12 Amazing Facts About The Copper Canyon

One magnificent canyon is an amazing natural wonder. A group of 6 huge canyons combined most definitely result in one of the most fascinating landscapes that you’ll ever come across.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about Copper Canyon, one of Mexico’s most fascinating natural landmarks.

1. It’s located in a mountain range in northwestern Mexico

Copper Canyon is known locally as the “Barrancas del Cobre” and is located in the southwestern part of the Mexican State of Chihuahua in the northwestern part of the country.

This collection of 6 distinctively separate canyons is situated within the “Sierra Tarahumara,” a subrange of the huge “Sierra Madre Accidental.” This mountain range is a major part of the North American Cordillera and runs all along the Gulf of Mexico in the western part of the country.

The landscape in this particular area is nothing short of spectacular. It’s fair to conclude that these canyons play a major part in that as they dominate this section of the range.

Copper Canyon facts
The amazing canyon / Fl1pper / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

2. The name of the canyon refers to its appearance

One of the main reasons why these canyons are so amazing is because of the pine and oak trees that grow here. The landscape is dominated by oak trees between an altitude of 1,200 and 2,400 meters (4,000 and 8,000 feet).

The higher areas of the canyon are covered with the Mexican Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga lindleyana), a tree species that grows all over the plateaus on top of the canyons.

The combination of the trees and the color of the canyons’ walls has resulted in a copper/green color, which is how this collection of canyons has got its name.

Copper Canyon landscape
View inside the canyon / David Broad / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

3. The canyons were formed by 6 rivers that cut through the landscape

Because of the fact that this is a collection of 6 different canyons it also means that they cover an enormous area. All canyons combined cover about 65,000 square kilometers (25,000 square miles) in size.

To give some reference to this number, this is 4 times the size of the Grand Canyon, one of the largest and most famous canyons in the world.

The upper section of the canyon reaches an elevation of 2,500 meters (,200 feet) above sea level. At some points, it’s even deeper than the Grand Canyon as well with a depth of up to 1.6 kilometers (1 mile).

Needless to say that the remarkable features of this landscape result in some of the most astounding views imaginable!

Copper Canyon river
River inside the canyon / Smallchief / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

4. It’s the home of two of Mexico’s tallest waterfalls

The canyons were formed by 6 separate rivers that have carved their way through the volcanic rocks of the Sierra Madre Occidental. They have been doing just that in a process that took millions of years already.

All six of these rivers eventually flow into the Rio Fuerte, a river that releases into the Gulf of Mexico after flowing southwest for a distance of 290 kilometers (180 miles).

Before they release into this river, 2 of them create another remarkable wonder in the form of amazing waterfalls. These are called the “Cascada Piedra Bolada” and the “Basaseachi Falls.”

These are also the two tallest waterfalls in Mexico as they plunge 457 meters (1,500 feet) and 246 meters (807 feet) off the edge of the canyon’s cliffs into the widest part of the ravine.

Copper Canyon Waterfall
Basaseachi Falls / Wiki Commons

5. The best time of the year to visit Copper Canyon is during Autumn

Even though the views of these canyons look amazing from one of the many lookout spots all year round, the Autumn months are still the best time of the year to visit Copper Canyon for multiple reasons.

First of all, the weather during these months in most parts of the canyon is just fine. It’s not too hot such as during the summer months and not too cold as during the winter.

The summer months of July and August are considered to be the rainy season. This also means that the flow of the rivers is at its peak shortly afterward, which also includes the water of the waterfalls dropping off the edge of the cliffs.

Regardless, the temperature inside the canyons is extremely varied. Some parts can feature snow during the winter while other parts experience temperatures of 30°C (85°F) at the same time.

The most important reason to visit the canyon during Autumn is the color of the vegetation during this time of the year. It really transforms the already amazing canyon into a mesmerizing landscape that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Copper Canyon interesting facts

More interesting facts about Copper Canyon

6. The Sierra Tarahumara was named after the indigenous people that used to live in this region. They were given this name by the Spanish who arrived here in the 17th century.

7. Tarahumara was derived from the word “Rarámuri,” the name given to the male members of the natives living here. This word might refer to “The Running People.”

8. The natives that lived here before the Spanish colonization in the region had to move away because of it. That’s mainly because the Spanish had discovered silver in the region and enslaved the locals for their mining efforts.

All members of the Tarahumara tribe eventually moved out of here because of this.

9. Even though the forest covering the canyons seems to be pretty dense at some points, it still suffers from serious deforestation. This subsequently means that the wildlife living here is endangered as well, including mountain lions that live in the remote areas of the canyons.

Copper Canyon fun facts
View of the astounding canyons / Wiki Commons

10. Less fortunate creatures that have gone extinct in the region because of this reason are the imperial woodpecker and Mexican wolf. It’s estimated that just 2% of the abundant old-growth forest of the region remains today.

11. An effort to preserve the region of the canyons has been started with the creation of a national park. This park is known as the “Parque Nacional Barranca del Cobre.”

This park covers parts of 4 towns in the southwest of Chihuahua called Batopilas, Bocoyna, Guachochi, and Urique.

12. Even though there are plenty of options for tourists to discover the region, including horseback rides and plenty of hiking, the most popular way is by hopping onto a train.

This train is called the “Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacífico,” nicknamed “El ChePe.” This remarkable railroad was initially established in the 19th century but wouldn’t be completed until the year 1961.

The reason is fairly simple. It covers a distance of 652 kilometers (405 miles) and features a total of 39 bridges and 86 tunnels. It takes about 15 hours to complete the entire voyage and literally runs on top of the canyon’s rim in some points, an amazing sight to behold!

El Chepe
El ChePe near a town / Smallchief / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0