Map that the Rio Grande Watershed.

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Originsouthern Colorado, in Hinsdale CountyMouthGulf that Mexico; Cameron County, Texas, and Matamoros municipality, TamaulipasBasin countriesUnited States, MexicoLength3,034 km (1,885 mi)<1>Source elevation3,900 m (12,800 ft)Avg. Dischargeaverages 160m³/secBasin area607,965 km² (234,737 sq mi)

Known as the Rio Grande in the united States and as the Río Bravo (and more formally together Río Bravo del Norte) in Mexico. The flow flows generally southward for 1,885 miles (3,034 km). The is the fourth longest river system in the unified States and the fifth longest in north America. Worldwide, it is registered together the 20th longest. The river rises together a snowfall fed mountain stream 3,900 m (12,800 ft) above sea level in Colorado"s mountain Juan Mountains, in the Rocky hill range. Originating in a cold steppe climate, the descends through the Southwestern United states desert prior to watering rich farming regions near its mouth in ~ the Gulf of Mexico.

The Rio Grande serves together a major part the the worldwide border in between the joined States and Mexico separating 1,254 miles (2,018 km) that the 1,950 miles (3,138 km) border. The boundary complies with the center of the Rio Grande, follow to the 1848 contract of Guadalupe Hidalgo, "along the deepest channel" from its mouth ~ above the Gulf the Mexico to a allude just upstream that El Paso and Ciudad Juárez.

Cities of the Rio Grande encompass Albuquerque, new Mexico, and the Texas cities of El Paso, Laredo, and Brownsville. Juarez is the most significant city top top the Mexican side of the river.


A 191.2 miles (308 km) segment the the Rio Grande to be designated a Wild and Scenic river in 1978. This stretch starts in big Bend nationwide Park, continues through isolated, rough canyons and also the Chihuahuan Desert, and flows through several of the most an important wildlife habitat in the country. In 1997, the whole river to be designated an American heritage River. This designations offer defense to the river"s environment and natural resources.

Names and also pronunciation

Río Grande is Spanish because that "Big River" and Río Grande del Norte way "Great river of the North." due to the fact that "río" way "river" in Spanish, the phrase "Rio Grande River" is redundant.

In Mexico the flow is recognized as Río Bravo or Río Bravo del Norte, "bravo" meaning "fierce" or "brave." over there is a city follow me its financial institutions that bear its surname (Río Bravo, Tamaulipas) situated 10 miles eastern of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, and directly throughout from the Texas city that Donna.

Historically, the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo has actually been called:

mets"ichi chena, Keresan, "Big River"posoge, Tewa, "Big River"paslápaane, Tiwa, "Big River"hañapakwa, Towa, "Great Waters"tó ba-ade, Navajo, "Female River" (the direction south is woman in Navajo cosmology)

Rio del Norte was the most usual name because that the top Rio Grande (roughly, in ~ the present-day borders of new Mexico) native Spanish early american times come the end of the Mexican period in the mid-nineteenth century. Its usage was first documented in 1582. The use of the modern English name Rio Grande began with the at an early stage American inhabitants in southern Texas. By the late nineteenth century, the name Rio Grande because that the whole river, indigenous come the sea, had end up being standard in the joined States.

Rio Bravo had come to be the traditional Spanish surname for the reduced river, below its confluence v the Rio Conchos, through 1602.

Geography


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The Rio Grande rises in the east Rio Grande National forest in the U.S. State of Colorado. That is formed by the joining of several streams at the base of Canby Mountain, just eastern of the continent divide. Indigenous there, that flows through the mountain Luis Valley, then forms the Rio Grande Gorge and also White absent Canyon the northern new Mexico.

In brand-new Mexico, the flow flows with the Rio Grande Rift from one sediment-filled container to another, cutting canyons in between the basins and also supporting a fragile bosque ecosystem in that floodplain. The flows with the cities of Albuquerque and also Las Cruces then right into Texas. It is in this stretch the the change from a cold steppe climate through a vegetation that juniper, piñon pine, and also sagebrush come a hot steppe and desert climate identified by cactus, creosote bush, mesquite, yucca, and other desert flora occurs.

