The word barranca (or barranco) is Spanish for cliff or precipice and is used in the Southwest and Mexico when referring specifically to the cut or steep bank made by water erosion along the edges of streams, arroyos, or rivers. Barranca is used as well when referring to the steep side of a gorge or cañón. Terms such as barranca mesa (mesa means “table”), which one might hear around Los Alamos, New Mexico, refer to the ground directly above the barranca—that area of level land that is yet to be eroded. In The Iron Heel, Jack London writes: “A quarter of a mile from Glen Ellen, after the second bridge is passed, to the right will be noticed a barranca that runs like a scar across the rolling land toward a group of wooded knolls.”

Arturo Longoria