Talk:Rio Grande

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water rights[edit]

A number of Texans I know claim that while Texas gave up the land around the Rio Grande in 1850, it retained the water rights, particularly as regards navigation. This means that if the river had enough water in it, one could boat all the way into Colorado while remaining in Texas. I seriously doubt this, but was wondering if anyone on this site might have further information. (talk) 07:24, 8 May 2013 (UTC)RKH

River extinction[edit]

Could someone explain what it means to say that the river could become "extinct" below El Paso? A citation that uses this wording would be especially useful in keeping this phraseology in the article. Tomertalk 09:59, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

It means the river's flow has been completely destroyed and is now a dry bed, and the riparian vegetation has died out, all the aquatic species are now gone, etc. Even if flow were restored it would take tens or hundreds of years for the river ecosystem to recover. Still, I don't think it is good to explain that in the course section; due to the peculiar structure of this article I don't know where to put it, as "River extinction" doesn't warrant a subsection unless there is enough information.Shannon1talk contribs 00:19, 10 July 2009 (UTC)


rio grande is pronounced rio gran-de, not rio grand.51grizzly (talk) 17:41, 18 August 2013 (UTC) Does anyone know a source that describes the history of the different names for the river on each side of the border? Tomertalk 09:59, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

I can't find a source but Rio Grande is Portuguese, whereas Río Bravo is Spanish. Kewpid 02:23, 6 February 2006 (UTC)
Río Grande is Spanish too (with the accent on the i), my assumption is that the í=>i is a result of the fact that, generally speaking, English orthography doesn't preserve diacritics in words it kyfes from other languages. It means the same thing in Spanish as it does in Portuguese, but that doesn't answer the question of where the name Río Grande came from and why the name Río Bravo is now used for the river in Spanish.  :-\ Tomertalk 08:53, 21 February 2006 (UTC)
It seems that it was once referred to as the "Río de Las Palmas" by the early Spanish explorers. (See in es:Francisco de Garay: "Aunque Francisco de Garay nunca puso pie en Tejas, su nombre ha sido frecuentemente relacionado con la historia del estado por error. Profundamente enraizado en la historiografía del estado esta la idea equivocada que él desembarcó en la boca del Río Grande (llamado Río de las Palmas) en 1523 y que exploró el río brevemente antes de proceder hacia el Río Pánuco. Verdaderamente, después que vientos contrarios empujaron sus embarcaciones a más de 160 kilómetros al norte de su objetivo original, él desembarcó en la desembocadura del río Soto la Marina, unos 240 kilómetros al sur del Río Grande. Fue a este río al cual Garay le dio el nombre por el cual seria conocido en tiempos coloniales, Río de las Palmas.") ...but my Spanish isn't very good.
McAllen, Texas is nicknamed the "City of palms".
--Jerome Potts (talk) 00:29, 6 August 2008 (UTC)
Yeah, see --Jerome Potts (talk) 12:21, 13 December 2008 (UTC)
I think it is misleading to mention that it is known as Rio Bravo "in Mexico," "south of the border," etc. The real distinction, as far as I know, is that it is known as "Rio Bravo" in the entire Spanish-speaking world, not just Mexico. It is only in the US, and other countries which have taken the US name for the river, where it is known as "Rio Grande." Cospelero (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 11:25, 20 February 2012 (UTC).
All of this fails to answer the question asked by the first poster here, which I also am curious about: why does it have two names? Río Grande is Spanish (which is not to say we don't mispronounce it). I think if a bunch of us "gringos" were to name it, we wouldn't give it a Spanish-language name (it'd be the Sam Houston River or something like that). That makes me think the name Río Grande precedes English-speaking colonization. Any idea how it got that way? (talk) 17:07, 7 November 2014 (UTC)

Addition after name[edit]

To note that the name is indeed of Spanish origin, and not Portuguese, could (Originally: Río Grande) be placed in the first sentence?

