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Hydrography of Cúcuta and North Santander

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Title: Hydrography of Cúcuta and North Santander  
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Subject: Cúcuta, Rivers of Colombia
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Hydrography of Cúcuta and North Santander

The North Santander Department of Colombia, and its capital, Cúcuta, rely on several rivers. The most important of these is the Pamplonita river. None of the rivers in this area present significant issues of pollution. The entity in charge of taking care of these resources is "Corponor".


  • Zulia river 1
  • Catatumbo River 2
  • Pamplonita River 3
  • Tachira River 4
  • Peralonso River 5
  • La Grita River 6
  • Sardinata River 7
  • Salazar River 8

Zulia river

The Zulia River is formed by several rivers originating in lakes in the highlands of "Cachiri" at about 4,220 meters above sea level, and located between 12°41'2" east longitude and 8’9" north latitude in the Santander Department, in the eastern range of the Andes mountains. The river flows by the province of Cúcuta, passing through the neighbouring nation of Venezuela, and ends in the waters of Lake Maracaibo.

In Colombian territory, this river is navigable for about 70 kilometers, starting from the old port of Los Canchos. The river flows for 260 kilometers through Venezuela, the last 80 kilometers being deep and calm, adaptable to embarkments of big proportions.

In the past, this river provided a basic means of transportation which was responsible for much of prosperity of the neighbouring valleys, like the center of nutritioned commerce, whose products fed many of the towns nearby. The Zulia river's tributaries include the Cucutilla, Arboleda, Salazar and the Peralonso rivers, which flow from the left bank, and the Pamplonita with its own tributaries the Tachira and the De la Grita rivers, entering from the right.

Areas surrounding the Zulia river are fertile, with many forests decorating the landscape. However, the climate of this area could be seen as unhealthy, due to the density of trees and the many swamps.

Catatumbo River

The Catatumbo is a high flow river originating in the central valley of North Santander, and one of the most important rivers of Colombia.

The river starts in the Jurisdicciones Highlands near Macho-rucio (gray mule) peak located at the south of Ocaña province. It finishes, like the Zulia River, in Lake Maracaibo, in Venezuela, through a delta called La Empalizada (The Fence).

Early sections of the Catatumbo river are known as Chorro Oroque, Rio de la cruz (Cross River), and Algodonal (cotton field river). It is useful for navigation only in the Venezuelan section.

Catatumbo tributaries from the left shore include: Main affluents : Frio (cold river), de Oro (golden river), Erbura, Tiradera (dumpster river), San miguelito (st mike river). Minor affluents : Sajada, el Molino (The mill river), San lucas (St Luke river), Los indios (Indians river), Zurita, Carbón, Naranjito (little orange river), Sánchez, Joaquín Santos, Teja, San Carlos, Guaduas, Águila (eagle river), Lejía (bleach river), Honda (deep river), Capitán Largo (Big Captain river), Manuel Díaz, Oropora, Huevo (Egg river), La Vieja (old lady river), Guayabal (guava field river), Guamos, Roja (red river).

From the right shore: Main affluents : San Miguel, Tarra, Orú, Sardinata and Zulia. Minor affluents: La Urugmita, La Labranza (the farm river), Seca (Dry river), Cargamenta and San Calixto or Maravilla (marvel river).

Pamplonita River

This river was of crucial importance in the economy of the country in the 18th to 19th centuries as the main channel for the exportations of cacao

It has originated in the Altogrande mountain at 3000 meters above sea level, in the nearby of Pamplona city. It flows downhill through the Cariongo Valley, near Chinácota city receives the Honda minor affluent and keeps downhill until Cúcuta valley, where it has a slow flow, ending in the Zulia river, thereafter in Maracaibo Lake. Most of this river is over the 150 meters over the sea level. The river total length is about 115 km, its watershed has about 137,524 ha.

The union of Pamplonita and Zulia is located near to urban area of Cúcuta city, especially the Rinconada neighborhood, with the associated risk of floods, even in the streets of the city, which are feared for the residents, they say that the river has flooded the local hospital and the Colón Park. The river also produces a significant erosion over the surrounding lands, in part because of the local dry weather and shortage of vegetation. This is seen more noticeably in the areas near of Cúcuta, La Garita and Los Vados.

The Pamplonita river crosses the municipalities of: Cúcuta, Pamplona, Los Patios, Chinácota, Bochalema and Pamplonita, the villages of El Diamante, La Donjuana, La Garita, San Faustino and Agua Clara.

The river receives sewage water from Pamplona city, Los Patios and Cúcuta city, also residues from slaughterhouses, pesticides and fertilizers. The 1541 law regulates the use of water from the rivers to concessions regulated for the local government, but there are many illegal non-regulated diversions of water.

Affluents of Pamplonita river:

Right shore:

minor affluents: Monteadentro, Los Negros, Los Cerezos, Zipachá, Tanauca, Ulagá, El Gabro, El Ganso, Santa Helena, Cucalina, La Teja, De Piedra, La Palmita, Matagira, La Chorrera, Iscalá, Honda, Cascarena, Villa Felisa, Ciénaga, Juana Paula, Don Pedra, Faustinera, Europea, Rodea, Aguasucia.

Main affluents: Táchira river, Rio Viejo (Old River), Las Brujas (Witches river), Caño Cachicana and caño Guardo.

Left shore:

Minor affluents: Navarro, San Antonio, La Palma, Hojancha, La Laguna, Batagá, Galindo, Santa Lucía, Las Colonias, El Laurel, Chiracoca, Montuosa, El Masato, Quebraditas, Aguanegra, Zorzana, El Ojito, Jaguala, Viajaguala, Tío José, El Magro, Aguadas, La Rinconada, Periquera, Voladora, La Sarrera, La Cuguera, Guaimaraca, Aguaclarera, La Trigrera, Negro, El Oso, and Chipo.

Tachira River

It originates near Tamá, in Las Banderas mountain, at 3,368 m above sea level. The river flows towards the north, as a natural boundary among Colombia and Venezuela. It crosses the municipalities of Herrán, Ragonvalia, Villa del Rosario and Cúcuta. Tachira river ends in the Pamplonita river near El Escobal village.

Its affluents are El Salado, La Margarita, El Naranjal, Palogordo, El Palito, Agua Sucia and la Horma.

Peralonso River

It originates in a little lake in the Guerrero highlands, at 3,100 m asl. It crosses the municipalities of Salazar, Gramalote, Santiago, San Cayetano and Cúcuta, ending in the Zulia, near to de San Cayetano village.

La Grita River

It originates in the Venezuelan andes near La Grita city about 3,000 m asl. It's a natural boundary among Colombia and Venezuela for about 5 km, until its ending in the Zulia river. Its affluents are Guaramito river, La China, Riecito, Río Lobatera, and Caño de La Miel

Sardinata River

It originates in La Vuelta, at Guerrero Highlands, near Caro Village, 3,100 m above sea level. It has a length of near 17 km. Near the river there are many forest and mineral exploitations. Its affluents are: left shore: SantaRight shore: Riecito San Miguel, La Sapa, José, La Esmeralda, La Resaca and Pedro José. Its Colombian segment ends in Tres Bocas, continues in Venezuela finishing in catatumbo river.

Salazar River

It originates near Zulia city, ending near Salazar de las Palmas city. It's an important river because the tradition by local inhabitants of swimming in it, going fishing and cooking on the beach of the river the traditional sancocho soup. There are some areas of the river near Salazar city that have waterfalls of many minor water streams falling into the river, that are often visited by tourists.

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