Rio Puerco River, New Mexico

Encyclopedia Article


A western tributary of the Rio Grande River that passes through the central part of the state of New Mexico. The Rio Puerco River originates in the Nacimiento Mountains in the Santa Fe National Forest and flows south 230 miles to meet the Rio Grande River about 20 miles south of Belen. The areas surrounding the river were once populated by ancient Pueblo peoples, and later by Native American tribes such as the Navajo and the Apache, who were pushed away by the U.S. army when the government took over the region in the 1860s. Hispano and white settlers moved into the irrigable lands along the river but overgrazing, erosion, and flash flooding led to changes in the landscape, which drove people away. Today, most of the lands around the river are uninhabitable, the river itself is dry for much of the year and subject to flooding during the rainy seasons.

Photo Credit: 

"Old Rio Puerco Bridge on Old Route 66, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, January 28, 2012" by John Phelan is licensed under CC BY.