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Creel, Chihuahua, México
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Weather: 21°C - 69°F

Creel is known as the "Gateway to the Copper Canyon". And it is a popular starting point for exploring the canyons. The town has the feeling of a late 19th century logging town and is set high - 2,340 meters (7,669 feet) - in the mountains in a valley surrounded by pine forest. As the canyon's largest town (pop. 6,500), Creel offers lodgings, tours & guides, restaurants, stores, a bank, and the main train station in the canyon. Many visitors will stock up on supplies and information here before their trek through these magnificent canyons.

The town is located 250 kilometers (150 miles) from Chihuahua City and takes about 3-4 hours driving time. You can also take the Chihuahua al Pacifico train from either Los Mochis or Chihuahua. Bus service is also available from Chihuahua.

In Creel, it's worthwhile to visit the local Casa del Artesano Indigena (House of Indigenous Handicrafts) run by the state, and the Artesanías Misíon (Mission Store) run by Father Luis Verplancken with all proceeds going to a local indigenous hospital. Both places offer fine Tarahumara crafts, and you can also find them in local shops along Ave. Lopez Mateos, Creel's main street.

You'll also find a small variety of restaurants. Rentals of mountain bikes, hiking equipment, and even horses are available. Creel has a great number of natural attractions nearby and is an eco-tourist's dream location.

 


The Batopilas Canyon in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico; is 462 mts. above sea level, is located 118 km south of Creel by a surfaced highway, and is surrounded by abundant vegetation. Two narrow land zones between the river and the cliffs, allow mango, guava, and avocado trees to grow here in abundance.

The Batopilas town is found on the bank of the river, the majority of the population is Tarahumara. The approximate driving time between Creel and Batopilas is 7 hours. This journey is an unforgettable experience which gives us the opportunity to see one of the world's most beautiful and spectacular ravines.

This district is located in one of the more rugged portions of the Sierra Madre mountains of southwestern Chihuahua. The mines have been operated intermittently since their discovery in 1632 and have yielded, at times, remarkably rich bonanzas of native silver ore. Despite the fact that Batopilas has been known as a silver producing district. for more than three centuries and has yielded over 50 million ounces of silver, surprisingly little has ever been published concerning the geology or mineralization of this famous locality. The mines have long been noted for the beauty and variety of native silver specimens and crystals of ruby silver, examples of which can be found in many of the larger museums throughout this country and in Mexico.

 

Although there were various mining centers that were formed at the bottom of some canyons, such as Urique, Maguarichi, Uruachi and Ocampo, none can compare with the mineral richness of the Batopilas Canyon. The veins of La Bufa and those of the town of Batopilas itself reached renown of a world level. Its mining towns and mines characterize and identify this canyon. Among the outstanding are La Bufa, Batopilas, Cerro Colorado, the Raramuri communities of Munérachi and La Yerbabuena, and the Jesuit mission of Satevó.

In spite of the fact that the climate is extreme in the high regions of the canyon range, in the winter it is possible to admire a curious phenomenon - while the surrounding peaks are covered with snow the depths of the canyon are a subtropical or tropical climate year around. Due to this, towns like Batopilas have flora and fauna with many different characteristics than in the Sierras above. Oranges, papaya, mango, avocado are regular staples of the habitants. Bougainvillas and tabachine (a flowering tree) are among the tropical vegetation. Animals may include parrots, rosy boas, deer, and even possibly jaguar.

A BRIEF BOT OF HISTORY

Batopilas is considered the "Treasure of the Sierra Madre" because of it's historic past and present beauty. Founded in 1709 as San Pedro de Batopilas when the Batopilas mines were discovered, the small pueblo slowly, but steadily flourished due to this mining activity.

The Jesuit mission of San Miguel de Satevó, just outside the town, is known as the "Lost Mission" as there are no records describing it's existence. Believed to have been constructed in the 1760's, the mission is one of the canyon's best preserved. It's setting is ideal near the edge of the Batopilas River. The silver mines of Batopilas were some of the richest in Mexico. In the 18th and 19th century both Spaniards and Mexicans gained great wealth out of the area. American John Robinson purchased an old claim in 1861 which turned out to have a large, hidden vein. He decided to sell the claim to fellow American Alexander Shepherd for $600,000 US in 1880.

Alexander Shepherd was the last mayor of Washington, D.C. and had been ousted under unproven corruption charges. Once Shepherd moved his family to Batopilas, he filed over 350 mining claims and formed the Batopilas Mining Company. His mines became some of the wealthiest in the world at their peak.

Noting the difficulty and time (over eight days) of transporting the silver ore to Chihuahua, Shepherd opened his own facilities and foundry along the river at his Hacienda San Miguel. Over 20 million ounces of silver were extracted from the mines, and this great wealth allowed Shepherd to bring cultural events and technological advances to this once sleepy town. Batopilas was the second city in Mexico to have electricty. His hydroelectric works provide the towns power still and he also built an aqueduct which is still in use today. So famous for it's wealth were Shepherd's mines that Pancho Villa once robbed a mule shipment of $40,000 US in silver bars. Alexander Shepherd died in 1902, leaving the mines to his sons who ceased operation in 1920, although other miners would later try unsuccessfully to restart the old mines. In 1938, one son, Grant Shepherd, wrote The Silver Magnet about life in Batopilas and Alexander Shepherd. It is an excellent description about this once world famous town.

