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Facts about The Rio Grande For Kids


The Rio Grande is a river that flows from southwestern Colorado in the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. The river serves as a natural border between the U.S. state of Texas and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas.

  • Since the mid–20th century, heavy water consumption of farms and cities along the river has left only 20% of its natural discharge to flow to the Gulf.
  • Near the river’s mouth, the heavily irrigated Rio Grande Valley is an important agricultural region.
  • Below El Paso it serves as part of the border between the United States and Mexico.
  • A major tributary, the Rio Conchos, enters at Ojinaga, Chihuahua, below El Paso, and supplies most of the water in the border segment.
  • Other well-known tributaries include the Pecos and the smaller Devils, which join the Rio Grande on the site of Amistad Dam.
  • In New Mexico, the river flows through the Rio Grande Rift from one sediment-filled basin to another, cutting canyons between the basins and supporting a fragile bosque ecosystem on its flood plain.
  • In the fall of 2003 the sandbar was cleared by high river flows of about 7,063 cubic feet per second (200 m/s).
  • Navigation was active during much of the 19th century, with over 200 different steamboats operating between the river’s mouth close to Brownsville, and Rio Grande City, Texas.
  • Many steamboats from the Ohio and Mississippi rivers were requisitioned by the US Government and moved to the Rio Grande during the Mexican War in 1846.
  • The Brownsville & Matamoros International Bridge is a large swing bridge that dates back to 1910 and is still in use today by automobiles and railroad trains, connecting Brownsville, Texas with Matamoros, Tamaulipas.
  • In 1944 the US and Mexico signed a treaty regarding the river, and in 1997 the US designated the Rio Grande as one of the American Heritage Rivers.
  • In the summer of 2001, a 328-foot wide sandbar formed at the mouth of the river, marking the first time in recorded history that the Rio Grande failed to empty into the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The IBWC today also allocates river waters between the two nations, and provides for flood control and water sanitation.
  • Supplemented by other tributaries the Rio Grande’s discharge increases to its maximum annual average of 3,504 cubic feet per second (99 m/s) near Rio Grande City, Texas.
  • Río Grande is Spanish for “Big River” and Río Grande del Norte means “Great River of the North”.