I don't think its necessary. The Portuguese thing was merely someone showing off by reminding us it needs the accent. (talk) 17:11, 7 November 2014 (UTC)

River changed channels[edit]

You made this statement in your article: "The shifting of the Rio Grande would cause a later dispute over the boundary between Purchase lands and those of the state of Texas." On the map you show the river's path today with a yellow background and an additional yellowed area leaving the river near it's head and going in a different direction, reconnecting with the river further south. Is this supposed to indicate the original path of the river? Nowhere do you indicate where the original path was. Thanks Linmari 22:10, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

The yellow part of the map represents the river's current watershed. Kuru talk 22:20, 27 April 2007 (UTC)
Just want to confirm Kuru's answer on the map here. The shift that is described in the text is to small to show up on that scale map - there is a more detailed map showing the shift in Country Club Dispute. Kmusser 02:10, 30 April 2007 (UTC)


What mountain does the river originate? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:55, 15 September 2007 (UTC)

Cranby Mountain, it says in the article.AndrewEnns (talk) 19:32, 26 May 2009 (UTC)

Article Introduction[edit]

The introduction of the article currently states: "...serves as a natural boundary along part of the border between the United States and Mexico." While this is accurate, I think it should be altered to "...serves as a natural boundary along the border between Texas and Mexico." Texas is obviously part of the U.S. The River runs the entirety of the Texas/Mexico border and then shoots up into the State of New Mexico. The second statement seems more clear to me. I'm going to be bold and change it, and if it needs changing back please do so and inform me why I am wrong.Failureofafriend (talk) 22:41, 8 March 2008 (UTC)

Mouth of the Rio Grande[edit]

Is it possible to actually reach the mouth of the river? It seems that it comes to an abrupt end just before reaching the Gulf of Mexico, with a sandy strip of beach between the river's end and the gulf. Can one get near this area, or would they be detained by border agents? Anyone been to the mouth? (talk) 10:02, 21 September 2008 (UTC)

Depends what source you look at. Most images from Google/others were taken during a major drought, and shows the sandbar at the mouth. Wet weather since then has broken the bar and it flows, albeit very slowly, into the Gulf. This section of beach has always been accessible by going to the end of State Highway 4 and going south a couple miles. There is a border patrol checkpoint about halfway between the coast and Brownsville that is always open. 25or6to4 (talk) 03:54, 22 September 2008 (UTC)
So if I were to park my car at the end of TX-4 Boca Chica Highway and walk along the beach in a time of drought, I could actually walk across the US-Mexico border and see the Rio Grande dump into a Texan estuary and not directly into the Gulf? Is this actually allowed, or would I not be permitted on the beach there? (talk) 12:14, 28 September 2008 (UTC)
Technically, yes you could keep walking for a while. There's no access issues. Not sure if it would be considered an estuary. Reading the estuary page, I think it would need a water connection to the Gulf of Mexico. During drought, the river is completely closed off from the Gulf. The current imagery from Google Maps for the mouth of the river was taken 1/04/06, and 2005 was the driest year since 1953, so it shows a likely extreme, but it was nothing more than a long skinny lake at that time. 25or6to4 (talk) 03:43, 29 September 2008 (UTC)
Thanks. Perhaps estuary was the wrong choice of words. Anyway, I could walk right up to the border without being harassed? Have you done it? Also, how can you find the date on which google earth phots were taken? (talk) 13:10, 30 September 2008 (UTC)

rio grande is a river. a river is called rio grande because they wanted to call it that is proble means nothing at all and they just made that up. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:35, 4 November 2009 (UTC)

Rio Grande And Colorado River[edit]

According to USGS, the natural flow of the Rio Grande is 5600 cfs, and the Colorado 22,000 cfs. So the Rio Grande is about 1/4 the volume of the Colorado, not 1/3. If the natural flow of the Rio Grande was 6000 cfs and it was 1/3 the flow of the Colorado, the Colorado's average flow would be 18,000 cfs, not 22,000. Do the math guys. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:25, 17 January 2010 (UTC)

Mouth of Rio Grande...[edit]

The Rio Grande does close off from time to time. The historical imagery from Google Earth in 2005/6 shows the sandbar closing it off, while the newere imagery during wetter periods shows the mouth open. How could this be cited in the article? 25or6to4 (talk) 21:24, 8 July 2010 (UTC)

I just added a source that explains the 2001-2003 sandbar. It's dated to 2003, so perhaps there have been subsequent sandbars at the mouth. If so, there are probably similar sources out there that address it. I'm not sure Google Earth imagery makes a decent source. There must be something better. Pfly (talk) 11:38, 9 July 2010 (UTC)

Removed comparison to Colorado and Mississippi Rivers[edit]

I just took out the following text because the sources cited don't support it:

The natural flow of the Rio Grande is only 1/4 the volume of that of the [[Colorado River]],<ref>[ Colorado]</ref><ref>[ Rio Grande]</ref> and less than 1/50 that of the [[Mississippi River]].

