Rio Grande Valley

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Rio Grande Valley
Map of the Rio Grande Valley
Floor elevation285 ft (87 m)
Area4,872 sq mi (12,620 km2)
Location United States, Texas
Coordinates 26°13′N98°07′W / 26.22°N 98.12°W / 26.22; -98.12 Coordinates: 26°13′N98°07′W / 26.22°N 98.12°W / 26.22; -98.12

The Rio Grande Valley is an area located in the southernmost tip of South Texas. It lies along the northern bank of the Rio Grande, which separates Mexico from the United States. The four-county region consists of Hidalgo, Cameron, Willacy, and Starr counties. It is one of the fastest growing regions in the United States, [1] with its population having jumped from about 325,000 people in 1969 to more than 1,300,000 people by 2014. Some of the biggest cities in the region are: Brownsville, Harlingen, Weslaco, Pharr, McAllen, Edinburg, Mission, San Juan, and Rio Grande City.

South Texas region of the U.S. state of Texas

South Texas is a region of the U.S. state of Texas that lies roughly south of—and including—San Antonio. The southern and western boundary is the Rio Grande, and to the east it is the Gulf of Mexico. The population of this region is about 4.96 million according to the 2017 census estimates. The southern portion of this region is often referred to as the Rio Grande Valley. The eastern portion along the Gulf of Mexico is also referred to as the Coastal Bend.

Rio Grande River forming part of the US-Mexico border

The Rio Grande is one of the principal rivers in the southwest United States and northern Mexico. The Rio Grande begins in south-central Colorado in the United States and flows to the Gulf of Mexico. After passing through the length of New Mexico along the way, it forms part of the Mexico–United States border. According to the International Boundary and Water Commission, its total length was 1,896 miles (3,051 km) in the late 1980s, though course shifts occasionally result in length changes. Depending on how it is measured, the Rio Grande is either the fourth- or fifth-longest river system in North America.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fourth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 129 million people, Mexico is the tenth most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states plus Mexico City (CDMX), which is the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the country include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, and León.


Geography and demographics

Geographic and administrative Overview Rio grande valley overview.jpg
Geographic and administrative Overview

The Rio Grande Valley is not a true valley, but a floodplain, containing many oxbow lakes or resacas formed from pinched-off meanders in earlier courses of the Rio Grande. [2] Early 20th-century land developers, attempting to capitalize on unclaimed land, utilized the name "Magic Valley" to attract settlers and appeal to investors. The Rio Grande Valley is also called El Valle, the Spanish translation of "the valley", by those who live there. [3] The residents of the Rio Grande Valley no longer refer to the area as "El Mágico Valle del Río Grande" ("The Magical Valley of the Rio Grande"), but as "The Valley”. The main region is within four Texan counties: Starr County, Hidalgo County, Willacy County, and Cameron County. As of January 1, 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated the population of the Rio Grande Valley at 1,305,782. [4] According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2008, 86 percent of Cameron County, 90 percent of Hidalgo County, 97 percent of Starr County, and 86 percent of Willacy County are Hispanic. [5]

Valley Low area between hills, often with a river running through it.

A valley is a low area between hills or mountains typically with a river running through it. In geology, a valley or dale is a depression that is longer than it is wide. The terms U-shaped and V-shaped are descriptive terms of geography to characterize the form of valleys. Most valleys belong to one of these two main types or a mixture of them, at least with respect to the cross section of the slopes or hillsides.

Floodplain Land adjacent to a stream or river which is flooded during periods of high discharge

A floodplain or flood plain is an area of land adjacent to a stream or river which stretches from the banks of its channel to the base of the enclosing valley walls, and which experiences flooding during periods of high discharge. The soils usually consist of levees, silts, and sands deposited during floods. Levees are the heaviest materials and they are deposited first; silts and sands are finer materials.

Oxbow lake U-shaped lake formed by a cut-off meander of a river

An oxbow lake is a U-shaped lake that forms when a wide meander of a river is cut off, creating a free-standing body of water. This landform is so named for its distinctive curved shape, which resembles the bow pin of an oxbow. In Australia, an oxbow lake is called a billabong, from the indigenous Wiradjuri language. In south Texas, oxbows left by the Rio Grande are called resacas.

