A NEW MODEL FOR
BOOK OF MORMON GEOGRAPHY
By James Lee Warr
Criteria for the River Sidon.
It ran northward as it originated in the southern Nephite highlands (Alma 43:22).
It passed east of the City of Zarahemla (Alma 6:7).
It was shallow enough to be forded near the city of Zarahemla. (Alma 2:27,34)
It was large enough to carry the bodies of the dead Lamanites out to the sea. (Alma 3:3)
It was west of the hill Amnihu. (Alma 2:15)
It was west of the Valley of Gideon. (Alma 2:26; 6:7)
The City of Melek was to the west of the Sidon. (Alma 8:3)
The City of Manti was at the headwaters of the Sidon near the south wilderness. (Alma16:6-7; 22:27)
The head of the River Sidon extended into the south wilderness. (Alma 43:22)
It passed through the central part of the Land of Zarahemla.
It may not have been navigable as no river travel is mentioned in the text.
The proposed Sidon River would have been the modern Reventazon River in Costa Rica. This river, called the Suerre by the local Indians, was one of the major features in the Land of Zarahemla. Commenting on the rivers of Southern Central America, Tamayo (12) states "the streams of the Caribbean drainage in Costa Rica and Panama are composed of short but voluminous rivers that drain the steep windward side of the central highlands . . . .The Reventazon River, 155 kilometers long [93 miles], is the most important of the Caribbean streams in Costa Rica."
Its headwaters begin south of Cartago, at about the 10,000 foot elevation, in the rainforests of the Northern Talmancan Mountains. It crosses two thirds of the width of Costa Rica, generally running in a northeastly direction. It is not a "major" river, on the scale of world rivers, but was certainly big enough to meet the criteria for the Sidon. Kennedy (12) notes that this river "has long been used for communication [i.e. travel] between the Meseta Central and the Caribbean coast." The gradient of the Reventazon is quite steep resulting in many rapids. As a result normal long distance river travel is not possible. But river travel on the Sidon is not mentioned once in the Book of Mormon, implying that it was not practiced among the Nephites, so this actually lends support to the Reventazon.
Comparing the Reventazon River with the criteria for the River Sidon, it appears to fit the requirements. It is large enough, it travels in the right direction, and there are a number of archaeological sites along its course which date to the 200 B.C. period. If the location for the land of Zarahemla is correct, then this river should indeed be the Sidon.