The second source's URL is wrong--it goes to a page about the Mackenzie River. But I could find the Rio Grande page at the website easily enough. But neither the Colorado or Rio Grande pages say anything about "natural flow", or flow at all. Nor do they say anything about the Mississippi.

Also, I'm going to replace the Infobox with a Geobox, with new sources for much of the information--currently unsourced in the article. I'll try to make addition edits to the page, time permitting. Pfly (talk) 07:17, 18 July 2010 (UTC)


Just added a section listing the main tributaries (limited to those streams named River or Rio--no Creeks or Arroyos, even though some of those are larger than some named River or Rio) and dams/reservoir. I made a much longer hierarchical list including many creeks, arroyos, etc, which I'll make into a new page, linked in the new section here: List of tributaries of the Rio Grande. I made the list in part because as I researched the Rio Grande's tributaries I was surprised by how many rivers (and rios) are lacking pages, and that many existing pages are extremely short stubs (especially the streams in Mexico). Dam and reservoir pages and info are also much lacking. I figured a list full of red links would be useful for anyone else interesting in chipping away at this. Pfly (talk) 23:48, 19 July 2010 (UTC)


I believe that the present-day extremely low discharge only started around the 1800s or so with irrigation... before irrigation, the natural flow of the river was actually much higher, thence the river being called the Rio Grande, not "Rio Pequeño" or "Rio Largo pero Pequeño" or something like that. There were some accounts by the Spanish of the river being 500-1500 feet wide in places, and deep enough for steamboats and large sailing ships to navigate up to beyond present El Paso. Judging by this I'd assume the long term discharge of the river to be in excess of 20,000-40,000 cfs, though today we all know it has shrunk to less than 900 cfs. I cannot find any sources though. And also pictures make the Pecos River look a lot larger than the most exaggerated discharge data that I can find. Just by the geobox picture on the Pecos page I'd safely assume a flow of at least 3,000 cfs, if not more, unless it's in a flood of course. Shannontalk contribs 21:18, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

Here it says that 800,000 acre feet of water are used in the San Luis Valley alone annually for irrigation purposes, equal to about 1,103 cfs, and that the discharge up to 1943 at Rio Grande City was 5.1 million acre-feet per year or 7,034 cfs. Shannontalk contribs 21:22, 1 January 2011 (UTC)

(Italicized lines are notes, don't figure in the final total) -Apparently, river flows below the Conchos have been reduced by about 87 percent due to human activities leaving 13% of the original flow[1] - but where? Could be anywhere from 6,500 cfs below the Rio Conchos, to 26,950 cfs at Rio Grande City, to 11,350 cfs at Brownsville/Matamoros!
-In 1942, the average discharge for the river at Rio Grande City was 9,600 cfs, and 7,384 cfs at the mouth - and that was considered an year with "below average precipitation with high rates of evaporation".Cite error: The <ref> tag name cannot be a simple integer (see the help page).

Colorado and New Mexico
  • San Luis Valley: ~800,000 acre feet diverted (1,103 cfs)[2]
  • Conejos River - diversions unknown? average flow 176 cfs at Lasauses (down from ~220 cfs in early 20th century)
  • Red River - no significant diversions, average flow 78.3 cfs at Questa
  • Rio Hondo - small diversions? average flow 34.8 cfs at Valdez
  • Embudo Creek - diversions unknown, average flow at Dixon, 82.4 cfs
  • Rio Chama - average flow 571 cfs at Chamita
    • some diversions data in following note[3] - major "Acequias" (ditches) divert about 137.5 cfs from the river (more likely, more exist)
    • Abiquiu and El Vado reservoirs evaporation rate unknown
  • Santa Cruz River - average flow at Cundiyo, 31 cfs
  • Pojoaque River - no accurate data, only one high up USGS gage, estimated about 50 cfs
  • Cochiti Dam and downstream diversions (Angostura, Isleta and San Acacia) - unknown, USBR site says about 90,000 acres are irrigated[4]
    • Angostura diversion capacity 650 cfs; Isleta 1,070 cfs; San Acacia - 283 cfs
  • USGS says annual Rio Grande flow at Albuquerque = 1,300 cfs[5]
  • Rio Puerco average annual discharge - 62,000 acre feet or about 85.5 cfs[6]
  • Elephant Butte Reservoir - evaporation rate 250,000 acre feet per year, or almost 345 cfs[7]
  • Caballo Lake - according to previous evaporation rate, about 75,400 acre feet per year or 104 cfs
  • Percha, Leasburg, Mesilla, American, Riverside diversion dams (Diversion capacity 3,725 cfs, obviously not utilized fully; irrigated lands ~ 125,000 acres)
  • River is dry most of the year by the time it reaches El Paso/Juarez

TOTAL: Natural flow at El Paso/Juarez must be at the very least, 3410 cfs.