At the city the El Paso it starts to form the border in between the joined States and also Mexico. Here the flow cuts three canyons between 1,500 and 1,700 feet in depth throughout the faulted area populated by the “big bend,” where the Texas next of the flow comprises the huge Bend nationwide Park. From El Paso eastward the river flows sluggishly through desert and into a abundant delta wherein it empties into the Gulf the Mexico. Only in the sub-tropical reduced Rio Grande valley is there substantial irrigated agriculture.

A significant tributary, the Río Conchos, enters at Ojinaga, Chihuahua, below El Paso, and also supplies many of the water in the 1,254 miles (2,018 km) Texas border segment. Other well-known tributaries include the Pecos and also the smaller Devils Rivers, which sign up with the Rio Grande top top the site of Amistad Dam. The Chama and also Puerco Rivers are additional U.S. Tributaries, and the Salado and San Juan Rivers circulation into the Rio Bravo in Mexico.

The Rio Grande"s watershed has 336,000 square miles (870,000 square km). Due to the fact that much the the basin is arid or semiarid, only around 176,000 sq mi in reality contributes come the river’s flow.

Exploration


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A European exploration to the Gulf that Mexico coast arisen in 1519, and also while it is thought they must have seen the Rio Grande, the maps created on that trip showed only nameless indentations to note the mouths of rivers. The very first time the name Río Bravo showed up was ~ above a 1536 map compiled by a imperial Spanish cartographer. Approximately the exact same time, the shipwrecked Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and also three companions overcome the Rio Grande. While the is particular they crossed the Rio, the vagueness of Vaca’s records makes it difficult to pinpoint wherein the cross occurred. Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led an expedition in 1540 to uncover the rumored affluent cities to the phibìc of Mexico, which lugged him to the Pecos river area in modern-day brand-new Mexico, wherein he discovered various Pueblo Indian communities.

In-depth expedition of the Rio Grande basin did not occur until simply prior come mining and farming settlements that the late sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries. The earliest settlements began in 1563 in what is currently the mexico state the Chihuahua. This were complied with by negotiations in the top Rio Grande area in 1598 (now brand-new Mexico), and also finally in 1749 along the lower Rio Grande.

Juan Bautista de Anza explored the Rio Grande right into the san Luis Valley, not far from the source. However, this 1779 expedition"s maps and papers have remained unpublished in the miscellaneous archives that the Spanish government. Because of this, historians have actually tended to reference the later expeditions of Zebulon Pike in 1807 and also John C. Frémont in 1848–1849 in the upper Rio Grande area.

Careful clinical study the the river commenced just in 1853 as soon as a joint international boundary commission started its fieldwork. Both Mexican and American surveyors took part in this work.

International border


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The worldwide border in between the unified States and also Mexico extends for 3,138 kilometres (1,950 miles). Of this, 1,254 miles (2,018 km) adheres to the center of the Rio Grande—according to the 1848 contract of Guadalupe Hidalgo in between the 2 nations, "along the deepest channel"—from its mouth on the Gulf of Mexico to a point just upstream of El Paso and also Ciudad Juárez.

With the exemption of a small number of minor border disputes, because settled, the current course the the border to be finalized by the contract of Guadalupe Hidalgo and also the 1853 Gadsden Purchase. One earlier commitment signed throughout the Mexican war of self-reliance by the joined States and also Imperial Spain, was the 1819 Adams-Onís Treaty, which identified the border between the republic and the colonial empire adhering to the Louisiana purchase of 1804. Even if it is the border between Mexico and also the breakaway Republic of Texas adhered to the Rio Grande or the Nueces River more north was an issue never cleared up during the existence of that Republic, and also the apprehension was one of the direct reasons of the 1846−1848 Mexican–American War.

