Copper Canyon

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Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon (Spanish: Barrancas del Cobre) is a group of six distinct canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua in northwestern Mexico. The canyons were formed by six rivers that drain the western side of the Sierra Tarahumara (a part of the Sierra Madre Occidental). All six rivers merge into the Rio Fuerte and empty into the Gulf of California. The walls of the canyon are a copper/green color, which is the origin of the name.

Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range

The Sierra Madre Occidental is a major mountain range system of the North American Cordillera, that runs northwest–southeast through northwestern and western Mexico, and along the Gulf of California. The Sierra Madre is part of the American Cordillera, a chain of mountain ranges (cordillera) that consists of an almost continuous sequence of mountain ranges that form the western 'backbone' of North America, Central America, South America and West Antarctica.

Chihuahua (state) State of Mexico

Chihuahua, officially the Estado Libre y Soberano de Chihuahua, is one of the 31 states of Mexico. It is located in Northwestern Mexico and is bordered by the states of Sonora to the west, Sinaloa to the southwest, Durango to the south, and Coahuila to the east. To the north and northeast, it has a long border with the U.S. adjacent to the U.S. states of New Mexico and Texas. Its capital city is Chihuahua City.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the tenth most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Contents

History

The New Spanish arrived in the Copper Canyon area in the 17th century and encountered the indigenous locals throughout Chihuahua. For the New Spanish, America was a new land to explore for gold and silver and also to spread Christianity. The New Spanish named the people they encountered "Tarahumara", derived from the word Rarámuri, which is what the indigenous people call their men. Some scholars theorize that this word may mean 'The running people'. During the 17th century, silver was discovered by the Hispanic in the land of the Tarahumara tribe. Some were enslaved for mining efforts. There were small uprisings by the Tarahumara, but to little avail. They eventually were forced off the more desirable lands and up into the canyon cliffs.

New Spain viceroyalty of the Spanish Empire (1535-1821)

The Viceroyalty of New Spain was an integral territorial entity of the Spanish Empire, established by Habsburg Spain during the Spanish colonization of the Americas. It covered a huge area that included territories in North America, South America, Asia and Oceania. It originated in 1521 after the fall of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, the main event of the Spanish conquest, which did not properly end until much later, as its territory continued to grow to the north. It was officially created on 8 March 1535 as a viceroyalty, the first of four viceroyalties Spain created in the Americas. Its first viceroy was Antonio de Mendoza y Pacheco, and the capital of the viceroyalty was Mexico City, established on the ancient Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

Americas Landmass comprising North America, Central America and South America

The Americas comprise the totality of the continents of North and South America. Together, they make up most of the land in Earth's western hemisphere and comprise the New World.

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[ vague ] and remain that way throughout the year. During the warmest months, April through June, drought is a chronic problem with little rainfall until July when the rainy season begins.

Flora and fauna

The Sierra Tarahumara Occidental region contains numerous species of pine and oak trees. Mexican Douglas-fir ( Pseudotsuga lindleyana ) trees cover the high plateaus in altitudes over 8,000 feet (2,400 m), but due to deforestation in the area, many species of wildlife are endangered. Cougars live in the remotest of regions and are rarely seen. After the summer rainy season these upper regions blossom with wildflowers until October.

Pseudotsuga lindleyana, commonly known as the Mexican Douglas-fir, is a conifer in the genus Pseudotsuga that is endemic to Mexico. DNA sequence and morphological evidence suggests it is most closely related to Rocky Mountain Douglas-fir and might best be treated as an additional variety within P. menziesii.

Cougar Large cat of the family Felidae native to the Americas

The cougar, also commonly known by other names including catamount, mountain lion, panther, and puma, is a large felid of the subfamily Felinae native to the Americas. Its range, from the Canadian Yukon to the southern Andes of South America, is the widest of any large wild terrestrial mammal in the Western Hemisphere. An adaptable, generalist species, the cougar is found in most American habitat types. It is the biggest cat in North America, and the second-heaviest cat in the New World after the jaguar. Secretive and largely solitary by nature, the cougar is properly considered both nocturnal and crepuscular, although daytime sightings do occur. The cougar is more closely related to smaller felines, including the domestic cat, than to any species of subfamily Pantherinae, of which only the jaguar is native to the Americas.

From 4,000–8,000 feet (1,200–2,400 m), oak trees grow in the huge forests as well as the more shade-tolerant types of trees. In the fall the forests become brilliant with color from Andean alder ( Alnus acuminata ) and poplar ( Populus spp.) trees. Brushwood and scrubby trees grow on the canyon slopes, which can accommodate the dry season. Huge fig ( Ficus spp.) and palm trees thrive at the bottom where water is plentiful and the climate is tropical.

