The Rio Grande (/ˈriːoʊ ˈɡrænd/ or /ˈriːoʊ ˈɡrɑːndeɪ/; Spanish: Río Bravo del Norte, Spanish pronunciation: [ˈri.o ˈβɾaβo ðel ˈnoɾte] (listen) or simply Río Bravo) is one of the principal rivers (along with the Colorado River) in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The Rio Grande begins in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way, it forms part of the Mexico–United States border. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles (3,051 km) in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. Depending on how it is measured, the Rio Grande is either the fourth- or fifth-longest river system in North America.
The river serves as part of the natural border between the U.S. state of Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas. A very short stretch of the river serves as part of the boundary between the U.S. states of Texas and New Mexico. Since the mid–20th century, heavy water consumption by farms and cities along with many large diversion dams on the river has left only 20% of its natural discharge to flow to the Gulf. Near the river's mouth, the heavily irrigated lower Rio Grande Valley is an important agricultural region.
The Rio Grande's watershed covers 182,200 square miles (472,000 km2). Many endorheic basins are situated within, or adjacent to, the Rio Grande's basin, and these are sometimes included in the river basin's total area, increasing its size to about 336,000 square miles (870,000 km2).
Río Bravo del Norte, Tooh Baʼáadii (in Navajo), Kótsoi (in Jicarilla Apache)
The Rio Grande at Big Bend National Park,
on the Mexico–U.S. border
Map of the Rio Grande drainage basin
|Country||United States, Mexico|
|State||Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, Tamaulipas|
|Source||Canby Mountain, Continental Divide|
|- location||San Juan Mountains, Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado, United States|
|- elevation||12,000 ft (3,700 m)|
|Mouth||Gulf of Mexico|
|Cameron County, Texas; Matamoros, Tamaulipas|
|0 ft (0 m)|
|Length||1,896 mi (3,051 km)|
|Basin size||182,200 sq mi (472,000 km2)|
|- location||Eagle Pass, Texas/Piedras Negras, Coahuila|
|- average||2,403 cu ft/s (68.0 m3/s)|
|- minimum||24 cu ft/s (0.68 m3/s)|
|- maximum||964,000 cu ft/s (27,300 m3/s)|
|- left||Red River, Rio Hondo, Rio Pueblo de Taos, Embudo River, Santa Fe River, Galisteo Creek, Alamito Creek, Terlingua Creek, Pecos River, Devils River|
|- right||Conejos River, Rio Chama, Jemez River, Rio Puerco, Rio Conchos, Rio Salado, Rio Alamo, San Juan River|
The Rio Grande rises in the western part of the Rio Grande National Forest in the U.S. state of Colorado. The river is formed by the joining of several streams at the base of Canby Mountain in the San Juan Mountains, just east of the Continental Divide. From there, it flows through the San Luis Valley, then south into the Middle Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico, passing through the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, then toward Española, and picking up additional water from the San Juan-Chama Diversion Project from the Rio Chama. It then continues on a southerly route through the desert cities of Albuquerque and Las Cruces to El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. In the Albuquerque area, the river flows past a number of historic Pueblo villages, including Sandia Pueblo and Isleta Pueblo. Below El Paso, it serves as part of the border between the United States and Mexico.
The official river border measurement ranges from 889 miles (1,431 km) to 1,248 miles (2,008 km), depending on how the river is measured. A major tributary, the Rio Conchos, enters at Ojinaga, Chihuahua, below El Paso, and supplies most of the water in the border segment. Other tributaries include the Pecos and the smaller Devils, which join the Rio Grande on the site of Amistad Dam. 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. It is barely navigable at all, except by small boats in a few places; at its deepest point, the river's depth is 60 feet (18 m).
The Rio Grande rises in high mountains and flows for much of its length at high elevation; Albuquerque is 5,312 feet (1,619 m), and El Paso 3,762 feet (1,147 m) above sea level. 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 bosque ecosystem on its flood plain. From El Paso eastward, the river flows through desert. Although irrigated agriculture exists throughout most of its stretch, it is particularly extensive in the subtropical Lower Rio Grande Valley. The river ends in a small, sandy delta at the Gulf of Mexico. During portions of 2001 and 2002, the mouth of the Rio Grande was blocked by a sandbar. In the fall of 2003, the sandbar was cleared by high river flows around 7,063 cubic feet per second (200 m3/s).