The largest city is Brownsville (Cameron County), followed by McAllen (Hidalgo County). Other major cities include Harlingen, Edinburg, Mission, Rio Grande City, Raymondville, Weslaco, Hidalgo and Pharr. [6]

Brownsville, Texas City in Texas, United States

Brownsville is a city in Cameron County in the U.S. state of Texas. It is located on the western Gulf Coast in South Texas, adjacent to the border with Matamoros, Mexico. The city covers 81.528 square miles (211.157 km2) and has a population of 183,299 as of 2017. It is the 131st-largest city in the United States and 16th-largest in Texas. It is part of the Brownsville–Matamoros conurbation, with a population of 1,136,995 people. The city is known for its year-round subtropical climate, deep-water seaport and Hispanic culture.

McAllen, Texas City in Texas, United States

McAllen is the largest city in Hidalgo County, Texas, United States, and the 22nd-most populous city in Texas. It is located at the southern tip of the state in the Rio Grande Valley. The city limits extend south to the Rio Grande, across from the Mexican city of Reynosa, and McAllen is about 70 mi (110 km) west of the Gulf of Mexico. As of 2017, McAllen’s population was estimated to be 142,696. It is the fifth-most populous metropolitan area (McAllen–Edinburg–Mission) in the state of Texas, and the binational Reynosa–McAllen metropolitan area counts a population of nearly 1.52 million.

Harlingen, Texas City in Texas, United States

Harlingen is a city in Cameron County in the central region of the Rio Grande Valley of the southern part of the U.S. state of Texas, about 30 miles (48 km) from the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The city covers more than 40 square miles (104 km2) and is the second-largest city in Cameron County, as well as the fourth-largest in the Rio Grande Valley. As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 64,849, for a growth rate of 12.5% since the 2000 census.


The Rio Grande Valley experiences a warm and fair climate that brings visitors from many surrounding areas. The east side of the region experiences a humid subtropical climate, and becomes more arid as one heads west. The Valley is one of the southernmost areas of the continental United States, with only a small stretch of southern Florida laying at a lower latitude than the city of Brownsville. Also the region shares a similar climate to that of peninsular Florida. Due to its southerly location, the lower Rio Grande Valley tends to be very warm in comparison to northern areas. While having average temperatures that land the region a semi-tropical climate, the lower Valley only misses tropical climate status by a few degrees. Furthermore, the area lays in a transitional climate zone; therefore, cities like Brownsville and South Padre Island land in a tropical savanna climate classification during years when winter months are slightly warmer than average. Due to this, the lower part of the region has been known to sustain tropical plants such as flame trees, Cuban Royal palms, and coconut palms.

Humid subtropical climate category in the Köppen climate classification system

A humid subtropical climate is a zone of climate characterized by hot and humid summers, and cold to mild winters. These climates normally lie on the southeast side of all continents, generally between latitudes 25° and 35° and are located poleward from adjacent tropical climates. While many subtropical climates tend to be located at or near coastal locations, in some cases they extend inland, most notably in China and the United States, where they exhibit more pronounced seasonal variations and sharper contrasts between summer and winter, as part of a gradient between the more tropical climates of the southern coasts of these countries and the more continental climates of China and the United States’ northern and central regions.

Florida U.S. state in the United States

Florida is the southernmost contiguous state in the United States. The state is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the northwest by Alabama, to the north by Georgia, to the east by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the south by the Straits of Florida. Florida is the 22nd-most extensive, the 3rd-most populous, and the 8th-most densely populated of the U.S. states. Jacksonville is the most populous municipality in the state and the largest city by area in the contiguous United States. The Miami metropolitan area is Florida's most populous urban area. Tallahassee is the state's capital.

Tropical climate climate in the tropical region

A tropical climate in the Köppen climate classification is a non-arid climate in which all twelve months have mean temperatures of warmer than 18 °C (64 °F). In tropical climates there are often only two seasons: a wet season and a dry season, which in the case of Aw/As climates, the wet season may run from the high-sun half of the year or the low-sun half of the year. Tropical climates are typically frost-free, and changes in the solar angle are small. In tropical climates, the temperature remains relatively constant (hot) throughout the year. Sunlight is intense.

