On the eastern bank of the Arroyo Colorado river, land promoters divided lots for the town site in 1910 and sponsored a naming contest. Selected was Rio Hondo, which means "deep river." Incorporated in 1927, the city encompasses very fertile farmland in the Rio Grande Valley with cotton and grain as the principal crops. Mild Valley temperatures lure many winter visitors.
One of two lift-span bridges in Texas is in Rio Hondo. Built in 1953, the bridge allows barge and boat traffic to make its way to the port at Harlingen.