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Why Is the Rio Grande River So Dangerous?

If you’re not familiar with the Rio Grande River, there’s a lot for you to learn. The river is quite long, but that’s not really what makes it so memorable or formidable. The location and history of this particular river are what make it so very dangerous. 

You may have heard the name, but you don’t really know much about it. There are thousands of rivers in the United States alone. What makes this river worth mentioning? Here, we take a look at the answers to a few probing questions. 

What Is the Rio Grande River? 

The Rio Grande River is the fifth-longest river in North America and the 20th in the world. It originates in the Rocky Mountains of south-central Colorado and runs all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. The river’s official name is Rio Grande del Norte and is also known as Rio Bravo or Rio Bravo del Norte. 

It runs through mountains, steppes, and desert lands, twisting and sometimes turnings through sheer cliffs. The river is responsible for providing irrigation for rich agriculture and many different communities along the way. In total, the river is around 1,900 miles long. 

What Is the Rio Grande River Famous For?

The Rio Grande is a very beautiful expression of nature. We shouldn’t undervalue the wildlife and the river’s geography. There are opportunities for exploring whitewater rapids, canoeing, and more. 

However, many know the Rio Grande River for the 1,254 miles that form the border between Texas and Mexico. Immigration is a huge issue in the U.S., and the struggle of the people who want to enter the country on this border is real. 

This struggle leads to desperation and death for some who choose to cross the river. People die every year trying to cross, and the problem shows no signs of slowing. 

Woman standing in the Rio Grande River
Unfortunately, the Rio Grande River is highly polluted and carries a lot of bacteria.

Why Is the Rio Grande River So Dangerous?

The Rio Grande is dangerous for several reasons. It’s not very deep, but people drown in its unpredictable waters every year. The border area of the Rio Grande, in particular, is in between two major dam systems, causing inconsistency in the water levels. 

When water releases through the dam’s system, the water levels can rise several feet very quickly. This element alone poses a serious risk to anyone on the water at the time. 

The bottom of the river around the border is uneven and riddled with debris. When people attempt to simply walk across the river, there’s a lot of room for stumbling in the fast-moving water. 

Some river areas have sheer cliffs on either side, making it very dangerous for hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts traveling through them. In recent years, border patrol officers have confirmed the presence of crocodiles. 

Pro Tip: Check out these other Most Dangerous Rivers in the USA.

Sunset over the Rio Grande River
Swimming in the Rio Grande River is very dangerous and often causes drowning accidents.

How Deep Is the Rio Grande River?

The depth of the Rio Grande varies widely, as the river covers more than 3,000 miles from start to finish. Some stretches of the Rio Grande are only waist-high, some are just a trickle, and some spots can be more than 60 feet deep. 

The river’s depth also involves yearly rainfalls and usage amounts. Recently, the river has been at some of the lowest levels on record due to over-irrigation and low rainfall amounts. 

Can You Swim in the Rio Grande River? 

Swimming is very dangerous in the Rio Grande for a few reasons. One is the varying water levels. The second reason is that the river shows signs of unpredictability in bacteria levels. 

There are times when the river has a lot of dangerous bacteria to safely swim, and you don’t have the tools to check it yourself. It’s best to spend time on the Rio Grande in a reliable boat, raft, or canoe. 

The river water is not clear, and you never know what could be lurking below the surface. 

Crocodile swimming in the Rio Grande River
Crocodiles lurk beneath the waters of the Rio Grande.

Are There Alligators or Crocodiles in the Rio Grande River? 

Yes, there are crocodiles in the Rio Grande River. NBC told the story of one Mexican fisherman who caught a 7.5-foot crocodile in the area of the Rio Grande forming the border between Texas and Mexico. Since then, the border police have officially confirmed that there are definitely crocodiles present in the water. 

Is the Rio Grande River Polluted? 

Unfortunately, it is polluted. Some areas are worse than others, but the Rio Grande is known for having high bacteria levels (E. coli), agricultural chemicals, and other industrial wastes.

The river is more polluted after a heavy storm due to rainwater runoff, but you can’t be sure the water is clean enough just by looking at it. It’s best to limit your body’s exposure to the water. 

Pro Tip: While in New Mexico, skip the Rio Grande River and instead discover Why New Mexico Is the Land of Enchantment.

Is it Worth Visiting the Rio Grande River?

Only you can decide whether or not a trip to the Rio Grande River is “worth it.” There is definitely something to be gained by visiting various sections of the river. Take the time to find the beauty of the Rio Grande, and get out there to explore what you can do to help restore a piece of its former glory. 

Have you ever visited the Rio Grande? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

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