Temperature extremes range from triple digits during the summer months to freezing during the winter. Taking into consideration the region’s warm weather, periods of triple-digit weather occur much more often than those with freezing temperatures. While the Valley has seen severe cold events before, such as the 2004 Christmas snow storm, the region only occasionally experiences temperatures at or below freezing. These happen less often near the coast, where in some cases, never see temperatures below 35-40 degrees. Arctic cold fronts bring colder weather to the region but tend to dissipate quickly with daytime heating.

2004 Christmas Eve United States winter storm

The 2004 Christmas Eve United States winter storm was a rare weather event that took place in Louisiana and Texas in the United States on December 24, 2004, before the storm moved northeast to affect the coastal sections of the Mid-Atlantic states and New England in the succeeding few days. This was a different storm from the historic event that struck the Midwest and southern Canada around December 23 from another cyclone which preceded this storm. The event involved a thin band of snowfall with unusually cold temperatures for the middle Texas coast, and caused dozens of varied weather records to be shattered. It was the most significant snow for the Texas Gulf Coast, and deep South Texas, since February 1895.

The Rio Grande Valley’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico makes it a target for hurricanes. Though not impacted as frequently as other areas of the Gulf Coast of the United States, the Valley has experienced major hurricanes in the past. Hurricanes that have made landfall in or near the area include: Hurricane Beulah (1967), Hurricane Allen (1980), Hurricane Gilbert, Hurricane Bret, Hurricane Dolly (2008), Hurricane Alex (2010), and Hurricane Harvey. Having an especially flat terrain, the Valley usually experiences the catastrophic effects of tropical cyclones in the form of flooding. Due to threats of storm surge, the impending impact of tropical cyclones usually results in the closing of the Queen Isabella Causeway and voluntary -or sometimes mandatory- evacuations of the city of South Padre Island and coastal Cameron and Willacy counties.

Hurricane Gilbert Category 5 Atlantic hurricane in 1988

Hurricane Gilbert was an extremely powerful tropical cyclone that formed during the 1988 Atlantic hurricane season and peaked as a Category 5 strength hurricane that brought widespread destruction to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico. Gilbert was also one of the largest tropical cyclones ever observed in the Atlantic basin. At one point, its tropical storm-force winds measured 575 mi (925 km) in diameter. In addition, Gilbert was the most intense tropical cyclone in recorded history to strike Mexico.

Hurricane Bret 1999 Category 4 Atlantic hurricane

Hurricane Bret was the first of five Category 4 hurricanes that developed during the 1999 Atlantic hurricane season and the first tropical cyclone since Hurricane Jerry in 1989 to make landfall in Texas at hurricane intensity. Forming from a tropical wave on August 18, Bret slowly organized within weak steering currents in the Bay of Campeche. By August 20, the storm began to track northward and underwent rapid intensification on August 21. After this period of strengthening, Bret attained its peak intensity with winds of 145 miles per hour (233 km/h) and a barometric pressure of 944 mbar (hPa; 27.9 inHg). Later that day, the storm weakened to a Category 3 hurricane and made landfall on Padre Island, Texas. Shortly thereafter, the storm weakened further, becoming a tropical depression 24 hours after moving inland. The remnants of the storm eventually dissipated early on August 26 over northern Mexico.

Hurricane Dolly (2008) Category 2 Atlantic hurricane in 2008

Hurricane Dolly was a strong tropical cyclone that made landfall in Deep South Texas in July 2008. Dolly was the fourth tropical cyclone and second hurricane to form during the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season. Dolly developed on July 20 from an area of disturbed weather in association with a strong tropical wave. It was named at the same time it formed—skipping the tropical depression phase entirely as the precursor wave already had tropical storm-force winds. This marked the earliest time a fourth named cyclone formed since the 2005 season, which used to hold the record until it was surpassed by the 2012 season and then by the 2016 season.

Severe weather in the Rio Grande Valley typically occurs during the spring months. While the area doesn’t see intense severe thunderstorm and tornado events like in the northern part of the state of Texas, the South Texas region is not immune to hail and supercell events that result in brief tornado touchdowns.


The Lower Rio Grande Valley encompasses landmarks that attract tourists, and popular destinations include: Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, and Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park; and on the coast: South Padre Island, Brazos Island, and the Port Isabel Lighthouse.

