The Rio Grande Rift, one of the major geologic structures of the Southwest, cuts through the center of New Mexico from north to south. The rift is also referred to as the Rio Grande Trench and as the Rio Grande Trough. It extends from the northern end of the San Luis Valley in Colorado southward 725 kilometres along the course of the Rio Grande River through New Mexico to near El Paso, Tex. The Rio Grande Rift is not a single trough but a series of north-trending basins arranged en echelon and separated by narrow constrictions or channels. The rift follows the western flank of the southern Rocky Mountains and apparently was formed at the same time as the moutains.