|May 2010 - Copper Canyon
After securing Mariposa at Marina Mazatlan, we set off with Steve and Cindy from Victoria Rose on an inland excursion
to the Copper Canyon area in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua. These canyons (Barranca del Cobre in
Spanish) are named from the copper/green color of some of the canyon walls. Formed by no less than six different
rivers draining western slopes of the Sierra Madre Mountains, the canyon system is actually larger and some parts are
deeper than the Grand Canyons of the US.
Almost as good as the scenic canyons is the method of travel to reach them. A railroad running from the Sea of Cortez
at Los Mochis to Chahuahua runs along some of the canyon cliffs and stops at the small towns along the way. The
Chihuahua al Pacifico Railroad ,or "ChePe" as it is affectionately called, consists of over 400 miles of track, 86 tunnels,
and 39 bridges. The portion we rode on was from El Fuerte to Creel which takes about 7 hours while climbing almost
8000 feet in elevation.
Last but not least ... the people we met along the way at hotels, restaurants, and on the train were always very pleasant
and friendly. In the mountains, the indigenous Tarahumara people who inhabit the area are a revealing look into the
past as they cling to their ancestral way of life.
Since Mazatlan is approximately 300 miles south of the
ChePe railroad, we started our trip with an all day bus ride to
the town of El Fuerte where we would board the train
heading east. El Fuerte is an attractive place where the six
rivers finally merge together to form the Rio Fuerte that
empties into the Sea of Cortez. The buses were comfortably
air conditioned and featured movies in Spanish.
The hotel lobby opens to the
courtyard below. This was a very
comfortable place to stay.
The shower was big enough for a an
The marina and resort at Bahia Navidad
are among the most posh in Mexico.
JoAnn with Steve and Cindy.
Props for Zorro at one of the hotels.
The live version of Don Diego de la
Vega was here for a photo shoot to
be used on a new ChePe
The center courtyard at the El Fuerte
municipal government building.
Each train carries two armed guards.
Since we rode on the economy class
train, they spent some of their time
keeping kids under control.
Our room was once the bedroom
where the current owner of the
hacienda was born over 90 years
The old Spanish fort (now a museum)
that overlooks the Rio Forte.
This is the front wall of a
turn-of-century hacienda that has
been turned into a small hotel.
The original family still owns it.
Much of the El Fuerte downtown area
consists of historic old buildings.
Evening entertainment at the town
(Photo credits to www.trainweb.org)
A reservoir on the Rio Fuerte river.
The terrain starts as desert and
changes to mountains as the train
climbs toward the canyons.
A snack car served refreshments and
sandwiches. Most people pack their
The Chihuahua Pacific Railroad train.
(Photo credits to www.trainweb.org)
We left the train a couple of stops
before the mountain top to look for a
ranch with cabins to rent we had
heard of from other cruisers. Since
they always meet the train with a
driver and van, it was easy to find.
Sr. Armando Diaz - the ranch owner
and a very nice man. We combined
resources with a pair of French
students (also staying at the ranch)
and hired Armando to drive us around
for a day to see the canyon and other
sites of interest. The ranch also
offered horseback rides to the bottom
of the canyon.
A pair of the Diaz Ranch "Cabanas"
we stayed in.
Two cute kids on the ranch who
agreed to pose for a picture.
These two "Vaqueros" had just
brought a small herd of horses down
to a pond for water.
Meals were provided in the ranch
house and cooked by this hired
helper and Linda Diaz. The stove is
wood fired and did a great job of
cooking fresh tortillas.
Tarahumara people weave
spectacular baskets for sale at the
scenic points along the canyon. They
call themselves Raramuri but the
Spaniards called them Tarahumara
based on their tremendous abiltiy to
run long distances. The links below
provide more information.
An old church on Tarahumara land. I
would not have been surprized to see
Clint Easwood any minute.
JoAnn with a Tarahumara cutie!
An original Tarahumara home. A
family still lives here.
JoAnn striking a hard bargain!
Some of the Tarahumara land is quite
beautiful. This area is called ...... the
An old church in Creel.
Waiting for ChePe at the Creel train
Every town of any size we've seen in
Mexico has several bronze statues of
significance. We passed these wild
horses while walking between bus
depots at Los Moches.