While the main river is very open and like a highway (and not at all like the movies), the small tributaries are much more like what one expects of the jungle. They are also not at all like the movies, but in the opposite sense: left to themselves, they are typically so overgrown that navigation is very hard. Between falling trees and branches, and the dense vegetation, there is often not much room, unless (like the areas we visited) they are kept open on purpose.
The local version of a paddle is very different from what we are used to in North America. The blade is very short and comes to a fairly sharp point (the blade looks like a short squat leaf). It is short because the water is often very shallow, and the point is used to push off and also to dig into the mud on the bottom and sides to pull the canoe along.