Border stretch to mouth
  • Lots of irrigated fields downstream… probably sustained by groundwater pumping, a bit of flow restored
  • Rio Conchos - discharge at Ojinaga, about 848 cfs
    • Presa de Boquilla evaporation rate - unknown
  • stuff in between… mostly dry washes and stuff. River flows into wild lands around the Big Bend.
  • Pecos River enters - average flow 265 cfs near Langtry
    • Spanish explorers and early American settlers wrote that the Pecos was originally very large - in the 1800s, the river was "up to 100 feet wide, 10 feet deep and exhibited a fast current with only a few places suitable for crossing" … that suggests a pre-irrigation flow of more than 3,000-5,000 cfs. (2010 water use in the basin was 807,453 acre feet or some 1,114 cfs.)[8] Also there is a lot of introduced saltcedar in the basin, which uses up a lot of the river's flow (more than 55,000 acre feet per year or 76 cfs)[9]
  • Devils River - average flow near mouth, 362 cfs (Pristine!)
  • Amistad Reservoir evaporates 230,000-310,000 acre feet per year[10] or 317-427 cfs, averaging to 372 cfs
  • At least six or seven smaller tributaries enter from both sides between Amistad and Falcon… flow unknown, but probably insignificant
  • Rio Salado enters in Falcon Reservoir, average flow 354 cfs. River has a drainage area of more than 23,000 square miles… problem there? Used extensively for cotton irrigation, which consumes a LOT of water.
    • Even estimating an average production of 0.1 cfs per square mile , the Salado would still have an average discharge of over 2,300 cfs.
    • Rio Salado "Average Annual 'Unused' Run-off A. F. Per Sq. Mi." (not sure about this definition) was roughly 23.9 between 1900 and 1942… amounting to 557,420 acre feet per year, roughly 769 cfs, or 415 cfs above the present flow (data not exactly sure, has to be more.)Cite error: The <ref> tag name cannot be a simple integer (see the help page).

  • Rio San Juan - 370 cfs. Annual flow about 866,096 AF from 1900 to 1942, or about 1,195 cfs.
  • Rio Alamo - 130 cfs, but annual flow was 101,342 AF from 1900-1942, about 140 cfs…

TOTAL natural flow produced from this stretch must be at least 7,836 cfs.

Adding the two reaches we get a discharge of approximately 11,246 cfs… not counting evaporation/transpiration from other reservoirs and also a lot of diversions/tributaries have not been figured in. Shannontalk contribs 04:31, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

Then here, according to Rivers of North America, that ever-useful book:

  1. About 300 cfs lost to evaporation/irrigation use between Cochiti Reservoir and Albuquerque.
  2. Between there and Elephant Butte Dam, the river loses another 200 cfs.
  3. 460 cfs is diverted from the river at El Paso-Juarez.
  4. Rio Conchos original flow about 210 cfs higher than today.
  5. Some 4,100 cfs are diverted from the river from upstream of Amistad to the mouth.

This indicates that the river's historic flow was at least 5,270 cfs greater than today. (This does not even account for evaporation loss from Falcon and Amistad.) Shannontalk contribs 04:45, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

Notes for this section[edit]

I think I've read something about this somewhere--will try to find where. Pre-development flows were definitely higher. Not sure about sailing vessels reaching El Paso (ocean sailing I assume?), but certainly there's been a major change--some of which may be natural rather than development-caused, of course. Also, the Spanish name came from observations nearish El Paso and Albuquerque, not Brownsville, for what it's worth. Pfly (talk) 09:50, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

Side Note about name[edit]

Will everyone make sure that when editing, it is the Rio Grande, not the Rio Grande river, since in Spanish, Rio already means "river". — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 22:39, 15 November 2012 (UTC)


How do you pronounce this river in English? (talk) 21:08, 25 January 2013 (UTC)

Just pronounce the bold capital letters. RE-Oh GRAND-hEY
-AMAPO (talk) 02:47, 9 May 2013 (UTC)