Which river has a Spanish name that means "big river?"

And the answer: Rio Grande.    

Meaning "big river" in Spanish, the Rio Grande was named El Río Bravo del Norte by Spanish explorers in the 1500s, and is still known as Río Bravo in Mexico. The river starts in the Rocky Mountains and flows for nearly 1,900 miles before reaching the Gulf of Mexico.


The Rio Grande is the fifth-longest river in the United States, and among the 20 longest in the world. The river begins as a snow-fed mountain stream some 12,000 feet above sea level, and slowly descends in elevation – across steppes and deserts – until it flows into the Gulf of Mexico. On its way there, the river flows along seven American and Mexican states: Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas.

Image credit: AmericanRivers.org.

The Rio Grande has long served as a boundary line in western expansion. In fact, the river was the physical border in dispute between the Republic of Texas and Mexico in the 19th century. Today, it remains the border that divides the United States and Mexico. Despite its divisive qualities, however, the Rio Grande has also given life to a number of cities in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. Major cities along the Rio Grande in the States include Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Las Cruces and El Paso. On the Mexican side, cities such as Matamoros, Ojinaga, and Ciudad Juarez all benefit from the river's watershed. Irrigation has been practiced along the river for millennia, dating back to the ancestors of the Pueblo Native Americans in New Mexico.

Learn more about the Rio Grande below.

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