Oak genus of plants

An oak is a tree or shrub in the genus Quercus of the beech family, Fagaceae. There are approximately 600 extant species of oaks. The common name "oak" also appears in the names of species in related genera, notably Lithocarpus, as well as in those of unrelated species such as Grevillea robusta and the Casuarinaceae (she-oaks). The genus Quercus is native to the Northern Hemisphere, and includes deciduous and evergreen species extending from cool temperate to tropical latitudes in the Americas, Asia, Europe, and North Africa. North America contains the largest number of oak species, with approximately 90 occurring in the United States, while Mexico has 160 species of which 109 are endemic. The second greatest center of oak diversity is China, which contains approximately 100 species.

<i>Alnus acuminata</i> species of plant

Alnus acuminata is a species of deciduous tree in the Betulaceae family. It is found in montane forests from central Mexico to Argentina.

<i>Populus</i> genus of plants

Populus is a genus of 25–35 species of deciduous flowering plants in the family Salicaceae, native to most of the Northern Hemisphere. English names variously applied to different species include poplar, aspen, and cottonwood.

Threats to the ecosystem

Due to increases in human population, there are many threats to the ecosystems of the Sierra Tarahumara Occidental region. The government funding to build a "tourist friendly" atmosphere poses threats to the environment and indigenous cultures. Roads have been built in the former isolated mountainous zones. Agriculture and grazing as well as the cutting of hardwoods and other trees for firewood has accelerated a soil erosion problem. Mesquite (Prosopis spp.) and desert ironwood ( Olneya tesota ) trees are cut and exported primarily to the U.S. for charcoal. Amapa ( Tabebuia chrysantha ) trees yield highly prized lumber for building and furniture making. Other trees are also cut and sold for their high-priced lumber. Over-harvesting of the forests in the area has caused the extinction of the imperial woodpecker and Mexican wolf. Approximately, two percent of the original old-growth forest remains.[ citation needed ] However, a massive forest-harvesting project in the region has been abandoned, for now, by the World Bank. The Mexican forestry department deemed these species of trees "legally protected," but enforcement is difficult.

Erosion Processes which remove soil and rock from one place on the Earths crust, then transport it to another location where it is deposited

In earth science, erosion is the action of surface processes that removes soil, rock, or dissolved material from one location on the Earth's crust, and then transports it to another location. This natural process is caused by the dynamic activity of erosive agents, that is, water, ice (glaciers), snow, air (wind), plants, animals, and humans. In accordance with these agents, erosion is sometimes divided into water erosion, glacial erosion, snow erosion, wind (aeolic) erosion, zoogenic erosion, and anthropogenic erosion. The particulate breakdown of rock or soil into clastic sediment is referred to as physical or mechanical erosion; this contrasts with chemical erosion, where soil or rock material is removed from an area by its dissolving into a solvent, followed by the flow away of that solution. Eroded sediment or solutes may be transported just a few millimetres, or for thousands of kilometres.

Mesquite

Mesquite is a common name for several plants in the genus Prosopis, which contains over 40 species of small leguminous trees. They are native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. The mesquite originates in the Tamaulipan mezquital ecoregion, in the deserts and xeric shrublands biome, located in the southern United States and northeastern Mexico. It has extremely long roots in order to seek water from very far underground. The region covers an area of 141,500 km2, encompassing a portion of the Gulf Coastal Plain in southern Texas, northern Tamaulipas, northeastern Coahuila, and part of Nuevo León. As a legume, mesquite is one of the few sources of fixed nitrogen in the desert habitat.

<i>Tabebuia chrysantha</i> species of plant

Tabebuia chrysantha, known as guayacan in Colombia, as tajibo in Bolivia, and as ipê-amarelo in Brazil, is a native tree of the intertropical broadleaf deciduous forests of South America above the Tropic of Capricorn. On May 29, 1948, Tabebuia chrysantha was declared National Tree of Venezuela since being an emblematic native species of extraordinary beauty. Its deep yellow resembles the one on the Venezuelan flag. It is one of about 100 species of Tabebuia.

The government has taken measures to halt or slow down the cultivation of opium poppies and cannabis by spraying crops with herbicides, which threaten the populations of many different species. A large saturnid moth, Rothschildia cincta, are one of the species that are threatened by the spraying. Their cocoons are used by the native population for ceremonial purposes.