Navigation was active during much of the 19th century, with over 200 different steamboats operating between the river's mouth close to Brownsville and Rio Grande City, Texas. Many steamboats from the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers were requisitioned by the U.S. government and moved to the Rio Grande during the Mexican–American War in 1846. They provided transport for the U.S. Army, under General Zachary Taylor, to invade Monterrey, Nuevo León, via Camargo Municipality, Tamaulipas. Army engineers recommended that with small improvements, the river could easily be made navigable as far north as El Paso. Those recommendations were never acted upon.
The Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge, a large swing bridge, dates back to 1910 and is still in use today by automobiles connecting Brownsville with Matamoros, Tamaulipas. The swing mechanism has not been used since the early 1900s, though, when the last of the big steamboats disappeared. At one point, the bridge also had rail traffic. Railroad trains no longer use this bridge. A new rail bridge (West Rail International Crossing) connecting the U.S. and Mexico was built about 15 miles west of the Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge. It was inaugurated in August 2015. It moved all rail operations out of downtown Brownsville and Matamoros. The West Rail International Crossing is the first new international rail crossing between the U.S. and Mexico in 105 years. The Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge is now operated by the Brownsville and Matamoros Bridge Company, a joint venture between the Mexican government and the Union Pacific Railroad.
At the mouth of the Rio Grande, on the Mexican side, was the large commercial port of Bagdad, Tamaulipas. During the American Civil War, this was the only legitimate port of the Confederacy. European warships anchored offshore to maintain the port's neutrality, and managed to do so successfully throughout that conflict, despite occasional stare-downs with blockading ships from the US Navy. It was a shallow-draft river port, with several smaller vessels that hauled cargo to and from the deeper-draft cargo ships anchored off shore. These deeper-draft ships could not cross the shallow sandbar at the mouth of the river. The port's commerce was European military supplies, in exchange for bales of cotton.
During the late 1830s and early 1840s, the river marked the disputed border between Mexico and the nascent Republic of Texas; Mexico marked the border at the Nueces River. The disagreement provided part of the rationale for the US invasion of Mexico in 1846, after Texas had been admitted as a new state. Since 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 Texan slaves to seek freedom. Mexico had liberal colonization policies and had abolished slavery in 1828.
In 1899, after a gradual change to the river position, a channel was dug for flood control which moved the river, creating what was called Cordova Island, which became the center of the Chamizal dispute. Resolving the dispute took many years and almost resulted in a 1909 combined assassination attempt on the American and Mexican presidents.
In 1944, the US and Mexico signed a treaty regarding the river, and in 1997, the US designated the Rio Grande as one of the American Heritage Rivers. Two portions of the Rio Grande are designated National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, one in northern New Mexico and the other in Texas, at Big Bend National Park.
In mid-2001, a 328-foot (100 m)-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 dredged, but reformed almost immediately. Spring rains the following year flushed the reformed sandbar out to sea, but it returned in mid-2002. By late 2003, the river once again reached the Gulf.
The United States and Mexico share the water of the river under a series of agreements administered by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), US-Mexico. The most notable of these treaties were signed in 1906 and 1944. The IBWC traces its institutional roots to 1889, when the International Boundary Committee was established to maintain the border. The IBWC today also allocates river waters between the two nations, and provides for flood control and water sanitation.
Use of that water belonging to the United States is regulated by the Rio Grande Compact, an interstate pact between Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. The water of the Rio Grande is over-appropriated: that is, more users for the water exist than water in the river. Because 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 condition.
Dams on the Rio Grande include Rio Grande Dam, Cochiti Dam, Elephant Butte Dam, Caballo Dam, Amistad Dam, Falcon Dam, Anzalduas Dam, and Retamal Dam. In southern New Mexico and the upper portion of the Texas border segment, the river's discharge dwindles. Diversions, mainly for agricultural irrigation, have increased the natural decrease in flow such that by the time the river reaches Presidio, little or no water is left. Below Presidio, the Rio Conchos restores the flow of water. Near Presidio, the river's discharge is frequently zero. Its average discharge is 178 cubic feet per second (5 m3/s), down from 945 cubic feet per second (27 m3/s) at Elephant Butte Dam. Supplemented by other tributaries, the Rio Grande's discharge increases to its maximum annual average of 3,504 cubic feet per second (99 m3/s) near Rio Grande City. Large diversions for irrigation below Rio Grande City reduce the river's average flow to 889 cubic feet per second (25 m3/s) at Brownsville and Matamoros.
