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Land and Resources, Rivers and Lakes

Balsas River, Usumacinta, Sierra Madre Occidental, Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Coatzacoalcos

Mexico’s rivers are not navigable by large ships. Rather than serving as communications or commercial links, they have been harnessed as major sources of hydroelectric power, especially since the 1950s. Dams on these rivers also serve to prevent annual flood damage. Among the country's most important rivers is the Grijalva, which originates in Guatemala but flows through the state of Chiapas and then empties into the Gulf of Mexico near Villahermosa. It is navigable in places by small boats. Another important river is the Usumacinta, which also originates in Guatemala. The Usumacinta takes a more easterly route through Chiapas and joins the Grijalva near the Gulf of Mexico. The Infiernillo dam, on the Balsas River southwest of Mexico City, forms one of the largest reservoirs in the country and makes up much of the border between the states of Guerrero and Michoacan. The Papaloapan River originates in the mountains north of the narrow neck of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and empties into the Gulf of Mexico near Coatzacoalcos, which boasts another major river by the same name. The Grande de Santiago and Lerma rivers together form the largest and most important river system in Mexico. The Lerma originates in the Sierra Madre Occidental and flows into Lake Chapala. The Grande de Santiago drains out of the lake and empties into the Pacific Ocean in the state of Nayarit. It is a significant source of hydroelectric power. The Rio Bravo (known as the Rio Grande in the United States), delineates the entire Texas-Mexico border and provides water for major irrigation projects in both countries. Mexico does not have many large lakes. Lake Chapala, south of the city of Guadalajara, is the largest in the country at about 80 km (about 50 mi) long and about 13 km (about 8 mi) wide.



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