The Río Bravo, or more formally the Río Bravo del Norte, in Mexico, is known as the Rio Grande in the United States. The river flows generally southward for approximately 1,900 mi, forming the border between Mexico and the U.S. state of Texas before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico.
Río Bravo: Rio Grande
The Río Bravo, or more formally the Río Bravo del Norte, in Mexico, is known as the Rio Grande in the United States. The river flows generally southward for approximately 3,060 km (1,900 mi), forming the border between Mexico and the U.S. state of Texas.
The river originates in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. The fifth-longest river in North America and the 20th longest in the world, it is one of the principal rivers in northern Mexico and the southwestern United States.
The river begins as a clear, snow-fed mountain stream more than 3,700 m (12,000 ft) above sea level in the U.S. Rocky Mountains. The river descends across steppes and deserts and provides water for rich agricultural regions as it flows to the Gulf of Mexico.
The river flows southeasterly between the U.S. state of Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas before it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. However, only about 20% of the Rio Grande's water reaches the Gulf of Mexico due to the voluminous consumption of water to irrigate land and hydrate cities along its route.
In El Paso, Texas, the river begins to form the border between the United States and Mexico, extending for 3,138 km (1,950 mi). Here the river cuts three canyons across the faulted area occupied by the "big bend," where the U.S. side comprises Big Bend National Park.
In Chihuahua, Mexico, the tributary Río Conchos enters the Río Bravo / Rio Grande mainstream, further augmented with tributary waters from the Pecos and Devils rivers in Texas.
From El Paso eastward, the river flows sluggishly through the Chihuahuan Desert into a fertile delta, emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Only in the sub-tropical lower Rio Grande Valley is there extensive irrigated agriculture.
The entire Río Bravo / Rio Grande watershed is some 870,000 sq km (336,000 sq mi). However, only about half of the total area contributes to the river's flow, as the rest is semiarid land or desert.
Although the river's greatest depth is 18 m (60 ft), the Río Bravo / Rio Grande generally cannot be navigated by passenger riverboats or cargo barges. Navigation is only possible near the mouth of the river.
Map depicting the Rio Grande / Río Bravo and its tributaries within its drainage basin