The Valley is a popular waypoint for tourists visiting northeast Mexico. Popular destinations across the border and Rio Grande include: Matamoros, Nuevo Progreso, Río Bravo, and Reynosa, all located in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

The Valley also attracts tourists from the Mexican states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Mexico, D.F. (México City).

Places of historical interest

The First Lift Station in Mission, Texas once provided water for irrigating the crops of the early Rio Grande Valley. Chimney park sunset.jpeg
The First Lift Station in Mission, Texas once provided water for irrigating the crops of the early Rio Grande Valley.


The Valley is historically reliant on agribusiness and tourism. Cotton, grapefruit, sorghum, maize, and sugarcane are its leading crops, and the region is the center of citrus production and the most important area of vegetable production in the State of Texas. Over the last several decades, the emergence of maquiladoras (factories or fabrication plants) has caused a surge of industrial development along the border, while international bridges have allowed Mexican nationals to shop, sell, and do business in the border cities along the Rio Grande. The geographic inclusion of South Padre Island also drives tourism, particularly during the Spring Break season, as its subtropical climate keeps temperatures warm year-round.[ citation needed ] During the winter months, many retirees (commonly referred to as "Winter Texans") arrive to enjoy the warm weather, access to pharmaceuticals and health care in Mexican border crossings such as Nuevo Progreso. There is a substantial health-care industry with major hospitals and many clinics and private practices in Brownsville, Harlingen, and McAllen.

Box of Oranges, from the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas (postcard, c. 1912-1924) Box of oranges.jpg
Box of Oranges, from the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas (postcard, c. 1912–1924)

Texas is the third largest producer of citrus fruit in United States, the majority of which is grown in the Rio Grande Valley. Grapefruit make up over 70% of the Valley citrus crop, which also includes orange, tangerine, tangelo and Meyer lemon production each Winter. [8]

There are two minor professional sports teams that play in the Rio Grande Valley: The Rio Grande Valley Vipers (basketball), and Rio Grande Valley FC Toros (soccer). Defunct teams that previously played in the region include: the Edinburg Roadrunners (baseball), La Fiera FC (indoor soccer), Rio Grande Valley Ocelots FC,(soccer), Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings (baseball), Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees (ice hockey), and the Rio Grande Valley Sol (indoor football).

One of the Valley's major tourist attractions is the semi-tropical wildlife. Birds and butterflies attract a large number of visitors every year all throughout the entire valley. Ecotourism is a major economic force in the Rio Grande Valley.


Rio Grande Valley Vote
by Party in Presidential Elections
Year GOP DEM Others
2016 29.0%81,88567.6%190,9223.40%9,544
2012 29.6%68,92769.3%161,8041.00% 4,433
2008 31.2%69,28767.8%150,4241.00% 2,033
2004 45.8%90,49353.8%106,3000.40% 789
2000 39.5%69,80159.1%104,3271.40% 2,505
1996 29.2%44,95965.8%101,3275.00% 7,605
1992 30.7%49,79856.6%91,66712.7% 20,523
1988 37.0%56,47962.5%95,4250.50% 671
1984 46.5%68,60253.2%78,6250.30% 435
1980 42.9%51,23354.9%65,5712.14% 2,559
1976 35.3%37,85364.0%68,6610.70% 772
1972 56.8%48,44242.7%36,4100.05% 390
1968 38.1%28,83155.1%41,6656.80% 5,147
1964 34.1%23,00265.7%44,3740.20% 169
1960 40.4%25,46559.0%37,2390.60% 360
1956 54.2%27,42544.7%22,6211.04% 525
1952 60.2%32,18539.6%21,1890.15% 79
1948 36.8%11,76460.8%19,4392.5% 786
1944 37.5%10,21156.6%15,4065.86% 1,595
1940 36.4%9,06563.4%15,7890.25% 63
1936 26.1%5,81871.7%15,9602.24% 498
1932 20.9%5,04578.0%18,8371.14% 275
1928 49.7%8,36850.1%8,8970.16% 27
1924 24.6%2,39571.3%6,9504.17% 407
1920 38.0%2,11560.9%3,3821.06% 59
1916 19.5%80578.8%3,2501.67% 69
1912 9.17%44585.0%4,1255.83% 283

The 2018 US Senate Democratic candidate Beto O’rouke received 164,232 votes from the region in his failed bid to oust incumbent Republican US Senator from Texas Ted Cruz.

