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The Rio Grande (called the R’o Bravo or, more formally, the R’o Bravo del
Norte in Mexico) is a river which rises in the San Juan Mountains of
Colorado, flows through the San Luis Valley, then south into New Mexico
through Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Las Cruces to El Paso, Texas on the border
The river is the boundary between Mexico and the United States from El Paso
to the Gulf of Mexico.
Major cities along the border are Ciudad Juarez, Mexico across the river
from El Paso; Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico; and Brownsville, Texas
and Matamoros, Mexico. Other notable towns along the river are Del Rio and
Eagle Pass, both in Texas.
Use of the water of the Rio Grande is regulated by the Rio Grande Compact,
an interstate compact between Colorado, New Mexico and Texas; and a treaty
between the United States and Mexico. The Rio Grande is over-appropriated,
that is, there are more users for the water than there is water in the river.
The Rio Grande rises in high mountains and flows for much of its length at
high elevation; El Paso is 3762 feet above sea level. While in New Mexico
the river flows through the Rio Grande Rift from one sediment filled basin
to another, cutting canyons between the basins. Anciently the Rio Grande
terminated at the bottom of the Rio Grande Rift in Lake Cabeza de Baca.
About 1 million years ago the stream was "captured" and began to flow
eastward. From El Paso eastward the river flows through desert. Only in the
sub-tropical lower Rio Grande Valley is there extensive irrigated
agriculture. The river ends in a small sandy delta on the Gulf of Mexico.