World ? Caribbean & Central America ? Mexico ? Copper Canyon

Copper Canyon: Introduction

The first time I went to the Copper Canyon, I had a vision of the Grand Canyon because I had read many remarks comparing the two. This turned out to be misleading. Comparing the two does neither place justice. The canyons are not alike; they have different topography, geology, climate, flora, and fauna, and different local cultures, too.

If you are interested in viewing a rugged and beautiful land, if you're interested in taking one of the most remarkable train trips in the world, if you're interested in hiking or riding horseback through remote areas to see an astonishing variety of plants and animals, or if you're curious about a land still populated by indigenous people living pretty much the way they have for centuries, the Copper Canyon is the place to go.

When people say Copper Canyon, they are referring to a section of the Sierra Madre of northwestern Mexico known as the Sierra Tarahumara (after the Indians who live there). The area was formed through violent volcanic uplifting followed by the gradual process of erosion that carved a vast network of canyons into the soft volcanic stone. In geological terms, it's much newer than the Grand Canyon.

Crossing the Sierra Tarahumara is the famed Chihuahua al Pacȷfico (Chihuahua to the Pacific) railway. Acclaimed as an engineering marvel, the 624km (387-mile) railroad has 39 bridges -- the highest is more than 300m (984 ft.) above the Chinipas River and the longest is about .5km (one-third mile) long -- and 86 tunnels, including one more than 1.5km (1 mile) long. It climbs from Los Mochis, at sea level, up nearly 2,425m (7,954 ft.) through some of Mexico's most magnificent scenery -- thick pine forests, jagged peaks, and shadowy canyons -- before descending to the city of Chihuahua.

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