Subject Area



Today, the Rio Grande is both a border and a resource, a means of delineating between the United States and Mexico, as well as providing water to populations that live along its banks. Both characteristics, however, are relatively new developments when it comes to the history of the Rio Grande. Indeed, the river changed more over a ninety-year period than it had in the previous two and a half million years. In 1848, the Rio Grande became a border, figuratively and literally altering its course from that point forward, even to present day. This dissertation focuses on the process of making the river a geopolitical boundary, as well as a means of sustaining the populations found throughout the arid lands of the U.S. Southwest and northern Mexico.

Thus, “Fluid Boundary, Fixed Perceptions” examines the environmental history of the Rio Grande between 1848 and 1939, specifically highlighting the ways human actors tried to remake the river and how the Rio Grande, by its very nature, frustrated those plans.

Degree Date

Spring 5-14-2022

Document Type


Degree Name





Neil Foley

Second Advisor

John Chávez

Third Advisor

Johan Elverskog

Fourth Advisor

Andrew Graybill

Number of Pages




Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License

Available for download on Sunday, May 09, 2027