Many years ago, I used to go see a great local band in El Paso, Texas called "Springfire". They were a comedy band that took on a serious note every once in a while. One of their songs, "Jesus Would Have Loved El Paso", started with this lyric:
"The Rio is a lot like the Jordan
Muddy but it ain't too wide
I guess it's a kind of salvation
When you make it to the other side"
Without the Rio Grande, I don't know if the Mesilla Valley would have thrived as it has over the last few centuries. The picture above was taken last August when the waters were flowing for irrigation.
The Rio Grande is the life blood of Las Cruces. Agriculture is key here - cotton, onions, green chile, pecans, watermelon, lettuce, hay...the list is almost endless.
Irrigation ditch in Las Cruces - Shalem Colony Trail
The river starts in southwestern Colorado and flows to the Gulf of Mexico - it creates the boundary between Texas and Mexico. It's incredible to think that this was a major commerce waterway at one point!
These days, there isn't much fishing or boating going on due to the fact that the river doesn't flow like it used to. Water is a very precious commodity in the southwest so restrictions have placed on how much water is released upstream and when it gets released. It's very rare to see the river as full as it is in the picture above. Most times, you'll see a small stream rolling through surrounded by sandbars.
When the river does flow, you'll find many Las Crucens' at La Llorona Park with their families, enjoying the afternoons and/or evenings with a picnic and being serenaded by their neighbors playing guitars. The history of the Mesilla Valley includes stories from our founding families about special events being held on the river banks, including baptisms and boat races.
Today, the river is caught up in all sorts of political debates - border security and water rights are just a few of the issues. These debates have been going on for decades and they probably won't end soon. All I know is that, when I return to Las Cruces, it certainly is a welcome site to crest the hill on I-10, look into the valley and see that beautiful river rolling along.