Remarkable piece by UNM water professor emeritus Basia Irland:
I flood. That is what I — and all my cousins — do from time to time. It is part of our rhythm. In their hubris, humans build cities and towns right on our banks, then get upset with us when our waters rise and destroy some of their property. They try to control us by building dams and straightening our courses so that we no longer flow naturally, aiding the hydrologic cycle, creating meanders, spreading silt, and sustaining entire ecosystems of aquatic life, plants, and animals.
Consider in the old days that water transport was the easiest way to ship bulk goods (see the pre steamboat Mississippi) as at least until the railroads arrived. Perhaps less in NM as it is not clear what navigation on the rio grand in NM existed pre 1881 or so. (I can assume that one could at least canoe on it.). In addition in NM consider that you had to carry water or dig a well to get water and being near the river meant a shorter distance to carry the water. Consider that a horse drawn wagon typically could go 10 miles in a day or so. (then the railroads also took river valleys as ways to run because they are the flattest route, leading to the idea behind the never Build Denver Colorado Canyons and Pacific railroad whose promoter observed rivers are the flattest paths to the sea, therefore build a railroad from Grand Junction Co to the pacific along the Colorado river.) ( The first survey never even made it thru the canyon, see Rival Rails (Walter Borneman) for more details) Often in the old days cities were established at the limit of oceanic navigation on rivers (see the fall line on the atlantic coast). So what causes a city to be located where it is depends a lot on what technology is being used at the time the city is founded.