The major international border crossings along the river are at Ciudad Juárez and El Paso; Presidio and Ojinaga; Laredo and Nuevo Laredo; McAllen and Reynosa; and Brownsville and Matamoros. Other notable border towns are the Texas/Coahuila pairings of Del Rio–Ciudad Acuña and Eagle Pass–Piedras Negras.
Río Grande is Spanish for "Big River" and Río Grande del Norte means "Great River of the North". In English, Rio Grande is pronounced either /ˈriːoʊ ˈɡrænd/ or /ˈriːoʊ ˈɡrɑːndeɪ/. Because río means "river" in Spanish, the phrase Rio Grande River is redundant.
In Mexico, it is known as Río Bravo or Río Bravo del Norte, bravo meaning (among other things) "furious" or "agitated".
Historically, the Pueblo and Navajo peoples also had names for the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo:
Rio del Norte was most commonly used for the upper Rio Grande (roughly, within the present-day borders of New Mexico) from Spanish colonial 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 South Texas 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, Río Bravo had become the standard Spanish name for the lower river, below its confluence with the Rio Conchos.
In some places the depth of the river has varied from nearly 60 feet (18 metres) to a bare trickle or nothing.
The Campeonato Gaúcho Série A1, commonly known as Campeonato Gaúcho, is the top flight professional football league in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The league is contested between 14 clubs and typically lasts from January to April. Rivalries amongst two of the most well-known Brazilian teams (Grêmio and Internacional) has marked the history of the competition. The "Gauchão", as the tournament is popularly known, had its first edition held in 1919.
The current champions are Grêmio, who won their 38th title ever in the 2019 season.Cerrito, Rio Grande do Sul
Cerrito is a Brazilian municipality in the southern part of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The population is 6,481 (2015 est.) in an area of 451.70 km². The municipality was formed in 1997 from part of the municipality Pedro Osório.Chuí
Chuí (Portuguese pronunciation: [ʃuˈi]) is a municipality located in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. A border town, it shares its name with sister city Chuy, Uruguay. The two towns constitute one contiguous urban area, divided by a border street called Avenida Internacional, a situation also seen in a few other Brazilian border points, such as between Santana do Livramento (Brazil) and Rivera (Uruguay).
Formerly a village under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Santa Vitória do Palmar, Chuí became the southernmost municipality in Brazil in 1997, when it seceded. It is very close to Brazil's southernmost point, located on a bend of the homonymous river just before its mouth on the Atlantic Ocean, near the hamlet of Barra do Chuí. Both the hamlet and the extreme point itself remained in the territory of Santa Vitória do Palmar after Chuí seceded. Still, Chuí holds the title of the southernmost urban seat of a municipality in Brazil. Its counterparts in the North, West and East are respectively Uiramutã, state of Roraima; Mâncio Lima, Acre; and João Pessoa, Paraíba.
The name "Chuí" (derived from the Arroio Chuí, a small river that runs through the municipality) is mentioned in the widespread Brazilian Portuguese expression "do Oiapoque ao Chuí" ("from the Oiapoque to the Chuí [rivers]"), referring to the fact that the mouths of these rivers are commonly thought to be the country's two extreme points in the North and South. Actually, they are only the extremities of the Brazilian coast. The saying has approximately the same meaning as the American expression "from coast to coast" - i.e., it is used to refer to something that encompasses the whole country.
Chuí has a sizeable community of Palestinian Brazilians.Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad
The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (reporting mark DRGW), often shortened to Rio Grande, D&RG or D&RGW, formerly the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, was an American Class I railroad company. The railroad started as a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge line running south from Denver, Colorado in 1870. It served mainly as a transcontinental bridge line between Denver, and Salt Lake City, Utah. The Rio Grande was also a major origin of coal and mineral traffic.
The Rio Grande was the epitome of mountain railroading, with a motto of Through the Rockies, not around them and later Main line through the Rockies, both referring to the Rocky Mountains.
The D&RGW operated the highest mainline rail line in the United States, over the 10,240 feet (3,120 m) Tennessee Pass in Colorado, and the famed routes through the Moffat Tunnel and the Royal Gorge. At its height in the mid-1880s, the D&RG had the largest narrow-gauge railroad network in North America with 2,783 miles (4,479 km) of track interconnecting the states of Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Known for its independence, the D&RGW operated the Rio Grande Zephyr until its discontinuation in 1983. This was the last private intercity passenger train in the United States until Brightline (now Virgin Trains USA) began service in Florida in 2018.
