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A Focus on the Rivers of the South Central Region

Several major rivers run through the South Central CASC region. The largest, and most significant are the Rio Grande, the Red River, the Canadian River, as well as others. These rivers are essential for many reasons to these systems – people, wildlife, and general ecology, to start with. A number of climate stressors exist in these systems including drought, declining water availability, and impact on the flora and fauna of the surrounding and downstream regions they inhabit. The remainder of this page will highlight the research that has been done, or is ongoing, for these rivers as well as tangential research within the region related to other rivers and flora and fauna within these rivers.

The Rio Grande

This river begins in southern Colorado, flows southward through New Mexico and into Texas eventually forming the border between the United States and Mexico. The River is very important as a source of drinking water for many municipalities, as well as the numerous irrigation uses along the way. Due to these high water uses only about 20% of the water in this river eventually makes its way into the Gulf of Mexico. As the climate is shifting, the snow-packed mountain tops that typically feed the river are shrinking, and increased evaporation is leaving less, and saltier, water available downstream.

An image looking across the Rio Grande River in New Mexico to some foothills in the backdrop under a blue sky filled with cumulus clouds.
Rio Grande in New Mexico
Photo courtesy of Codie Winn

South Central CASC Funded Projects related to the Rio Grande

The Red River

The Red River is the second largest river in the southern great plains and is also a salty river due to sea salt deposits from ancient seas in the region. It begins its journey in the Texas Panhandle from two main tributaries which flow southwestward into Oklahoma where they merge into the Red River Proper and eventually form the border between Oklahoma and Texas.

An overhead image of the Red River
North Fork of the Red River
Courtesy of the USGS/Oklahoma-Texas water science center

South Central CASC Funded Projects related to the Red River

The Canadian River

The Canadian River is the longest tributary of the Arkansas River. It begins in Colorado and flows through New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and Oklahoma, where it then discharges into the main branch of the Arkansas River.

Canadian River Courtesy of Codie Winn

South Central CASC Funded Projects related to the Canadian River

Other Rivers and Research Related to Rivers

While the rivers previously discussed are of significant importance to our region, there are many other bodies of water that flow through or border our region, and/or contain plant and animal species that are dependent on them as well. Other related research is outlined below.