Purgatoire River

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Purgatoire River[1]
Picketwire Canyon.jpg
The Purgatoire River has cut a canyon through the Great Plains.
Physical characteristics
 ⁃ locationConfluence of North Fork and Middle Fork
 ⁃ coordinates37°09′26″N 104°56′27″W / 37.15722°N 104.94083°W / 37.15722; -104.94083
 ⁃ location
Confluence with Arkansas
 ⁃ coordinates
38°03′54″N 103°10′37″W / 38.06500°N 103.17694°W / 38.06500; -103.17694Coordinates: 38°03′54″N 103°10′37″W / 38.06500°N 103.17694°W / 38.06500; -103.17694
 ⁃ elevation
3,862 ft (1,177 m)
Basin size3,447 sq mi (8,930 km2)
Basin features

The Purgatoire River is a river in southeastern Colorado, United States. The river is also known locally as the Purgatory River or the Picketwire River.[1] Purgatoire means Purgatory in French. French trappers named the river to commemorate Spanish explorers killed in a Native American attack.[2][3]

The Purgatoire River originates at the confluence of the North Fork Purgatoire and Middle Fork Purgatoire rivers near Weston in Las Animas County, Colorado, and flows generally east-northeastward approximately 196 miles (315 km)[4] 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% of this area is in Colorado, the remaining 3.6% is in New Mexico.[5]

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.[6]

In popular culture[edit]

The river is frequently referred to as the Picketwire in the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. 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.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Purgatoire River". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved January 30, 2011.
  2. ^ "Legendary Trails of Southern Colorado". Sangres.com.
  3. ^ Hook, J. N. (June 10, 2014). All Those Wonderful Names. Open Road Media. p. 292. ISBN 978-1-4976-1186-3.
  4. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 31, 2011
  5. ^ Gustafson, Daniel L. (January 24, 2003). "Hydrologic Unit Project". Montana State University, Environmental Statistics Group. Retrieved February 8, 2008.
  6. ^ Mark Udall Welcomes the U.S. Army's Decision on the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. KRDO-TV. November 26, 2013. Retrieved July 29, 2015.