In 1988, the Rio Grande's parent corporation, Rio Grande Industries, purchased Southern Pacific Transportation Company, and as the result of a merger, the larger Southern Pacific Railroad name was chosen for identity. The Rio Grande operated as a separate division of the Southern Pacific, until that company was acquired by the Union Pacific Railroad. Today, most former D&RGW main lines are owned and operated by the Union Pacific while several branch lines are now operated as heritage railways by various companies.Jari, Rio Grande do Sul
Jari is a municipality of the western part of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The population is 3,655 (2015 est.) in an area of 856.46 km². Its elevation is 441 m. It is located west of the state capital of Porto Alegre, northeast of Alegrete.Pedro Osório
Pedro Osório is a Brazilian municipality in the southeastern part of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The population is 8,011 (2015 est.) in an area of 608.79 km². The municipality was founded on April 3, 1958 from parts of the municipalities of Canguçú and Arroio Grande. Cerrito was separated in 1997.The municipality is by the Piratini River. Its population is largely of Italian and Lebanese descent.Rio Grande, Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande (lit. "Great River") is a municipality (município) and one of the oldest cities in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. It was the state capital from 1835 to 1845. It is the most important port city in the state and has one of the most important maritime ports in Brazil.
The city is named after a nearby channel which indirectly connects the Lagoa dos Patos, to the northeast, and Lagoa Mirim, to the west, with the Atlantic Ocean. The municipality is bordered by Santa Vitória do Palmar on the south and Pelotas on the north, which lies across the São Gonçalo Channel.
The city built up its wealth over the course of its long history of strong industrial movements. Today it is still one of the richest cities in Rio Grande do Sul, mainly because of its port, the second busiest in Brazil, and its refinery, which processes Ipiranga petroleum.
The city is served by Rio Grande Airport.Rio Grande City, Texas
Rio Grande City is a city in and the county seat of Starr County, Texas. The population was 13,834 at the 2010 census. The city is 41 miles (66 km) west of McAllen. The city also holds the March record high for the United States at 108 degrees Fahrenheit. The city is connected to Camargo, Tamaulipas, via the Rio Grande City–Camargo International Bridge.Rio Grande County, Colorado
Rio Grande County is one of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,982. The county seat is Del Norte. The county is named for the Rio Grande (Spanish language for "Big River"), which flows through the county.Rio Grande National Forest
Rio Grande National Forest is a 1.86 million-acre (7,530 km²) U.S. National Forest located in southwestern Colorado. The forest encompasses the San Luis Valley, which is the world's largest agricultural alpine valley, as well as one of the world's largest high deserts located around mountains. The Rio Grande river rises in the forest, and the Continental Divide runs along most of its western border. The forest lies in parts of nine counties. In descending order of land area within the forest they are Saguache, Mineral, Conejos, Rio Grande, Hinsdale, San Juan, Alamosa, Archuleta, and Custer counties. Forest headquarters are located in Monte Vista, Colorado. There are local ranger district offices in Del Norte, La Jara, and Saguache.Rio Grande Valley
The Rio Grande Valley is an area located in the southernmost tip of South Texas. It lies along the northern bank of the Rio Grande, which separates Mexico from the United States. The four-county region consists of Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy, and Starr counties. It is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States, with its population having jumped from about 325,000 people in 1969 to more than 1,300,000 people by 2014.
Some of the biggest cities in the region are: Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco, Pharr, McAllen, Edinburg, Mission, San Juan, and Rio Grande City.Rio Grande Valley FC Toros
Rio Grande Valley FC Toros is an American professional soccer team based in Edinburg, Texas operated by Lone Star, LLC. They joined the USL Championship in the 2016 season. Lone Star has the same ownership team as the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Gatorade League with Alonzo Cantu as majority owner.
The team serves as a hybrid affiliate of the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer. Chris Canetti, Houston Dynamo president, called the relationship "an important and necessary step." The hybrid affiliation, a first for the USL, means that the Dynamo will be responsible for the soccer operation of the club, selecting players and coaching staff. The ownership group, Lone Star, will be responsible for operations and day-to-day management of the club.Rio Grande Valley Vipers
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers are an American professional basketball team of the NBA G League. They play their home games at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg, Texas. With three D-League titles in 2010, 2013, and 2019, the Vipers are the most successful team in the league's history.
