Some soils from the western Amazon region contain KCl-extractable Al contents 5 to 10 times greater than is typical for highly weathered soils containing predominantly kaolinite and gibbsite. We studied a soil sequence from the Brazilian western Amazon consisting of two Typic Udifluvents on the levee of the Javari River, one Aeric Endoaquent in the backswamp, and two Typic Hapludults on an adjacent terrace. We used wet chemical and X-ray diffraction (XRD) analysis to characterize several size fractions of the 0 to 0.2 m layer of the soils. The exchangeable Al content was very high in the Aquent and Udults (up to 180 mmolc kg−1), but the ‘total’ Fe content was low in all samples (<60 g kg−1). Smectite, vermiculite, hydroxy-interlayered smectite and kaolinite dominate the fine silt and clay fractions of all soils. The Fluvents contain illite in all size fractions and chlorite in the coarse clay and fine silt fractions. The Aquent and Udults have no chlorite, and small amounts of illite occur only in the coarse clay and fine silt fractions. Lepidocrocite was identified in the Aquent. Chlorite, which occurs in the sand, fine silt, and coarse clay fractions of the Fluvents, and pyrophyllite, which occurs in the fine silt fractions of all soils and in the coarse clay of the two Ultisols, appears to be inherited from the parent sediments. The hydroxy-interlayered 2:1 phyllosilicates that form as a result of weathering are the cause of the very high exchangeable Al contents.