Open-pit mining for copper, gold and other metals not only produces air pollution from smelters, but has been linked to the serious decline of the Tarahumara frog ( Rana tarahumarae ). Every river system has been dammed causing fresh water shortages in nearby desert communities. An enormous dam is being constructed on the Rio Fuerte, which poses major environmental problems and may lead to massive losses of tropical forest and habitats.

Conservation is underway, but remains informal and slow. Mexico has environmental laws, but suffers from lack of financial resources. Enforcement has been lax or non-existent. Agencies are actively trying to increase the protection for natural preserves.[ citation needed ]

Indigenous people

Copper Canyon traditional inhabitants are the Tarahumara or Rarámuri. With no official census, the population of the Rarámuri people probably ranges between 35,000 and 70,000. Many Rarámuri reside in the cooler, mountainous regions during the hot summer months and migrate deeper into the canyons in the cooler winter months, where the climate is more temperate. Their survival strategies have been to occupy areas that are too remote for city people, way off-the-beaten-path to remain isolated and independent so as to avoid losing their culture.

Tourism is a growing industry for Copper Canyon, but the acceptance of it is debated in the local communities. Some communities accept government funding for building roads, restaurants and lodging to make the area attractive for tourists. Many other groups of Rarámuri maintain their independence by living in areas that are as far away from city life as possible. Their way of life is protected by the mountainous landscape.

Their diet is largely domestic agrarian but does consist of meat from domesticated cows, chickens and goats, wild game and freshwater fish. Corn (maize) is the most important staple of the Rarámuri's diet.

The Rarámuri people are known for their endurance running. Living in the canyons, they travel great vertical distances, which they often do by running nonstop for hours.A popular Rarámuri community race called rarajipari, is played by kicking a wooden ball along the paths of the steep canyons.

Tourism

The road to Batopilas descends into Copper Canyon. Road to batopilas.jpg
The road to Batopilas descends into Copper Canyon.

There are many other ways to explore Copper Canyon such as hiking, biking, driving or horseback riding. The most popular way is by train, as the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico or ChePe, runs along the main canyon called Canyon Urique, between Chihuahua and Los Mochis, on the Gulf of California.

The Chihuahua al Pacifico began in the late 19th century. The revolution, lack of funding, and the overall difficulty of building a railroad over such terrain hindered its completion until 1961. The railroad comprises 405 miles of rails with 39 bridges and 86 tunnels. The total trip takes approximately 15 hours and passes through towns, as well as the towering cliffs of the canyons. Along the railway, many Tarahumarans lay out their food, crafts and other wares for sale.

Mexico established the Parque Nacional Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon National Park) to showcase this remote area. The park is located in the municipalities of Batopilas, Bocoyna, Guachochi, and Urique.

The Basaseachic Falls National Park around the Basaseachic Falls is located within the canyon area.

Cities and towns

A hotel at Divisadero perches on the rim of Copper Canyon. The railroad runs nearby. Hotel and RR at divisadero.jpg
A hotel at Divisadero perches on the rim of Copper Canyon. The railroad runs nearby.

Among the villages located in or on the Copper Canyon are:

Copper Canyon was featured on Season 1 Episode 12, of Man vs. Wild on the Discovery Channel, on Raramuri Tale, [1]

The nonfiction book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, chronicling the story of ultra-runner Micah True in the Copper Canyon with the Tarahumara Indians, who taught him a better way to run. [2] [3] True was the race director of the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon, [4] [5] which ends in Urique's plaza. The race covers 50 miles (80 km) of single track trail and dirt road. [2] [5]

See also

Related Research Articles

Basaseachic Falls waterfall

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Rarámuri Native American people

The Rarámuri or Tarahumara are a group of indigenous people of the Americas living in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico. They are renowned for their long-distance running ability.

El Fuerte, Sinaloa Place in Sinaloa, Mexico

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Creel, Chihuahua City in Chihuahua, Mexico

Creel is a town in the Sierra Tarahumara of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It is the second-largest town in the municipality of Bocoyna. It is located some 175 kilometres (109 mi) to the southwest of the state capital, Chihuahua City. At the census of 2010, it had a population of 5,026, down from 5,338 as of 2005.

Fuerte River river in Mexico

The Fuerte River is a river in the state of Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico. It flows from headwaters in the Sierra Madre Occidental to the Pacific Ocean in the Gulf of California.

