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Magdalena(mägthälā`nä), river, c.1,000 mi (1,600 km) long, rising in the Cordillera Central, SW Colombia and flowing N to the Caribbean Sea near Barranquilla. It flows in a fault-block valley (c.50 mi/80 km wide) through the Andes to a broad, swampy, alluvial plain where the Cauca River, the chief tributary, joins its lower course. The Magdalena is a natural and important avenue of communication, linking the interior highlands with the coastal lowlands. Its navigability is hampered by sandbars, rapids, and fluctuating water levels. La Dorada, c.600 mi (970 km) upstream, is the head of navigation. Railways connect navigable sections. The tropical valley of the Magdalena is thinly populated. Economic development has been retarded except for the oil industry. Coffee is the chief crop along the river's upper course. Rodrigo de Bastidas, the Spanish explorer, discovered (1501) the Magdalena, and since the time of exploration (1536) by Gonzalo Jiménez de Quesada, the Spanish conquistador, the river has profoundly influenced the economic and political life of Colombia.
a department in northern Colombia, near the Caribbean Sea; located on the lowland of the Magdalena River and its tributary the Cesar River. Area, 22,900 sq km. Population, 710,000 (1971). The seaport of Santa Marta is the administrative center. Magdalena has many banana plantations. Oil and natural gas are produced in the department.
a river in Colombia. Length, 1,550 km; basin area, 260,000 sq km. The river rises in the southern Cordillera Central and flows into the Caribbean Sea.
For its first 100 km the Magdalena is a turbulent mountain river. Farther on, up to the town of Nare (640 km), it flows through an intermontane depression, 30-60 km wide, between the Central and Oriental cordilleras. Still farther, the Madgalena valley becomes broader, and beyond the city of El Banco the river enters the Momposino depression with its many swamps and lakes; there it forms two branches: the Loba, the western branch, which receives the Magdalena’s main left tributaries, the Cauca and San Jorge rivers, and the Mompos, the eastern branch, which receives the Cesar River from the right. Upon entering the Caribbean Lowland, the Magdalena has a mean flow rate of 8,000-10,000 cu m per sec. High water (with flooding of vast land areas in the lower course) occurs in April and May and from September to November, while low water occurs from December to March and in July and August. Rapids near the city of Honda limit regular navigation in much of the lower course (for approximately 880 km, from Barranquilla to La Dorada); from Honda to Neiva (370 km) the river is navigable only by small craft during the high-water period. A navigable canal has been dug in the lower course of the river to the port of Cartagena.
E. N. LUKASHOVA