Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon, Mexico
2042 meters/6700 feet
Copper Canyon National Park is known as Parque Nacional Barranca del Cobre. Barranca Del Cobre is actually six distinct canyons formed by six rivers in the Sierra Tarahumara in the state of Chihuahua. Copper Canyon's traditional inhabitants are the Tarahumara Indians, the best distance runners in the world and plays an important role in their culture. Their name for themselves is Raramuri which means "the footrunners"

Copper Canyon constitutes a series of canyons which drain the western side of the Sierra Tarahumara. The entire Copper Canyon region comprises almost a third of the state of Chihuahua, which is Mexico's largest state. The principal canyon is Urique Canyon, the one which is traversed by the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad. All of the rivers that form Copper Canyon eventually merge into the Rio Fuerte which continues across the adjacent state of Sinaloa and emerges near the City of Los Mochis on the Sea of Cortez
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Photo courtesy of Torres Travel
Activities and Attractions
There are several ways to enjoy Copper Canyon including hiking, biking, horseback riding and swimming. A great way to explore the region is by the Sierra Madre Express, a thirteen-hour scenic train ride that travels through eighty-seven tunnels and over thirty-nine bridges of the spectacular Tarahumara Sierra.

It runs along the main canyon called Canyon Urique, between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, on the Gulf of California. This is considered to be one of the most scenic train rides in the world.

Popular Destinations
Creel The highest point on the railroad route; a central point for commerce and tourism.

Divisadero Amazing views down into three of the canyons

Cusarare Falls with its several hot springs and historic missions

Batopilas A beautiful ancient mining town on the Batopilas River at the bottom of a canyon; first established by the Spanish around 1632 to mine silver

Geology
This terrain is often considered as among the most rugged and difficult in the world. The three rivers that drain the central Sierra Tarahumara are the Rio Verde, the Rio Urique, and the Rio Batopilas. These rivers carve the largest and deepest canyons in North America. These rivers are extremely remote and inaccessible, therefore seldom visited by the outside world.

The predominant rock types are rhyolites, basalts, tuft, breccia and andesite. There exists an interesting array of minerals, agates, geodes, quartz crystals, malachite, galena and clear calcite crystals.

Climate
The alpine climate of the mountainous regions of Copper Canyon has moderate temperatures from October to November and March to April. The bottom of the canyons are humid and warm and remain that way throughout the year. The warmest months are April through June, the lack of rainfall causes drought conditions until July when the rainy season begins.

Ecology
This is a land of exotic forests and rare species of plants and birds. The region contains some twenty-three different species of pine and two hundred different species of oak trees but due to deforestation in the area, many species of wildlife are endangered. A few mexican wolves (lobos) as well as jaguars live in Copper Canyon but are rarely seen. Ocelots and river otters are often sighted below.

After the summer rainy season the upper regions blossom with wildflowers. In the fall the forests become brilliant with color from Andean Alder and poplar trees. Brushwood and scrub grow on the canyon slopes, which can accommodate the dry season. Huge fig and palm trees thrive at the bottom where the climate is tropical.

History
The Spanish arrived in this area in the 1600’s. Cortez forced the Indigenous people into the canyons. The conquistadors were looking for gold and silver and had a mission to spread Christianity. During the 17th century they discovered silver. The Tarahumaras were used as laborers in the mines. They eventually relocated up on the canyon's cliffs.

Today, the population of the Tarahumara people is estimated to be 50,000. They desire to remain isolated. Maize (corn) represents 85% of the Tarahumara’s diet. The Tarahumara people are known for their endurance.They travel great vertical distances, which they often do by running nonstop for hours. The Tarahumara people sometimes hunt and have been known to chase down a deer until it collapses with sheer exhaustion. A popular Tarahumara community race called “rarahipa,” is played by kicking a wooden ball along the paths of the steep canyons. All players must run nonstop until the finish.