The Pecos River rises on the slopes of the Santa Fe mountain range in Mora County, New Mexico, and travels 900+ miles before emptying into the Rio Grande. Its drainage basin is approximately 44,000 square miles. It’s sort of hard to believe when you look at the river today, but before dams came along and impounded it, the river used to flow swiftly: Early-day travelers described it as generally sixty-five to a hundred feet wide and seven to ten feet deep, with a fast current. It was fordable at only a few places, the most famous of which was the Horsehead Crossing. Incidentally, like most Texas Rivers, the Pecos has had many different names. In 1583 Antonio de Espejo called the river the Río de las Vacas (“river of the cows”) because of the number of buffalo in the vicinity. Gaspar Castaño de Sosa, who followed the Pecos northward, called it the Río Salado because of its salty taste, which, he said, caused it to be shunned by men and animals alike. According to Adolph F. Bandelier, the name Pecos first appears in Juan de Oñate’s reports concerning the Indian pueblo of Cicuye, now known as the Pecos Pueblo, and is of unknown origin. To Mexicans, the river was long known as the Río Puerco (“dirty river”).
Shown here is a photo of the Pecos near Sheffield, Texas that was taken by Traces of Texas reader Trey Armstrong. Thank you, Trey!
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