The Barrancas del Cobre or Copper Canyon in English, is an area in the state of Chihuahua that holds 6 dramatic canyons greater in size than the Grand Canyon of the United States.
The entire canyon system is larger than the Grand Canyon and in some parts deeper also. The canyon was formed by six rivers cutting a path through the soft sandstone. It is part of the Sierra Tarahumara, and the river system drains it's western end and merges into the Rio Fuerte and eventually the Sea of Cortez.
The Spanish arrived in the Copper Canyon area in the 17th century and were greeted by the indigenous people of Chihuahua, the Tarahumara, which is believed to mean "The Running People". The Spanish explored this land for silver and gold, and enslaved some of the local people for mining purposes. They were eventually forced off of the more desirable lands and up into the canyon cliffs.
Today, the population of the Tarahumara people ranges between 35,000 to 70,000. Many Tarahumara 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.
The Tarahumara 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 Tarahumara community race called “Rarahipa,” is played by kicking a wooden ball along the paths of the steep canyons.
|Piedra Volada Waterfall - Click Photo for Larger View|
Tourism is growing slowly in this region and several companies offer guided excursions into the canyons as part of a greater railway tour through the Barrancas del Cobre.