stream and then heats up (unlike many hot springs bubbling out of the ground). Oddly enough it is even reported to cool down somewhat at night. Along the river are some very hot springs that feed into the river.

According to one National Geographic explorer, Andres Ruzo:



In total the Boiling river is around 9 kilometers or 5.5 miles long and about 6.24 kilometers or 3.8 miles of that is hot. If one was to fall in most sections of it, being much larger than small mammals one is not going to die (although there were will serious consequences if one does). But the smaller critters who fall in are regularly boiled alive.

  • Length: 5.5 Miles (of Which 3.8 Miles Are Hot)

The Three Hypotheses And What Turned Out To Be True

Scientists had three hypotheses. One was that it was a volcanic feature being heated by a magma system that other scientists had missed. Another idea was that the water could have been coming from deep down in the earth at a very fast rate (it gets hotter the deeper one goes).

The third idea was that it could have been the result of an oil field accident (it is around 2-3 kilometers from the oldest active oil field in the region. It could have been that drillers could have found an oil and gas flow that only produced hot water and so abandoned after drilling into a geothermal system. A destructive example of this is the Lusi mud volcano in Indonesia.

It turns out that the scientific explanation is the second hypothesis. It is formed by water flowing up at anomalously high rates.

  • Explanation: Hot Water Flowing up And Unusually High Rates

Related: 20 Ways Travelers Can Make It Through The Jungles Of The Amazon

Getting There And Threats Today

To get there one must get to the capital Lima, and then take a one-hour flight to the regional city of Pucallpa (the largest city in the central Peruvian Amazon), then take a two-hour drive on mostly red dirt roads to the Pachitea River (over 300 meters wide). But that's not the end of the journey, from there take a motorized canoe upriver for 30 minutes to the mouth of the Boiling River.

  • Nearest City: The Regional City of Pucallpa
  • Motorized Canoe: Locally Known as a Peke-Peke - Because the Motor goes pekepekepekepekepeke

The Amazon rainforest (including the rainforest around the Boiling River) faces many threats. These threats come from illegal mining, illegal logging or narco-trafficking, and development.

In particular, the biggest problem in the area (the Amazon rainforest is very very big) is deforestation. Around 99% of the deforestation around the Boiling River is done by local cutting down large trees that they can sell (and then clear burn the rest).

  • Deforestation: Deforestation Is A Risk to The River

The practice of clearing the jungle is to pour gasoline on the jungle, burn it a couple of times, and then set the cattle onto it. Currently, the Boiling River is in a part of forest zoned exploitable but there are efforts underway to protect it.

Next: 10 Mystery Travel Adventures You Need To Book For Your Next Vacation