Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon:
Introduction: What we refer to as "Copper Canyon" (Barranca del Cobre) is really a series of canyons which drain the western side of the Sierra Tarahumara. The entire Copper Canyon region comprises 25,000 sq mi, almost a third of the state of Chihuahua, which is Mexico's largest state. This canyon system is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in the neighboring United States, although the Grand Canyon is larger overall than any of the individual canyons of the Copper Canyon system.

There are actually six separate canyons in the Copper Canyon system. Mexico established the Copper Canyon National Park (Parque Nacional Barranca del Cobre) to showcase this remote but beautiful area. The principal canyon is Urique Canyon, which is the one which is traversed by the Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad. Eventually, all of the rivers which formed the Copper Canyons merge into the Rio Fuerte which continues across the adjacent state of Sinaloa, emerging near the City of Los Mochis on the Sea of Cortez.
  • Urique Canyon - 6136 ft deep
  • Sinforosa Canyon - 5904 ft deep
  • Copper Canyon - 5770 ft deep
  • Tararecua Canyon - 4674 ft deep
  • Batopilas Canyon - 5904 ft deep
  • Oteros Canyon - 3225 ft deep
Geology: The Copper Canyon area lies within the Sierra Madre Occidental province of northwestern Mexico. Even though the area contains canyons deeper than the Grand Canyon,
map of northern Mexico:
it has a limited geologic history of only a few tens of millions of years (versus over a billion years of geologic history for the rocks of the Grand Canyon). With the exception of the rocks at the very bottom of the canyons, the rocks of the Copper Canyon area consist primarily of explosive volcanic ash flows, ash falls, and mudflow breccias deposited approximately 20 to 40 million years ago.

Landscape: Rivers born in the high pine forests have carved a 10,000 mile maze of spectacular steep-walled gorges into the volcanic rock of the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountain Range. Standing on a canyon rim surrounded by pine-oak woodland, you look down on giant cactus and tropical trees over 5,000 feet below. Watered by summer thunder storms, the canyon country is a virtual pallet of greens highlighted by the reds and yellows of the deciduous oaks in spring and fields of wildflowers in autumn.

People: The Chepe railroad made the canyons accesible for tourists to enter this area long inhabited by the reclusive Tarahumara Indians. These small, shy natives are famed for their long-distance running ability. Some 50,000 Raramuri ("the people of the swiftly running feet") as they call themselves live in caves and other primitive dwellings, much as their ancestors have for the last 400 years.

Adapted and excerpted from:
Copper Canyon
A Brief Summary of the Geologic History of Northern Mexico
Copper Canyon
Copper Canyon