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Purgatoire River
Picketwire Canyon.jpg
The Purgatoire River has cut a canyon through the Great Plains.
Physical characteristics
Main source Confluence of North Fork and Middle Fork
River mouth Confluence with Arkansas
3,862 ft (1,177 m)
Discharge
  • Average rate:
    60 cu/ft. per sec.
Basin features
Progression ArkansasMississippi
Basin size 3,447 sq mi (8,930 km2)

The Purgatoire River (Spanish: Río Purgatorio) is a river in southeastern Colorado, United States. The river is also known locally as the Purgatory River or the Picketwire River. Purgatoire means Purgatory in French. French trappers named the river to commemorate Spanish explorers killed in a Native American attack.

The Purgatoire River originates at the confluence of the North Fork Purgatoire and Middle Fork Purgatoire rivers near Weston in Las Animas County, Colorado. It flows generally east-northeastward 196 miles (315 km) to a confluence with the Arkansas River in John Martin Reservoir State Park near Las Animas in Bent County, Colorado.

The Purgatoire River drains an area of 3,447 square miles (8,930 km2): 96.4 percent of this area is in Colorado, and the remaining 3.6 percent is in New Mexico.

The Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site is a large military base located along the western bank of the Purgatoire River. Citizens groups opposed plans of the U.S. Army to expand the base. On November 25, 2013, the U.S. Army announced that its plan to expand the Piñon Canyon Maneuver site had been cancelled.

In popular culture

The river is frequently referred to as the Picketwire River in the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962), and once in the film True Grit (2010). This is a folk-etymologizing anglophone phonological approximation of the French pronunciation /pyʁ.ɡa.ˡtwaʁ/, developed by English-speaking settlers who later came to the area.

The Purgatoire River is also referenced in the 2017 Netflix miniseries Godless.

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