Geography of Tocantins

Geography of Tocantins

A dream nurtured for almost two centuries by the population that inhabited the north of the former state of Goiás , the creation of the state of Tocantins gave an important impetus to the population of north-central Brazil and opened a new development front towards the interior of the country, in a region with a predominantly agricultural economy.

The state of Tocantins, in the North , occupies an area of ​​277,621 km 2 . It is limited to the west with Pará and Mato Grosso, to the south with Goiás, and to the east with Maranhão, Piauí and Bahia. Its capital is Palmas.

Physical geography

Geology and relief

According to, most of the state of Tocantins is less than 500m above sea level and is characterized by large flat surfaces of crystalline and sedimentary rocks. Four units are part of the morphological framework:

  • (1) the crystalline plateau of Araguaia-Tocantins, the highest region, which occupies the south of the state, with altitudes of 300 to 600m;
  • (2) the sedimentary plateau of the northeast, composed of a set of sandstone plates and basalt sheets in the border area between Maranhão and Tocantins;
  • (3) the São Francisco sedimentary plateau, a vast sandstone plateau located along the Tocantins-Bahia border; and
  • (4) the alluvial plain of the middle Araguaia, between Tocantins and Mato Grosso, an old floodplain, with periodic deposition of alluvies, where the largest river island in the world is found, the Bananal.

Climate and hydrography

The Aw-type climate prevails in the state (savanna climate, with dry winter and summer rains), with thermometric averages ranging between 25 ° C in the north and 22 ° C in the south. The average annual rainfall is 1,600 mm, concentrated in the summer period.

The hydrographic network of the state of Tocantins is formed mainly by the rivers that flow into the Tocantins river or its tributary, the Araguaia. With a tropical regime, these rivers have floods and ebbs of sharp contrast, but do not experience drought, since the porous subsoil guarantees the infiltration and storage of water.


The closed fields, predominant vegetation, cover more than ninety percent of the state’s territory. The forest spots are practically limited to the valleys of the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers. In the latter, the forests sometimes take the form of a cerradão, a transition between the cerrado and the forest.

Population and urban network

After its creation in 1988, Tocantins achieved growth rates in excess of twenty percent per year in some regions. The population is concentrated in the cities cut by the Belém-Brasília highway.

Located in the center of the country, Tocantins has become an important means of integration of the North, Northeast and Midwest regions. The north of the state can serve as a base for the population of the Amazon and a supplier of food to the northeastern region of the country. The south of Tocantins is influenced by Brasília, Goiânia and the south of Bahia. The main cities in the state are Araguaína, Gurupi, Palmas, Miracema do Tocantins and Porto Nacional.

In 2017, the population of Tocantins was made up of 1,550,194 inhabitants according to the IBGE.


Agriculture and Livestock

Subsistence cultures predominate in Tocantins. The main product is rice, with good prospects for development due to irrigation projects such as the Formoso River, in the south, connected to Belém-Brasília by 45 km of paved road. Followed by corn, beans and soy.

The construction of the Belém-Brasília highway boosted agriculture in the region, but the modernization of this economic sector, in the early 1990s, came up against the enormous concentration of land ownership in the state: less than ten percent of the number of rural properties corresponded to more than half of the area occupied by agricultural establishments.

The North-South railroad, designed to cut the poorest region of the state, the Tocantins valley, will cheapen the flow of production, with the consequent reduction in freight prices. In the Araguaia valley, the richest portion of the state, cattle breeding is concentrated, mainly for beef, and pork.


Among the mineral products of the state of Tocantins, the rock crystal stands out. There are also deposits of bauxite, limestone, cassiterite, plaster and gold, but the mineral potential remains untapped. The extraction of babassu, castor, pequi, Brazil nuts and hardwood (mahogany) is also of economic importance.


In 1986, of the ten thousand industries located in the former state of Goiás, only 726 were in the territory of the current Tocantins, and the majority processed food products. The industrialization index was, therefore, very low, but the creation of the new state attracted large companies to Araguaína – the main industrial center – and Gurupi.

The diversification of the Tocantins economy finds its main obstacles to the distance from the state in relation to the large consumer centers and the fragile local market. Industrial production is based on a few medium-sized companies and a large number of micro-enterprises. The main industrial activities are the manufacture of furniture, shackles, tiles, bricks, limestone, cement, light metallurgical products and wood for construction.


The hydroelectric potential of the state, not yet fully exploited, is concentrated in the basin of the rivers Araguaia and Tocantins. In the early 1990s, six hydroelectric plants, including Isamu Ikeda, Lajes and Lajeado, generated sixty percent of the energy that supplied the state. The Cachoeira Dourada plant, installed on the Paranaíba river (Itumbiara GO) is another important source of energy for the state.


The state of Tocantins is cut from north to south by the Belém-Brasília highway (BR-153 and BR-226, which reaches Estreito MA). By BR-320, unpaved, you have access to the Bico do Papagaio region, in the extreme north of the state. The other connections between the municipalities of the state are made by side roads, in precarious conditions of conservation. The Transamazônica crosses the extreme north of the state.


Cultural entities

The State University of Tocantins (Unitins) is divided into several regional centers. Porto Nacional hosts public health courses; Araguaína, that of veterinary medicine; Miracema, those of public administration and teacher training; Gurupi, those of the agricultural complex; and Palmas, engineering and technology courses.


Among the main monuments in the state of Tocantins are the cathedral of Nossa Senhora das Mercês, built in 1904 by the Dominican priests in Porto Nacional; the church of Nossa Senhora do Rosário dos Negros, in Natividade; and the church of Nossa Senhora da Consolação, built at the end of the 19th century, in Tocantinópolis.


The natural landscapes and historic cities stimulate the development of tourism in the state. The main attraction is the island of Bananal, the largest river island in the world, formed by a fork in the Araguaia River. With about 20,000 km2, a territory in which numerous rivers flow and which includes Lagoa Grande (one of the largest in Brazil), it has abundant fishing, which attracts tourists from the country and abroad.

The island is home to the Araguaia Indigenous Park, inhabited by Carajas and Java Indians, and, in the north, the Araguaia National Park, designed to preserve the local flora and fauna. The beaches of the Tocantins and Araguaia rivers and the Lagoa da Confusão, near Cristalândia, are other centers of attraction.

The main historic cities are Porto Nacional, Natividade and Monte do Carmo. Natividade is considered the cultural capital of the state and preserves in its houses and narrow streets traces of the architecture characteristic of the gold cycle (18th and 19th centuries). The state’s cultural tourism circuit also includes the Tenente mines, the aqueducts used to wash gold, the Chapada quilombo and some traditional festivals, such as the Senhor do Bonfim pilgrimage in Natividade.

Geography of Tocantins