The 10 Longest Rivers in New Mexico

The Rio Grande River in New Mexico.
The Rio Grande River in New Mexico.

The climate of New Mexico is dry with annual average precipitation of just 13.9 inches. The state consists of arid and semiarid. Rivers are the primary source of water for irrigation, commercial and household use. The following are the longest rivers of New Mexico.

Longest Rivers in New Mexico

Rio Grande

The Rio Grande is the longest river in New Mexico and the fourth longest in the United States. The river flows for 1,896 from its source in the Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. The Rio Grande traverses across three American and four Mexican states. The river's course serves as the natural border between Texas and the Mexican states. It discharges an average of 2,403 cu ft/s, but the volume can rise to as much as 964,000 cu ft/s and drop to 24 cu ft/s during the dry season. The Rio Grande is the lifeline of the Southwest, but the construction of dams and canals has left only 20% of the water to flow to the ocean.

Pecos River

The Pecos River is among the major tributaries of the Rio Grande. It begins its 926-mile course at the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in New Mexico before draining into the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas. Several dams have been built along the Pecos to provide water for irrigation, household, and commercial use. Despite their importance, the dams and reservoirs on the rivers have distracted the natural flow.

Canadian River

The Canadian River is a major tributary of the Arkansas River. It flows for 906 miles from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado to its confluence with the Arkansas River in Haskell County, Oklahoma. The river is dammed to form the Conchas, Ute, and Meredith lakes before flowing into the Eufaula Lake and finally to the Arkansas River. The Deep Fork and Little Rivers are the main tributaries of the Canadian River.

Cimarron River

The Cimarron River flows for 698 miles from New Mexico through Oklahoma, Colorado and into Kansas. The Cimarron emerges from the confluence of the Carrizozo Creek and the Dry Cimarron River. The longest stretch of the river is located in Oklahoma where it cuts across eleven counties. The discharges an average of 1,163 cu ft/s but the volume can reduce to 0.3 cu ft/s during the dry season.

Threats to the Rivers of New Mexico

The rivers, streams, and springs of New Mexico face threats from numerous sources. Growing towns and cities increase the demand for freshwater and energy necessitating the construction of dams and reservoirs. These man-made structures change the natural flow of the rivers and reduce the volume and strength of the river exposing the flowing water to extreme evaporation. Irrigation can draw water from an entire stream while deforestation destroys the catchment area.

The 10 Longest Rivers in New Mexico

RankRiverLength (miles)Length (km)
1Rio Grande1,8963,051
2Pecos River 9261,490
3Canadian River9061,458
4Cimarron River6981,123
5Gila River6501,050
6San Juan River383616
7Rio Puerco230370
8Puerco River167269
9San Francisco River159256
10Carrizo Creek 145233

More in World Facts