The Vipers entered a single-partnership affiliation agreement with the Houston Rockets during the 2009–10 season. Previously, they were also affiliated with the Cleveland Cavaliers for 2007–08 and the New Orleans Hornets from 2007 to 2009.Rio Grande do Norte
Rio Grande do Norte (UK: , US: , Portuguese: [ˈʁiw ˈɡɾɐ̃dʒi du ˈnɔʁtʃi]; lit. "Great Northern River", in reference to the mouth of the Potengi River) is one of the states of Brazil, located in the northeastern region of the country, occupying the northeasternmost tip of the South American continent. Because of its geographic position, Rio Grande do Norte has a strategic importance. The capital and largest city is Natal. It is the land of the folklorist Luís da Câmara Cascudo and, according to NASA, it has the purest air in the Americas. Its 410 km (254 mi) of sand, much sun, coconut palms and lagoons are responsible for the fame of beaches. Rocas Atoll, the only such feature in the Atlantic Ocean, is part of the state. The main economic activity is tourism, followed by the extraction of petroleum (the second largest producer in the country), agriculture, fruit growing and extraction of minerals, including considerable production of seasalt, among other economic activities. The state is famous for having many popular attractions such as the Cashew of Pirangi (the world's largest cashew tree), the dunes and the dromedaries of Genipabu, the famous beaches of Ponta Negra, Maracajaú and Pipa's paradise, the Carnatal the largest off-season carnival in Brazil, the Forte dos Reis Magos is a sixteenth-century fortress, the hills and mountains of Martins, the Natal Dunes State Park the second largest urban park in the country, and several other attractions. The state is also closest to the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha.Rio Grande do Sul
Rio Grande do Sul (UK: , US: , Portuguese: [ˈʁiw ˈɡɾɐ̃dʒi du ˈsuw] (listen); lit. "Great Southern River") is a state in the southern region of Brazil. It is the fifth-most-populous state and the ninth largest by area. Located in the southernmost part of the country, Rio Grande do Sul is bordered clockwise by Santa Catarina to the north and northeast, the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the Uruguayan departments of Rocha, Treinta y Tres, Cerro Largo, Rivera and Artigas to the south and southwest, and the Argentine provinces of Corrientes and Misiones to the west and northwest. The capital and largest city is Porto Alegre. The state has the highest life expectancy in Brazil, and the crime rate is relatively low.Despite the high standard of living, unemployment is still high and according to census data, it is one of the most difficult states in Brazil for foreigners to find jobs.The state has a gaucho culture like its foreign neighbors. It was originally inhabited by Guarani people. The first Europeans there were Jesuits, followed by settlers from the Azores. In the 19th century it was the scene of conflicts including the Farroupilha Revolution and the Paraguayan War. Large waves of German and Italian migration have shaped the state.Starr County, Texas
Starr County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, its population was 60,968. Its county seat is Rio Grande City. The county was created in 1848. It is named for James Harper Starr, who served as Secretary of the Treasury of the Republic of Texas.
Starr County comprises the Rio Grande City, TX Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the McAllen-Edinburg, TX Combined Statistical Area, which itself is part of the larger Rio Grande Valley region. It is northeast from the Mexican border.São Miguel das Missões
São Miguel das Missões is a municipality in Rio Grande do Sul state, southern Brazil. Important 17th century Spanish Jesuit mission ruins are located in the municipality. San Miguel Mission is within Sant'Angelo Microregion, and the Riograndense Northwest Mesoregion. The city covers 1,246 square kilometres (481 sq mi) and had a population of 7,682 resident.São Nicolau, Rio Grande do Sul
São Nicolau (Portuguese meaning Saint Nicholas) is a municipality of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. The population is 5,732 (2015 est.) in an area of 485.32 km². It is located 562 km west of the state capital of Porto Alegre, northeast of Alegrete. The Uruguay River, which forms the border with Argentina, flows along the northwestern part of the municipality.
The municipality would be partially flooded by the proposed Garabí Dam.Turuçu
Turuçu is a Brazilian municipality in the southeastern part of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. It is nicknamed the National Capital of the Chili Pepper (Capital Nacional da Pimenta Vermelha). The population is 3,596 (2015 est.) in an area of 253.64 km². The name comes from a local Native American language. It lies close to the Lagoa dos Patos, a lagoon connected with the Atlantic Ocean.
|Tributary||Average discharge||Drainage basin|
|cu ft/s||m3/s||sq mi||km2|
|San Juan River||368||10||12,950||33,500|
|Rio Salado||354||10.0||23,323||60,400 |
|Rio San Rodrigo||130||3.68||1,050||2,720|
|Santa Fe River||10.9||0.31||231||598.3|