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Trans-Pecos facts for kids

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FouquieriaSplendens 2006 BigBend.jpg
Ocotillo in the Chihuahuan Desert of the Trans-Pecos
Floor elevation 300–2,667 m (984–8,750 ft)
Area 31,479 sq mi (81,530 km2)
Country United States
State Texas
Big Bend Rio Grande
Rio Grande valley in the Big Bend area

The Trans-Pecos, as originally defined in 1887 by the Texas geologist Robert T. Hill, is the portion of Texas that lies west of the Pecos River. The term is considered synonymous with Far West Texas, a subdivision of West Texas. The Trans-Pecos is part of the Chihuahuan Desert, the largest desert in North America. It is the most mountainous and arid portion of the state, and most of its vast area (outside the city of El Paso) is sparsely populated. Among the nine counties in the region are the five largest counties by area in Texas and eight of the eleven largest in the state. The area is known for the natural environment of the Big Bend and the gorge of the Rio Grande, part of which has been designated a National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. With the notable exceptions of Big Bend Ranch State Park, Big Bend National Park and the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the vast majority of the Trans-Pecos region consists of privately owned ranchland. However, most of the region's population reside in the El Paso metropolitan area.


The Trans-Pecos region consists of nine counties: Brewster, Culberson, El Paso, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Pecos, Presidio, Reeves, and Terrell. Brewster County, the largest, has a land area of 6,193 sq mi (16,040 km2). The land area of Brewster County is about 10% larger than the state of Connecticut, yet it has a population density of only 1.4 persons per square mile compared to the 723 persons per square mile who reside in Connecticut. Terrell County, which borders both the Pecos River and the Rio Grande, is the least-populated county in the Trans-Pecos region. According to the United States Census of 2000, Terrell County had a total population of 984 residents occupying a land area of 2,358 sq mi (6,107 km2), resulting in a population density less than 0.5 persons per square mile.

The Trans-Pecos is a region of extremes, and at the opposite extreme from sparsely populated Terrell County is El Paso County, which is the smallest but most populated of the nine counties. El Paso County has a land area of only 1,015 sq mi (2,629 km2), yet it has a population of 800,647 individuals, resulting in a population density of 789 persons per square mile, a value that exceeds that of Connecticut. El Paso County makes up 93.5 percent of the region's total population.

Overall, the total population of the Trans-Pecos amounts to 856,187 residents occupying an area of 31,479 sq mi (81,530 km2), resulting in a population density around 27 persons per square mile (10 persons per km2), less than a third of the population density of the state as a whole. If the Trans-Pecos were to become a state, it would rank 45th in population (more than Delaware, less than Montana), 40th in total area (larger than South Carolina, smaller than Maine), and 42nd in population density (higher than Nevada, lower than Kansas).

Road transportation

Interstates 10 and 20 are the largest freeways in the Trans-Pecos region. Major federal highways include US Highway 90 and US Highway 67, which are partially cosigned; Highway 90 continues from Alpine east to Del Rio, while Highway 67 runs south from Marfa to the Mexico–United States border at Presidio/Ojinaga, after which it continues as Mexican Federal Highway 16. State Highway 17 begins in Pecos and traverses Balmorhea State Park before joining Route 67 in Marfa, while State Highway 118 begins shortly after the junction of Interstates 10 and 20 near Kent and continues south to Study Butte at the entrance of Big Bend National Park.

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