As of 2016, officeholders tend to be Democrat, this is in part because of its large Hispanic population. It is common for voters to be influenced by members of their own extended families and by prominent families in their towns, so politicians often try to make friends with family groups to increase their chances of getting elected.[ citation needed ] As of 2006, about 20,000 to 30,000 people in Cameron County habitually vote in primary elections, and Presidential elections have higher turnouts. Politiqueras, women hired to help elderly people vote, are crucial in South Texas elections. Cecilia Ballí of Texas Monthly wrote that voters expect to get favors from politicians they vote for, and if they do not get these favors they become resentful of politicians as a whole. [9]


Colleges and universities located in the Rio Grande Valley include:


Rio Grande Valley FC Toros Soccer USLC H-E-B Park 9,735
Rio Grande Valley Vipers Basketball NBA G League Bert Ogden Arena 9,000
RGV Barracudas FC Indoor Soccer MASL Payne Arena 6,800
UTRGV Basketball Men NCAA Division I Basketball WAC UTRGV Fieldhouse 2,500


Rio Grande Valley Dorados Arena football af2 (2004–09)
Rio Grande Valley Bravos FC Soccer PDL (2008–010)
Rio Grande Valley Magic Arena football SIFL (2011)
LSFL (2012)
Rio Grande Valley Sol Arena football LSFL (2014)
XLIF (2015)
Hidalgo La Fiera Arena soccer MASL (2012–14)
Edinburg Roadrunners Baseball Texas–Louisiana League (2001)
Central Baseball League (2002–05)
United League Baseball (2006–10)
North American League (2011–12)
Rio Grande Valley Giants Baseball Texas League (1960–61)
Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings Baseball Texas–Louisiana League (1994–2001)
Central Baseball League (2002–03)
United League Baseball (2006–10)
North American League (2011–12)
Texas Thunder Baseball United League Baseball (2009–10)
North American League (2011–12)
United League Baseball (2013)
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees Ice hockey CHL (2003–12)
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees Ice hockey NAHL (2013–15)
Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees Ice hockey USA Central Hockey League (2018)







  • BLST Blistering Listens and Strange Sounds, Thank You (Rock, Punk, Hip-Hop, Electronic, Experimental, Ambient, & more)
  • KBFM Wild 104 (Hip Hop/Top 40 - IHeart Media)
  • XEEW-FM Los 40 Principales 97.7 (Top 40 Spanish/English)
  • KBTQ 96.1 Exitos (Spanish Oldies)Univision
  • KCAS 91.5 FM (Christian, Teaching/Preaching/Music)
  • KESO Digital 92.7 (Internacional, Spanish Top 40)
  • KFRQ Q94.5 The Rock Station (Classic/Modern/Hard Rock)
  • KGBT 1530 La Tremenda (Univision)
  • KGBT-FM 98.5 FM (Regional Mexican) Univision
  • KHKZ Kiss FM 105.5 & 106.3 (Hot Adult Contemporary)
  • KIRT 1580 AM Radio Imagen (Variety, Spanish contemporary)
  • KIWW (Spanish)
  • KJAV 104.9 Jack FM
  • KKPS La Nueva 99.5 (Regional Mexican)
  • KJJF/KHID 88.9/88.1 NPR (Classical/Public Radio)
  • KNVO-FM Super Estrella (Super Star) 101.1
  • KQXX Kiss FM 105.5 & 106.3 (Hot Adult Contemporary, simulcast of KHKZ - IHeart Media)
  • KTEX 100.3 (Mainstream Country - IHeart Media)
  • KURV 710 AM Heritage Talk Radio (part of the BMP family of stations)
  • KVLY 107.9 Mix FM (Top 40)
  • KVMV 96.9 FM (Christian, Contemporary Music) World Radio Network
  • KVNS 1700AM (Fox Sports Radio - IHeart Media)
  • XHRYA-FM 90.9 Mas Music (Spanish/English Mix)
  • KBUC Super Tejano102.1 (Tejano)

Notable people

A list of notable people who were born, lived, or died in the Rio Grande Valley includes:

See also

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