(covers information from several alternate timelines)
The USS Rio Grande (NCC-72452) was a 24th century Federation Danube-class runabout operated by Starfleet. This ship was assigned to Deep Space 9. The Rio Grande was one of the three runabouts offloaded at DS9 by the USS Enterprise-D.
Major Kira Nerys and Doctor Julian Bashir piloted the Rio Grande back to Deep Space 9 when they received a priority one distress signal from the Kobliad transport Reyab. Later the Rio Grande was used to transport Doctor Bashir, under the control of the criminal Rao Vantika and hired Bajaron mercenaries, to steal a shipment of duridium from the freighter Norkova. (DS9: "The Passenger")
After the USS Yangtzee Kiang crash landed on a moon in the Gamma Quadrant, the Rio Grande was deployed to rescue Sisko, Bashir, Kai Opaka, and Major Kira, who were on board the Yangtzee Kiang. (DS9: "Battle Lines")
The Rio Grande was used to evacuate civilians from DS9 prior to the arrival of Bajoran militia forces acting on orders from Minister Jaro Essa, working for the Alliance for Global Unity. Quark had intended to be on board with his brother Rom, but Rom took a dabo girl in Quark's place. (DS9: "The Siege")
The Rio Grande was used to pursue the hijacked USS Orinoco containing Quark, Lieutenant Dax, and Ensign Melora Pazlar. For this mission, the Rio Grande was equipped with a roll bar module. The roll bar was removed for all future missions. (DS9: "Melora")
On stardate 47573.1, Commander Sisko and Chief Miles O'Brien explored systems near the Bajor sector aboard the Rio Grande in search of planets suitable for colonization. Upon discovering a class M planet in the Orellius system, they transported down to the planet's surface. The Rio Grande remained in orbit until it was hijacked by Alixus, who attempted to destroy the runabout by setting its course into the system's sun, Orellius Minor. Her attempt failed, and the ship was deflected across Sector 401, unpiloted, until it was reported to Starfleet by the Romulan vessel Gasko.
Major Kira and Lieutenant Dax pursued the Rio Grande aboard the Orinoco. When the Orinoco caught up with the Rio Grande, Dax, inspired by an old Hopi rope trick, used the Orinoco's tractor beam to force the Rio Grande out of warp. They then transported over to the Rio Grande to determine the origin of the runabout's course, later taking the Orinoco in tow as they returned to Orellius. (DS9: "Paradise")
Doctor Bashir and Major Kira used the Rio Grande to travel to the New Bajor colony in the Gamma Quadrant so they could help set up the colony's hospital. While en route back to Deep Space 9, the Rio Grande became the third Federation vessel to enter the mirror universe, the after the Crossfield-class USS Discovery and the Constitution-class USS Defiant. (DS9: "Crossover"; DIS: "Despite Yourself"; ENT: "In a Mirror, Darkly")
Later that year, Sisko took his son Jake, along with Quark and Nog into the Gamma Quadrant aboard the Rio Grande. It was the first time Jake and Nog had been there. However, the trip took a fateful turn as Sisko and Quark were captured by the Jem'Hadar, the soldiers of the Dominion. (DS9: "The Jem'Hadar")
In 2371, Constable Odo used the Rio Grande in an attempt to follow a ship piloted by a Flaxian suspected of attempting to kill Elim Garak. The Flaxian ship exploded before it could leave Deep Space 9, cutting the Rio Grande's mission short. (DS9: "Improbable Cause")
Later that year, Lieutenant Commander's Worf and Dax, along with Klingon Dahar master Kor, took the Rio Grande into the Gamma Quadrant to find the long-lost Sword of Kahless, which was located at a former Hur'q planet. (DS9: "The Sword of Kahless")
At some point after that, Odo used the Rio Grande to transport Quark to a Federation grand jury on Inferna Prime as part of a ruse to determine which criminal organization Quark had ties to, which later proved to be the Orion Syndicate. The Syndicate planted a bomb on the Rio Grande, intending to destroy it en route. Odo was able to mitigate the damage from the bomb by beaming it out and channeling the explosion through the transporter buffer, though the runabout still took heavy damage and was forced to crash land on an unnamed class L planet. Odo and Quark were later rescued by the USS Defiant, and the Rio Grande was salvaged. (DS9: "The Ascent")
In alternate 2374, the Rio Grande departed DS9 after the situation with the Klingons came to a head, and the Federation turned over control of the station to the Klingon Empire. As it departed for it flew over two Bajoran transports while transporting Jake Sisko to Earth. (DS9: "The Visitor")
Later that year, Odo took the Rio Grande into Cardassian space to meet with an ex-informant whom he believed to be dead. He had been duped by the "defective" clone Weyoun 6, and took him back to Federation space. When Legate Damar and the successive clone Weyoun 7 learned of their whereabouts they sent a fleet of Jem'Hadar attack ships to stop them. Odo diverted the Rio Grande into an ice field to avoid the attacking ships. (DS9: "Treachery, Faith and the Great River")
|Danube-class: USS Gander • USS Ganges • USS Mekong • USS Orinoco • USS Rio Grande • USS Rubicon • USS Shenandoah • USS Volga • USS Yangtzee Kiang • USS Yukon • NCC-73918 • Unnamed|
|Yellowstone-class: USS Yellowstone|
- "The Passenger"
- "Battle Lines"
- "The Storyteller"
- "Dramatis Personae"
- "The Homecoming"
- "The Circle"
- "The Siege" (reference only)
- "The Alternate"
- "Armageddon Game"
- "Playing God"
- "The Maquis, Part I"
- "The Maquis, Part II"
- "The Wire"
- "The Jem'Hadar"
- "The Search, Part II" (simulation)
- "Improbable Cause"
- "The Visitor"
- "The Sword of Kahless"
- "Apocalypse Rising"
- "The Assignment"
- "The Ascent"
- "By Inferno's Light"
- "The Reckoning"
- "Tears of the Prophets"
- "Shadows and Symbols"
- "Treachery, Faith and the Great River"
- "Prodigal Daughter"
- "What You Leave Behind"
As noted in "Family Business", all of the runabouts assigned to Deep Space 9 were named after Earth rivers. The Rio Grande is a river in North America, part of which serves as a natural border between the United States and Mexico.
The Rio Grande was the only one of the original three runabouts (Rio Grande, Ganges, and Yangtzee Kiang) assigned to the station to remain intact throughout the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine seven-year run. It did crash in "The Ascent", but it was apparently salvaged.
In "Treachery, Faith and the Great River", the Rio Grande (whose name, translated to English as "Great River", is part of the title of the episode), was inadvertently given the registry of the USS Shenandoah, rather than its own previously-established registry number.
The Rio Grande was shown with phaser banks on the upper forward section of the nacelle in some episodes and without the phasers in other episodes.
Starting with series premier "Emissary", the script pronunciation guide used the standard English pronunciation: "REE-oh GRAND."  In "The Siege", Quark used the Spanish pronunciation: "REE-oh GRAHN-day," though no pronunciation was provided in the script. 
The Micro Machines runabout model was marked as the Rio Grande, as was the AMT/Ertl model kit (on the packaging, at least, as the builder could name the model Rio Grande, Ganges, or Yangtzee Kiang) and the Furuta kit.