Due come the river transforming course numerous times in videotaped history, a number of border disputes, both international and between individual U.S. Says developed:

The Chamizal to be a discussed parcel that land in between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. This conflict was addressed by treaty in 1963.The Ojinaga cut was a discussed parcel that land between Presidio, Texas, and Ojinaga, Chihuahua. This conflict was resolved by contract in 1970.The Horcon Tract was a package of land that consisted of the city of Rio Rico, Texas, which was accidentally inserted under Mexican administration because the an irrigation change. This issue, which was technically not a dispute due to the fact that both sides to be in agreement about its legitimate status, was resolved by treaty ceding the land come Mexico in 1970, however the main handover did no take location until 1977.

The major international border crossings follow me the river are Ciudad Juárez—El Paso; Presidio, Texas—Ojinaga, Chihuahua; Laredo, Texas—Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas; McAllen-Hidalgo, Texas—Reynosa, Tamaulipas; and Brownsville, Texas—Matamoros, Tamaulipas. Other significant border towns space the Texas/Coahuila pairings of Del Rio—Ciudad Acuña and also Eagle Pass—Piedras Negras.

The joined States and Mexico share the waters that this flow under a collection of agreements administered by an global body formed in 1889, recognized as the worldwide Boundary and also Water Commission. That was created by the Convention the 1889, and given its current name under a 1944 Treaty. Under these agreements, the IBWC has a U.S. Section and also a mexican section, headquartered in the adjoining cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. The U.S. Section is administered by the United says Department that State; the Mexican component by the Secretariat of foreign Relations of Mexico. Its function is to administer the numerous boundary and water-rights treaties and agreements between the 2 nations.

While Canada has long been recognized as the primary location for fleeing servants who offered the secret Railroad, the size and accessibility of this border make it one more crossing point. Plenty of enslaved blacks fled end the west Texas mountains and deserts and also crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico, seek haven in that nation"s liberal emigration policies and abolitionist stance.<2>

Concerns


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The Rio Grande container has been irrigated since prehistoric times, many notably amongst the ancestors that the Pueblo ind in what is now brand-new Mexico. In modern-day times the reduced Rio Grande an ar has to be adversely influenced by usage of waters upstream. As populace has increased, and together with it the use of water, a number of treaties have been established. These include:

The Pecos flow Compact of 1948 between new Mexico and also Texas, applies to the Pecos River and its tributaries in West Texas (above Girvin). The high quality of water beginning Texas affects Texas users all the means to Amistad Reservoir top top the Rio Grande.

Typically every one of the average yearly production (more than 3 million acre-feet) in the top Rio Grande is consumed within this subbasin, consisting of the 60,000 acre-feet allotted by treaty to Mexico. There are stretches follow me the reduced river which have at times had no surface ar flow. The depth has actually varied from nearly 60 feet (18 m) come a bare trickle or nothing. This has led to a stretch the the flow from ft Quitman to Amistad Dam gift nicknamed the "Forgotten River." early on accounts the the river current it together being "wide" and "copious," with backwater sloughs replenished by periodic floods. In recent years this stretch that river has actually periodically dwindled come a trickle of salty water. In April 2003, the flow dried up through big Bend nationwide Park"s Mariscal Canyon. This is because of both agricultural irrigation and also the results of an invasive species, the saltcedar, i m sorry consumes thousands of acre-feet the water.<3>

In the summer that 2001 a 330 feet (100 m) broad sandbar created at the mouth the the river, noting the first time in recorded history that the Rio Grande failed come empty into the Gulf the Mexico. The sandbar was ultimately dredged, yet it re-formed nearly immediately. Feather rains the following year purged the re-formed sandbar the end to sea, but it reverted in the summer that 2002. The river once again get the Gulf, but ecologists caution that strict water conservation steps must be embraced by neighborhoods along the flow in stimulate to keep the Rio Grande.

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