A River of Change—The Rio Grande in the Big Bend Region

Fact Sheet 2021-3036
Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service, Utah State University, Sul Ross State University, World Wildlife Fund, Alpine Test Services, Rio Grande Scientific Support Services, and RiversEdge West



The Big Bend region is located within the heart of the Chihuahan Desert of North America. Within this region, the Rio Grande, referred to as the Rio Bravo in Mexico, is the international border between the United States and Mexico. The area known as the Big Bend is named after the large northerly bend that the river makes before flowing southeast to the Gulf of Mexico. This region is environmentally protected by both countries. Although large binational conservation efforts exist, the physical and ecological characteristics of the river have been substantially altered. Changes in Rio Grande hydrology (the seasonality, magnitude, duration, and variability in streamflow) have resulted in the widespread physical transformation of the river, resulting in the loss of important habitat for native and endangered fish and increased flood risk. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists, in cooperation with many other government agencies, universities, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), are working to better understand these changes to inform management of the Rio Grande.

Suggested Citation

Dean, D.J., 2021, A river of change—The Rio Grande in the Big Bend region: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2021-3036, 4 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/fs20213036.

ISSN: 2327-6932 (online)

ISSN: 2327-6916 (print)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Introduction  
  • Historical Changes in Hydrology 
  • Channel Narrowing and Floodplain Expansion  
  • Channel-Reset Floods  
  • Management of Sediment and Vegetation 
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title A river of change—The Rio Grande in the Big Bend region
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 2021-3036
DOI 10.3133/fs20213036
Year Published 2021
Language English, Spanish
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Southwest Biological Science Center
Description 4 p.
Country Mexico, United States
State Texas
Other Geospatial Rio Grande, Big Bend Region
Online Only (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details