The distributions of forest and deforestation throughout the tropics are poorly known despite their importance to regional biodiversity and global climate and biodiversity. Deforestation estimates based on surveys or sampling have large errors, and high-resolution, wall-to-wall mapping of tropical forests is necessary to assess the impacts of fragmentation. Landsat satellite images from the mid-1980s and early 1990s were thus used to map closed-canopy tropical forest extent and anthropogenic deforestation in an approximately 700 000 km2 area of Amazonian Bolivia with precipitation >1000 mm yr−1. Total potential forest cover extent, including tropical deciduous forest, was 448 700 km2, while the area of natural non-forest formations was 245 100 km2. The area deforested was 15 500 km2 in the mid-1980s and 24 700 km2 by the early 1990s. The rate of tropical deforestation in the forest zone of Bolivia with >1000 mm yr−1 precipitation below 1500 m elevation and north of 19° S, was 1529 km2 yr−1 from 1985–1986 to 1992–1994. Our estimates of deforestation are significantly lower than those reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). We document a spatially-concentrated ‘deforestation zone’ in Santa Cruz where >60% of the Bolivian deforestation has occurred. These results indicate that the rate of deforestation in Bolivia has been rapid despite a relatively small human population, and, as in Brazil, clearance has concentrated in the more deciduous forests.