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COPPER CANYON

Known as Barranca del Cobre, these huge cavernous canyons are large enough to envelope the Grand Canyon four times. The main attraction of Copper Canyon is the Chihuahua al Pacifico railroad. This train travels over 661 km (410 MI) of track, passes through 87 tunnels, and crosses 35 bridges. Either beginning or terminating in Los Mochis or Chihuahua the train passes through land rich in history and culture as well as natural beauty.

LOCATION:

The canyons are located on the eastern edge of the "Pacific Ring of Fire" in the Sierra Madre region. The towns of Los Mochis, El Fuerte, Bahuichivo, Cerocahui, El Divisadero, Creel, and Chihuahua are located in the canyon area.

HISTORY:

Seismic and volcanic activity started the process of forming these huge canyons, pushing a large quantity of mineral wealth to the surface. Over many thousands of centuries, the Urique, Septentrion, Batopilas, and Chinipas rivers further carved the canyons. The Tarahumara Indians once occupied the entire state of Chihuahua. With the arrival of the Spanish, the Indians were put to work in the mines discovered in the canyons. Americans and Mexicans put them to work on the railroads being built in 1881. The threat of war and slavery that began in the 1600’s and continued through to the 20th  century forced these native people to retreat deeper into the canyon. To this day, their land is still being taken over by loggers and drug lords. Farming, cattle raising and mining are the means of wealth in this region.

WEATHER:

From late April to June, the weather is hot, hazy, and almost unbearable. Chronic water shortages are common in many hotels and towns. Try to avoid traveling during this time. October to early November and March to April are the high seasons, when temperatures are moderate. The canyon rim may get freezing weather November through to March. In the bottom of the canyon, temperatures may get cool enough to require a sweater. During the other half of the year, the canyon bottom is hot, and the rim is cool.

ACCOMMODATIONS:

Accommodations are cheap in the Copper Canyon. Anywhere from a $4 bunk to $225 (US dollars) double rooms are available. Different hotels offer different options from: meals included, to tours, to horseback riding and guides for hiking. Some are little more than a place to rest your head, while other are alive with splendor and luxury. Getting a room can be tricky during the high seasons. It’s recommended that you have an itinerary, reservations, and train tickets before you embark on your journey.

RESTAURANTS:

The towns along the way all have a few eating establishments. Wander around and see which appeals to you. Most hotels have an informal dining room.

NIGHTLIFE:

Of the few nightclubs and discos there are, most are located in Creel. All of the towns have at least one popular hangout, usually a bar. Los Mochis has a disco and a club with live bands.

SHOPPING:

There are many small gift shops and stores along the train route. At several of the stops along the way, you may encounter Tarahumara Indians selling baskets, dolls, homemade violins, snacks and drinks.

CUISINE:

Seafood is quite popular. Many of the restaurants will cook it any way you prefer. Of course, every type of Mexican dish is available. Sushi, chicken, steak, burgers, pastas and a lot of fruit are all served. Meals are served on the train, but at very high costs. It’s recommended you bring your own snacks and beverages.

SERVICES:

Banks: Make sure you have adequate funds before starting your trip. Exchanging money outside of Creel is practically impossible. Only expensive hotels accept credit cards, and even then they have to use radios to confirm your card.

Transportation: The main way to travel this area is by train. There are first and second class trains, but it is recommended you pay the  few extra dollars to board the first class. The first-class train, Estrella, is primarily a tourist service, where as the second-class train, Mixto, is slower and less comfortable. Buses travel between Creel and Chihuahua daily. The trip takes around 4 to 5 hours. Try to board at either Creel or Chihuahua as buses fill up at stops along the way and you may end up standing for the duration of the trip.

SURROUNDING AREA:

Batopilas: This silver mining town, founded in 1708, is 5 hours (by four wheel drive) from Creel. Driving down the narrow, winding dirt road, you will see some of the most beautiful scenery in Copper Canyon.

Basaseachic Falls: The time it takes to trek to these falls (4 hours driving, 3 hours hiking) is well worth it. The best time to visit is during the rainy season, July to September. These spectacular falls are viewed as the tallest single cascade in North America.

WHERE TO GO:
All along the rail line, you will find areas to hike, swim, camp, trek, 
and drive. Ask at hotels which activities are popular in the area you 
are in.

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WHERE TO EAT:
There are many restaurants located in the various towns up and down the 
railroad.  The El Farallon is Los Mochis serves sumptuous fish, sushi, 
and sashimi.  A trendier and slightly more expensive place to dine is 
the Restaurante Espana. Popular with the local business crowd, seafood, 
Spanish dishes, and beef are consumed around an indoor fountain.  Open 
24 hours a day seven days a week the, El Taquito serves up hearty 
Mexican meals such as “carne tampiquena? a steak with enchiladas, 
beans, and guacamole.  In El Fuerte at the El Fuerte Lodge tourists, 
not yet used to the Mexican foods, can dine on international cuisine.  
At the Rio Vista Lodge patrons can dine, on simple but delicious meals, 
outdoors with a view of the river and wildlife.  The El Meson del 
General is popular for it’s fresh fish, crawfish, black bass, and 
steaks.  In El Divisadero meals are generally included in the hotel 
rate.  Plentiful Mexican dishes, seafood, and some international foods 
are served.  Veronica’s, located in Creel, is popular with locals and 
tourists because of the plentiful and cheap meals served.  Vegetarian 
soups and tacos, burgers and burritos, as well as Mexican dishes are 
on the menu.  At the Restaurant Cabanas you will find tacos, burritos, 
soups, and appetizers for less than US$2.
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WHAT TO DO:
Horseback Riding: Several hotels in the towns along the railroad 
can arrange for horse rental to tour the mountains and canyon 
vistas.

Fishing: In the town of El Fuerte, there are several areas where 
you can fish for bass and trout. 

Hiking: Trekking through the canyons can be anything from a 
pleasant stroll to a thigh-busting experience. Make sure you travel 
with a guide or partner as you are in the wilderness and you can’t 
count on somebody coming along to rescue you.

Organized Tours: Hotels offer tours from 2 hours to 10 hours, 
depending on whether a group of people can be found.

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WHERE TO SHOP:
In Los Mochis, La Cava Deli sells beer and liquors, cigars, snacks and 
drinks.  At the El Fuerte Lodge there is a gift shop and gallery which 
sells paintings, “Casa Grandes?pottery, and souvenirs.  In Creel, the 
Artesanians Mision sells crafts, handiwork, and Tarahumara dolls.  You 
can find these items as well at the Casa de las Artesanians.   The 
Artesanians Victoria sell handmade wood furniture as well as 
Tarahumara pots.   Tarahumara women sell belts and sashes, fiddles, 
dolls, masks, baskets, and poetry at train stations and various 
locations in the Copper Canyon region.
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