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About the Rio Grande

Running through two nations and multiple Pueblos, the Rio Grande is an international river that provides water and life to approximately 6 million people. Under constant threat, the river still ranks as one of the 10 Most Endangered Rivers in the World, by the World Wildlife Fund.

Its headwaters are located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado in the southern Rockies, where its roots can be found on the Continental Divide at Stony Pass, some 12,588 feet above sea level.

The river then begins a long journey that will take it through a diverse geography that includes lush national forests and desert landscapes until it reaches its final destination and outlet at the Gulf of Mexico. The mouth of the Rio Grande-Rio Bravo is located at Boca Chica between Texas and Mexico where fresh water meets fragile estuary waters of the coast.

​The Rio Grande, or Rio Bravo as it is known in Mexico, extends approximately 1,990 miles and is considered the 5th longest river in North America, and the 20th longest river in the world.

​The river basin covers 355,500 square miles – across three U.S. states and five Mexican states – and encompasses a diverse range of eco-systems, climates, geology, hydrology, cultures and traditions. In the United States, it flows through Colorado, New Mexico and Texas. In Mexico, the basin spans across Durango, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas.

The river serves as a critical wildlife corridor, and is home to a wide diversity of plants and vegetation. In South Texas, it serves as the meeting point for the Central and Mississippi flyways, making it one of the most important bird migration routes in North America for hundreds of species of birds.

While pollution is an ongoing problem, the number one reason for the river’s “endangered” designation is water scarcity fueled by climate change, human activity, invasive plant species and rapid population growth.

Nearly 80 percent of the water taken from the river is used for irrigation in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Since much of the river forms an international border, its waters are managed by a complex web of treaties and agreements, as well as agencies and departments.

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1 West End Washington St. Bldg P-11
Laredo, Texas, 78040
Rio Grande International Study Center is a certified 501(c)3 nonprofit organization
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