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Batopilas, Chihuahua Town in Chihuahua, Mexico

Batopilas is a small town, and seat of the surrounding municipality of the same name, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, located along the Río Batopilas at the bottom of the Batopilas canyon, part of the Copper Canyon. As of 2010, the town of Batopilas had a population of 1,220. Its elevation above sea level is 578 metres (1,896 ft). The town is situated in a narrow valley, bordered by steep canyon walls. The government of Mexico declared it a Pueblo Mágico on October 19, 2012.

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<i>Fraxinus velutina</i> species of plant

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Federal Highway 24 is a free part of the federal highways corridors. Fed. 24 is intended to cross the Sierra Madre Occidental from the area of Hidalgo del Parral, Chihuahua, on the east, to the area of Culiacán, Sinaloa, on the west. A limited central section of about 40 to 50 km is not yet completed or graded. This section lies between the villages of Los Frailes, Durango, on the east, and Soyatita, Sinaloa, on the west. Travel is possible through this area, where the road is not yet completed, on unimproved roads using high clearance two-wheel drive vehicles. The two unconnected segments that extend through Los Frailes and Soyatita are graded, but each segment is unpaved for about the last 75 km. The central gap in the highway is in the rugged mountains of the Sierra Madre Occidental. This uncompleted and unpaved portion of the road is not well signed, there are many intersections with other unimproved roads, and it is easy to get lost off the intended route of the highway. As noted later, getting lost may not be a safe proposition. Further, the unfinished segment on the west is at about 820 meters elevation at Soyatita. Just outside Los Frailes, the road coming from the east is at 2,750 meters elevation. The traveler crossing this gap will have to negotiate this dramatic change in elevation traveling a good deal of the way on unimproved dirt roads. Travel times in this central section can be quite slow.

Basaseachic Falls National Park national park in Mexico

Basaseachic Falls National Park is a national park located in the western side of the state of Chihuahua in the heart of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. The park is named after Basaseachic Falls the second tallest waterfall in Mexico with a height of 246 meters (853 ft). Basaseachic Falls empties into Candameña Canyon which was carved by the Basaseachic River over millions of years. The park is known for its pine-oak forest, rock formations, and scenic views from high cliffs. Cliffs in the park reach an impressive height of 1,640 meters (5,380 ft).

<i>Frangula betulifolia</i> species of plant

Frangula betulifolia, the birchleaf buckthorn, is a shrub or small tree in the buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae. It is native in northern Mexico in the Sierra Madre Occidental cordillera, and mountainous, desert regions of the Southwestern United States of Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and far west Texas; besides being found in Sonora, Chihuahua and Durango of the Occidental cordillera, a large species locale occurs to the east in Nuevo León.

Pajarito Mountains, Arizona

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Cueva de la Momia is an archaeological site located in the region of Ciudad Madera, in the Sirupa Canyon region, northwest of the Mexican state of Chihuahua. It is located at the foot of a very high cliff on the ravine of the Arroyo del Venado, shortly before it joins the Rio Chico; in the vicinity of the Huápoca Canyon, is a series of caves where a number of mummies were found.

Huápoca

Huápoca is an archaeological site located 36 kilometers west of Ciudad Madera, in the Huápoca Canyon region, northwest of the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Romayne Wheeler

Romayne Wheeler is a concert pianist, composer, writer and researcher who is best known for life and work with the Tarahumara people in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. While born in California, Wheeler has lived in various parts of the world, initially because of his father’s work and later due to his own career as a pianist. In 1980, Wheeler became interested in the Sierra Tarahumara and its people due to photos in a National Geographic magazine. He spent months out of the year studying the music and dance of the Tarahumara and in 1992, decided to live permanently in this very remote area, bringing his piano with him. Wheeler remains an active musician, touring for part of the year. He dedicates most of his income in support of the Tarahumara.

The Chinipas is a large river of Mexico. The Chinipas arises deep in the Sierra Madre Occidental in the state of Chihuahua, and then flows through long rugged canyon systems into the state of Sinaloa until it finally joins the main trunk of the Fuerte River in the western foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental. The Fuerte River then flows westward over the western coastal plain of Sonora to the Pacific Ocean, emerging very near the port of Topolobampo.

References

  1. raramuritale.co.uk Archived 2008-11-07 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 Bearak, Barry (30 March 2012). "Search Is On in New Mexico for Revered Ultrarunner". The New York Times . Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  3. "Officials expand search for missing Colorado ultrarunner in New Mexico". Gila, New Mexico: Fox News. 31 March 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2012.
  4. "Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon home page". Archived from the original on April 13, 2012. Retrieved April 1, 2012.
  5. 1 2 Outside Online (March 31, 2010). "Born to Run: Caballo Blanco Interview". The Outside Blog. Retrieved April 1, 2012.