1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gran Chaco
GRAN CHACO, an extensive region in the heart of South America belonging to the La Plata basin, stretching from 20° to 29° S. lat., and divided between the republics of Argentine, Bolivia and Paraguay, with a small district of south-western Matto Grosso (Brazil). Its area is estimated at from 250,000 to 425,000 sq. m., but the true Chaco region probably does not exceed 300,000 sq. m. The greater part is covered with marshes, lagoons and dense tropical jungle and forest, and is still unexplored. On its southern and western borders there are extensive tracts of open woodland, intermingled with grassy plains, while on the northern side in Bolivia are large areas of open country subject to inundations in the rainy season. In general terms the Gran Chaco may be described as a great plain sloping gently to the S.E., traversed in the same direction by two great rivers, the Pilcomayo and Bermejo, whose sluggish courses are not navigable because of sand-banks, barriers of overturned trees and floating vegetation, and confusing channels. This excludes that part of eastern Bolivia belonging to the Amazon basin, which is sometimes described as part of the Chaco. The greater part of its territory is occupied by nomadic tribes of Indians, some of whom are still unsubdued, while others, like the Matacos, are sometimes to be found on neighbouring sugar estates and estancias as labourers during the busy season. The forest wealth of the Chaco region is incalculable and apparently inexhaustible, consisting of a great variety of palms and valuable cabinet woods, building timber, &c. Its extensive tracts of "quebracho colorado" (Loxopterygium Lorentzii) are of very great value because of its use in tanning leather. Both the wood and its extract are largely exported. Civilization is slowly gaining footholds in this region along the southern and eastern borders.