Official name: Republic of Paraguay
Area: 406,750 square kilometers (157,047 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Cerro Pero (842 meters/2,762 feet)
Lowest point on land: Junction of Paraguay River and Paraná River (46 meters/151 feet)
Hemispheres: Southern and Western
Time zone: 8 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 491 kilometers (305 miles) from east-northeast to west-southwest; 992 kilometers (616 miles) from north-northwest to south-southeast
Land boundaries: 3,920 kilometers (2,436 miles) total boundary length; Argentina 1,880 kilometers (1,168 miles); Bolivia 750 kilometers (466 miles); Brazil 1,290 kilometers (802 miles)
Territorial sea limits: None
Located in the south-central interior of South America and bisected laterally by the Tropic of Capricorn, Paraguay is separated from Argentina on the west by the Pilcomayo and Paraguay Rivers and on the south by the Alto Paraná River. On the east, it is separated from Argentina and Brazil by the higher reaches of the Alto Paraná. On the north and northwest, its border with Bolivia is marked by small streams and by surveyed boundary lines. Paraguay is seventh in size among the South American nations and one of only two land-locked countries on the continent (the other is Bolivia). With an area of 406,750 square kilometers (157,047 square miles), Paraguay is almost as large as the state of California.
Paraguay has no territories or dependencies.
Most of the Eastern Paraguay region lies south of the Tropic of Capricorn and thus has a subtropical climate. The Chaco region to the west, which lies mostly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, has a tropical climate. There are basically two seasons: summer (October through March) and winter (May through August), with April and September serving as transitional months. Average summer temperatures range from about 25°C (77°F) to 38°C (100°F). Summer highs in the east usually do not rise much above 32°C (90°F), whereas highs in the west can top 43°C (109°F). Average winter temperatures are usually between about 16°C (60°F) and 21°C (70°F). Rainfall is heaviest on the Paraná Plateau in the east, where it averages over 152 centimeters (60 inches) annually, decreasing to about 127 centimeters (50 inches) in the lowlands east of the Paraguay River, and about 76 centimeters (30 inches) in the Chaco region west of the river. Most of the rain falls in the summer months, but rainfall is generally irregular.
Flowing south from Brazil, the Paraguay River divides the country into two contrasting regions. The three-fifths of Paraguay north and west of the river is the Chaco, a hot, flat, semiarid plain with little vegetation and few inhabitants. The two-fifths of the country to the south and east is called Eastern Paraguay, sometimes referred to as Paraguay Proper. Its lush and diverse landscape is home to nearly the entire population of the country. The easternmost part of this region forms the western end of the Paraná Plateau, which also extends into Brazil and Argentina.
Paraguay is landlocked.
The largest freshwater lakes are the shallow Lake Ypacaraí in the Central Hill Belt and Lake Ypoá on the Ñeembucú Plain.
The cayman is a type of crocodile native to Central and South America. Thousands of caymans in Paraguay are threatened because the small lakes are drying up. The lake and lagoon habitats of the caymans began to dry up when water from the Pilcomayo River was rerouted so that farmers could use it to irrigate their crops. The government is experimenting with a program to move the caymans to another location.
The Paraguay and Alto Paraná Rivers and their tributaries define most of the country's frontiers.
Rising in the Mato Grosso of Brazil, the Paraguay River borders or passes through the country along a southward course of about 1,128 kilometers (700 miles). The Paraná River flows some 804 kilometers (500 miles) from the Brazilian frontier at the Guaira Falls, where it becomes known as the Alto Paraná River, to its juncture with the Paraguay River. The third-largest river, the Pilcomayo, is a tributary of the Paraguay and enters it near Asunción after following the entire length of the frontier between the Chaco and Argentina. The Verde and Monte Lindo Rivers also enter the Paraguay River from the Chaco. Major tributaries of the Paraguay River entering it from Eastern Paraguay include the Apa, Ypané, and Jejuí-Guazú. Some sixteen rivers—including Acaray, Monday, and Itaimbey—enter the Alto Paraná above Encarnación.
Paraguay has no deserts.
Between the two westward extensions of the Paraná Plateau lies the Central Lowland, which slopes gently upward toward the plateau and is covered largely with savannah. Its most conspicuous features are flat-topped, forested hills projecting 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 feet) above the grassy plain and covering areas ranging from a few acres to several square miles. They are called islas de monte (mountain islands).
The Chaco region is part of the South American Gran Chaco, which extends from Argentina to the fringes of Bolivia and Brazil. Its eastern border is the Paraguay River and its southwestern edge is the Pilcomayo River. Except for low hills in the northeast, the featureless landscape is virtually flat, broken by intermittent rivers and streams and by extensive swamps in the south. In the southwestern part of Paraguay's eastern region lies the Ñeembucú Plain, an alluvial flatland bisected by the Tebicuary River.
The mountains of the Paraná Plateau include the Cordillera de Amambay, which extends southward from Brazil along the border with Paraguay, and, to the southeast, the Cordillera de San Rafael, which contains the country's highest peak.
The pre-Columbian caves in the Cerro Corá National Park are among the country's major historical and natural attractions.
The heavily wooded Paraná Plateau occupies one-third of Eastern Paraguay. At its western edge is an escarpment that descends from an altitude of about 457 meters (1,500 feet) in the north to about 183 meters (600 feet) at its southern extremity. Eroded extensions of the Paraná Plateau further divide Eastern Paraguay into sub-regions.
The Itaipu Dam, located on Paraguay's border with Brazil, supplies more than three-fourths of Paraguay's electrical power. Built jointly with Brazil and completed in the 1980s, it is the largest hydroelectric generation facility ever built. It is 196 meters (643 feet) high and 7.8 kilometers (4.8 miles) long.
The prairies and swamps of Paraguay's Chaco region, while nearly uninhabited by humans, provide a habitat for a diverse array of wildlife, including such unusual species as anteaters, armadillos, tapirs, peccaries, and the capybara, the world's largest rodent, which can grow to a length of over 1 meter (4 feet).
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Paraguay. Lonely Planet World Guide. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/destinations/south_america/paraguay/ (accessed March 25, 2003).