Rio Grande (known in Mexico as the Río
Bravo del Norte, or simply Río Bravo) is
a river that forms part of the border between
States and Mexico.
long, it is the fourth-longest river system in the United States.
as a natural boundary along the border between the American state
of Texas and the
Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas as well as a very small stretch with fellow
American state New
Mexico between Doña Ana County, New Mexico and El Paso County, Texas.
Grande rises in the eastern part of the Rio Grande National Forest in the
American state of Colorado.
This river is formed by the joining of
several streams at the base of Canby
, just east of the Continental Divide
. From there, it flows
through the San Luis Valley, then
south into the state of New Mexico and passes through Espanola, Albuquerque and Las Cruces to El
Paso, Texas, where it
begins to form the natural border
between the United
States and Mexico. A major tributary, the Río Conchos, enters at Ojinaga,
Chihuahua, below El Paso, and supplies most of the water in
the Texas border segment. Other well-known tributaries include the
Pecos and the smaller Devils, which join the Rio Grande on
the site of Amistad
Despite its name and length, the Rio Grande
is not navigable by ocean-going ships, nor do smaller passenger
boats or cargo barges use it as a route. In fact it is barely
navigable at all, except by small fishing boats. The natural flow of
the Rio Grande is only 1/20 the volume of that of the Colorado River, and less than 1/100 of that of the Mississippi River.
was the border which the Republic of
Texas used between it and Mexico, but
Mexico considered the border to be the Nueces River.
The disagreement provided the excuse for
the US invasion of
in 1848, after Texas had been admitted as a state.
1848, the Rio Grande has marked the boundary between Mexico and the
United States from the twin cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, to the Gulf of Mexico.
As such, crossing the river was the escape
route used by some Texas slaves
freedom. Mexico had liberal colonization policies and had abolished
slavery in 1828.
Grande Creede.jpg|The Upper Rio Grande near Creede,
Colorado.File:Rio Grande White Rock Overlook Park
View 2006 09 05.jpg|View of the Rio Grande from Overlook Park,
international border crossings along the river are at Ciudad Juárez
and El Paso; Presidio,
Texas, and Ojinaga, Chihuahua; Laredo,
Texas, and Nuevo
Laredo, Tamaulipas; McAllen-Hidalgo, Texas, and Reynosa,
Tamaulipas; and Brownsville, Texas, and Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Other notable border towns are the Texas/Coahuila pairings of Del Rio–Ciudad Acuña and
The United States and Mexico share the water of the river under a
series of agreements administered by the joint US-Mexico Boundary
and Water Commission. The most notable of these treaties were
signed in 1906 and 1944.
that water belonging to the United States is regulated by the
Rio Grande Compact, an interstate
pact between Colorado, New
Mexico, and Texas.
water of the Rio Grande is over-appropriated: that is, there are
more users for the water than there is water in the river.
of both drought and overuse, the section from El Paso downstream
through Ojinaga was recently tagged "The Forgotten River" by those
wishing to bring attention to the river's deteriorated
In the summer of 2001, a 328-foot (100-meter) wide sandbar
formed at the mouth of the river, marking
the first time in recorded history that the Rio Grande failed to
empty into the Gulf of Mexico. The sandbar was subsequently
, but it re-formed almost
immediately. Spring rains the following year flushed the re-formed
sandbar out to sea, but it returned in the summer of 2002. As of
September 2006, the river once again reaches the Gulf.
The Rio Grande rises in high mountains and flows for much of its
length at high elevation; El Paso is above sea
. In New Mexico, the river flows through the Rio Grande Rift
from one sediment
-filled basin to another, cutting canyons
between the basins and supporting a fragile
ecosystem in its floodplain
. From El Paso eastward, the river
flows through desert
. Only in the sub-tropical
lower Rio Grande Valley
is there extensive
irrigated agriculture. The river ends in a small sandy delta at the Gulf of
Due to extended dry weather, the river has
only occasionally emptied into the Gulf Of Mexico since 2002.
Millions of years ago, the Rio Grande ended at the bottom of the
Rio Grande Rift in Lake Cabeza de
. About one million years ago
(mya), the stream was "captured"
began to flow east.
In 1997 the US designated the Rio Grande as one of the American Heritage Rivers
File:SandiaMtnNM.jpg|The Rio Grande at
New Mexico, with the Sandia
MountainsFile:Riogrande.jpg|The Rio Grande flowing in
National Park.File:Matamoros008.JPG|The Rio Grande in its
lower course, between Matamoros (right) and Brownsville (left)
Names and pronunciation
for "Big River" and
means "Great River of the North". In English
, Rio Grande is pronounced either or
. Because "río" means "river" in Spanish, the phrase "Rio Grande
River" is redundant.
In Mexico it is known as Río Bravo or , " " meaning "fierce" or
"brave". A city on its banks in Mexico bears its name
Tamaulipas) and is located east of Reynosa,
Tamaulipas, and directly across from the Texas city of
Historically, the Pueblo
and Navajo peoples
also had names for the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo:
- mets'ichi chena, Keresan, "Big River"
- posoge, Tewa, "Big
- paslápaane, Tiwa, "Big
- , Towa, "Great Waters"
The four Pueblo names likely predated the Spanish
by several centuries.
Rio del Norte
- , Navajo, "Female River" (the
direction south is female in Navajo cosmology)
was most commonly used for the upper Rio
Grande (roughly, within the present-day borders of New Mexico) from
times to the end
of the Mexican period in the mid-19th century. This use was first
documented by the Spanish in 1582. Early American settlers in
began to use the modern
'English' name Rio Grande
. By the late 19th century, in the United
States, the name Rio Grande had become standard in being applied to
the entire river, from Colorado to the sea.
By 1602, Rio Bravo
had become the standard Spanish name
for the lower river, below its confluence with the Rio Conchos
- Paul Horgan, Great River: The Rio Grande in North American
History. Volume 1, Indians and Spain. Vol. 2, Mexico and the
United States. 2 Vols. in 1, 1038 pages - Wesleyan University Press
1991, 4th Reprint, ISBN 0-8195-6251-3
- IBWC: Treaties Between the U.S. and Mexico
- "Rio Grande Sucked Dry for Irrigation,
Industry", CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS, (Aired June 9,
- Google Satellite Map of Rio Grande and surrounding
- Source for historical names: Carroll L. Riley, 1995, Rio
del Norte, University of Utah Press. ISBN 0874804965