To the north and east, the Guiana and Brazilian highlands consist of ancient crystalline rocks greatly worn through prolonged erosion. The Guiana Highlands are mostly below elevations of 1,000 feet, with small rises separated by marshy depressions. Occasional dome-shaped granitic inselbergs (steep-sided residual hills)—some 2,000 feet in elevation—surmount the landscape. The southern edge rises abruptly to a series of mountain chains and high tablelands (tepuis), in which the highest summit is Mount Roraima (9,094 feet). Covering an area of about 580,000 square miles, the Brazilian Highlands (also called the Brazilian Plateau) rise to an average elevation of about 3,000 feet and are crowned by numerous sierras (ranges). Included in this region is Bandeira Peak (9,482 feet), one of the highest points in Brazil. The São Francisco River, draining a large basin to the east, has cut. deeply into the highlands. In the north the highlands slope gently to the sea, but in the east they drop abruptly, as much as 2,600 feet within a few miles.
Skirting their southern edge, the Serra do Mar has summits of more than 7,000 feet in elevation. The sea has partly invaded the lower sections of the original coastal ranges and formed Guanabara Bay, which includes the harbour of Rio de Janeiro. Nearby are such steep-sided rocky peaks as Sugar Loaf (Portuguese: Pão de Açucar; 1,296 feet) and Corcovado Peak (2,309 feet), which rise dramatically from the sea.
In the far south, Patagonia constitutes a series of vast tablelands that rise, terracelike, from the Atlantic to the Andes and are covered with rounded pebbles and crumbling sandstones. Geologically recent volcanic eruptions have spread sheets of basaltic lava over large parts of southern Patagonia and have dotted the sedimentary plateaus with volcanic cones.
The Orinoco River basin is nearly coextensive with the Llanos. It lies between the Venezuelan Andes and the Guiana Highlands and is covered with alluvia brought down by the Andean torrents. The Amazonian depression, the largest river basin in the world, forms an enormous region, bounded by the Andes to the west, the Guiana Highlands to the north, and the Brazilian Highlands to the south. The ancient platform of Precambrian rock underlying the depression is covered with deep layers of alluvial sand and clay, so that it forms an immense plain of low undulations, the general eastward incline being extremely slight. The river port of Iquitos, Peru, which is about 2,500 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, is at an elevation of only 384 feet, while Manaus, Braz., far downstream in the heart of the basin, has an altitude of 144 feet.
The basin of the Paraguay River, between the Bolivian Andes in the west and the Brazilian Highlands in the east, consists of a series of alluvial plains drained by a complex network of rivers interspersed with marshes. To the east, the marshes are called the Pantanal. They are only a few hundred feet above sea level. Annual flooding during the rainy season (about November through March) causes an immense swamp to form. The extensive plains west of the river, called the Gran Chaco, generally are arid.
The Pampas of Argentina, covering almost 300,000 square miles, consist of a thick accumulation of loose sediments brought down from the Andes. These deposits, 1,000 feet deep at Buenos Aires and even deeper in other places, have completely buried the ancient features of the land. The landscape seems perfectly level, although it actually rises imperceptibly toward the west—from near sea level at Buenos Aires to 2,320 feet at Mendoza. Some ranges, such as Córdoba and San Luis, are conspicuous features on the otherwise flat plains. "South America" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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