Rio Grande Facts

The Rio Grande is a major river in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. It flows from south-central Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Rio Grande Facts for Kids

The Rio Grande is North America’s fifth-longest river (1,900 miles).

It divides Texas from Mexico.

It flows from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Rio Grande watershed is roughly 335,000 square miles.

The Rio Grande has also been called Tewa, Keresan, and Rio Bravo.

During the Mexican War, the Rio Grande was a major steamboat route.

A sandbar formed in 2001, preventing the river from reaching the Gulf. 

It runs through a lot of drylands.

History of the Rio Grande

The Rio Grande was a disputed border between Mexico and the US (Texas).

The border disputes culminated in the US invasion of Mexico (also known as the Mexican-American War).

In the 1800s, despite Texas having seceded a decade earlier, Mexico still considered it a part of their territory.

In 1845, the United States annexed Texas and took control of the upper Rio Grande. Mexico had lost Texas by the time the Guadalupe Hidalgo Treaty was signed in 1948, and the Rio Grande had become its permanent US border.

To the Gulf of Mexico, the cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua are officially the border between these two countries.

As a result of shifting the river’s position to build railway bridges and roads, a channel was dug for flood control in 1899.

The Rio Grande was designated as an American Heritage River by the United States in 1997, and Mexico agreed.

Increases in population between the United States and Mexico prompted the creation of water treaties governing shared use of the water and the shared use of hydroelectricity they generate.

Water from the Rio Grande is used to irrigate just over 2 million acres of cropland.
Potatoes, cotton, alfalfa, pecans, citrus fruits, and vegetables are among the crops that benefit from the Rio Grande. Animal agriculture and mining are also carried out on the property.

The Surrounding Land

The Rio Grande river is formed by several small streams in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

From there, it flows 175 miles southeast and south through Colorado and New Mexico. It then flows through Texas and into the Gulf of Mexico via Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas.

The river rises in the Rocky Mountains and flows at altitude for much of its length.

The Pecos, Devils, Chama, and Puerco rivers flow into the Rio Grande, while the Concos, Salado, and San Juan rivers flow into Mexico.

The river flows through Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas in Mexico.

The river’s upper reaches reach their peak flow in May or June as the snow melts.

Dams and irrigation diversions have left many parts of the Rio Grande completely dry due to its location among drought-prone land.

The river’s water supply has been dwindling for a long time.

Leasing irrigation water along riverbanks started habitat restoration projects.

The river’s average annual flow is used for municipal and agricultural purposes.

Due to river diversion, only about 20% of the water reaches the Gulf of Mexico.

The Rio Grande has been on the Endangered Species List for many years.


The Rio Grande Dam, Cochiti Dam, Elephant Butte Dam, Caballo Dam, Amistad Dam, and Retamal Dam are some of the dams built along this river.

The dams are used for hydropower generation, flood control, navigation, recreation, and other uses.

Hydroelectric power plants produce electricity using the energy released when water passes turbines.

Flood control works to prevent flooding during heavy rainfalls.