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Rio Arriba County, New Mexico facts for kids

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Rio Arriba County
Rio Arriba County Courthouse, Isaac Rapp, architect, 1916-17
Rio Arriba County Courthouse, Isaac Rapp, architect, 1916-17
Official seal of Rio Arriba County
Map of New Mexico highlighting Rio Arriba County
Location within the U.S. state of New Mexico
Map of the United States highlighting New Mexico
New Mexico's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  New Mexico
Founded 1852
Named for location on the upper Rio Grande (río arriba means "upriver" in Spanish)
Seat Tierra Amarilla
Largest city Española
 • Total 5,896 sq mi (15,270 km2)
 • Land 5,861 sq mi (15,180 km2)
 • Water 35 sq mi (90 km2)  0.6%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 6.9/sq mi (2.7/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
Congressional district 3rd

Rio Arriba County is a county in the U.S. state of New Mexico. As of the 2010 census, the population was 40,246. Its county seat is Tierra Amarilla. Its northern border is the Colorado state line.

Rio Arriba County comprises the Española, NM Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Albuquerque-Santa Fe-Las Vegas, NM Combined Statistical Area.


The county was one of nine originally created for the Territory of New Mexico in 1852. Originally extending west to the California line, it included the site of present-day Las Vegas, Nevada. The county seat was initially sited at San Pedro de Chamita, and shortly afterwards at Los Luceros. In 1860 the seat was moved to Plaza del Alcalde. Since 1880 Tierra Amarilla has been the county seat.

The Battle of Embudo Pass took place in the southern part of the county during the American invasion in January 1847.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 5,896 square miles (15,270 km2), of which 5,861 square miles (15,180 km2) are land and 35 square miles (91 km2) (0.6%) are water. It is the fifth-largest county in New Mexico by area. The highest point in the county is the summit of Truchas Peak at 13,102 feet (3,993 m).

The county acquired its present proportions after the creation of San Juan County and other adjustments.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 16,624
1920 19,552 17.6%
1930 21,381 9.4%
1940 25,352 18.6%
1950 24,997 −1.4%
1960 24,193 −3.2%
1970 25,170 4.0%
1980 29,282 16.3%
1990 34,365 17.4%
2000 41,190 19.9%
2010 40,246 −2.3%
2019 (est.) 38,921 −3.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2016

2010 census

As of the 2010 census, there were 40,246 people, 15,768 households, and 10,477 families living in the county. The population density was 6.9 inhabitants per square mile (2.7/km2). There were 19,638 housing units at an average density of 3.4 per square mile (1.3/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 51.6% white, 16.0% American Indian, 0.5% black or African American, 0.4% Asian, 28.0% from other races, and 3.3% from two or more races. Those of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 71.3% of the population.

The largest ancestry groups were:

  • 20.6% Mexican
  • 15.5% Spanish
  • 4.5% German
  • 3.2% English
  • 2.7% Irish
  • 1.7% French
  • 1.5% Navajo
  • 1.2% Scottish

Of the 15,768 households, 33.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.3% were married couples living together, 16.0% had a female householder with no husband present, 33.6% were non-families, and 28.2% of all households were made up of individuals. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.09. The median age was 39.0 years.

The median income for a household in the county was $41,437 and the median income for a family was $47,840. Males had a median income of $39,757 versus $31,657 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,913. About 15.7% of families and 19.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.6% of those under age 18 and 18.3% of those age 65 or over.

Points of interest


Trick Rider, Rio Arriba Rodeo
Trick Rider, Rio Arriba Rodeo, 2013
Truchas peak winter
Truchas Peaks in winter, viewed from Espanola




Census-designated places

Other communities

Ghost towns


Ghost Ranch rainbow
Ghost Ranch rainbow

School districts

Rio Arriba County has six public school districts. Española Public Schools is the largest.

  • Chama Valley Independent Schools
  • Jemez Mountain Public Schools
  • Dulce Independent Schools
  • Mesa Vista Consolidated Schools
  • Espanola Public Schools
  • Peñasco Independent Schools


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