Today, the town of Batopilas is a community of 800 inhabitants, but in it's greatest mining period at the end of the 19th century, it had up to 7,000 inhabitants. It has preserved, to a great extent, it's architectural heritage from the richness of those times.



DIVISADERO BARRANCAS

Divisadero Barrancas is located 44 km. southeast of Creel (by train) in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. It is a railway station where the exciting descent to the Urique river begins. During this tour you can admire the Tararecua, Urique and Del Cobre ravines; there are horses and jeep transportation, as well as a lookout offering an impressive panoramic view.
The Chihuahua - Pacifico train makes a 20 - minute stop at Divisadero Barrancas to enjoy a wonderful Sierra Tarahumara view with its gigantic cliffs and woods.
The individual Copper Canyon (Barranca del Cobre) is just one of more than 20 canyons that stretch west of Chihuahua City in the Sierra Madre Occidental, located between the high central plateau and the Sea of Cortez.
The surrounding peaks are covered with pine and oak forest and reach 2,370 meters. The mountains here are also known as the Sierra Tarahumara.

CANYON HISTORY

The barrancas are one of Mexico's youngest geological formations and the largest in North America. They were formed about 30-40 million years ago, during a period of intense volcanic activity in what is present day Northwestern Mexico. Thousands of volcanoes erupted, throwing lava and ash onto the surrounding plateau and creating the Sierra Madre Occidental.
The tectonic activity also created deep fractures in the earth's crust. Because the rocks are relatively soft, the rivers originating in the high Sierra cut deep canyons on their descent to the Gulf of Mexico. The canyons bear the names of these powerful rivers: Chinipas, Candameña, Urique, Tararecua, Batopilas, and Verdes.

GEOGRAPHY

You'll find a variety of climates - it can snow in the mountains while tropical temperatures reign in the valleys.

The average altitude here is 2,275 meters above sea level, while the highest point, Cerro del Mohinora, is 3,306 meters and the lowest point, at the confluence of the Septentrion and Chinipas Rivers, is around 220 meters. Note that the average rainfall in Copper Canyon is close to 15 inches per year. Most of the rainfall takes place during the months of July, August and September.

To journey into this rugged and isolated terrain with knowledge of its spectacular biodiversity and history is one of Mexico's best adventures. Carl Lumholtz explored the Sierra Madre and the Barranca de Sinforosa in 1892, and his well-documented adventures have inspired generations of canyon enthusiasts.

A trip into the canyons and the Sierra requires a good base of operations, such as the town of Creel, most travelers' hub of choice.

Multiple-day treks are arranged by many of the hotels in Creel, though you can find independent guide services in any of the towns by asking hotel owners or visitors. There are numerous towns along the railroad and in the valley including Batopilas, Cusárare, Divisadero, Bauchivo and Cerocahui.

 
FLORA AND FAUNA

The Sierra is one of the most biologically rich areas in Mexico. One reason is that there are two distinct environmental climates -- one in the mountains and on the plateaus, and a different one at the bottom of the canyons. This terrain includes snow-covered mountain peaks and subtropical forests in the canyons.

The canyons are home to 290 recorded bird species, 24 endemic and ten in danger of extinction, including the military macaw (Ara milittaris), the thick-billed parrot (Rhynchopsitta pachyrhyncha), and the eared trogon (Euptilotis noxenus).

Almost a third of Mexico's land mammals are found in the region, including the black bear (Ursus americanus), the puma (Felis concolor), and the Mexican wolf (Canis Lutus baileyi), which is in danger of extinction. Hunting has claimed many species. The grizzly bear is extinct and the wild turkey and deer are now rarely seen.

More than 3,500 vascular plants are found in the region. Among them are tropical and temperate species as well as hundreds of endemic species, including at least 60 wild relatives of major crops and more than 400 wild medicinal plants—an irreplaceable genetic legacy.

Most of these endemic plant species may be endangered by logging and overgrazing. Ironically, ethnobotanists now estimate that the forests are more valuable as extractive reserves for medicinal plants than for timber. The chuchupate plant, used as a blood thinner in both traditional and modern medicine, is worth thousands of dollars per acre in virgin pine forest, but it is sparse in most of the Sierra due to overharvesting and deforestation.

Mixed forests of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir are found above 2,000 meters (6,500 feet), while juniper, piñon, and live oak are found at lower elevations from 500 to 1,500 meters (1,640 to 4,900 feet). Biologists have counted 15 species of pine and 25 of oak.

Unfortunately, the forests within the Sierra Tarahumara have been commercially logged for 100 years. The logging has been selective, and in many cases, the worst trees have been left in areas to regenerate new forest.

 




The Basaseachic Waterfall is located in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico; is a 310 mts. height (the highest in Mexico), is one of the Country's natural wonders, you can descend to its bottom where there is a place known as "La Ventana".

Often cited as the tallest, Basaseachic Falls is easily one of the most impressive in the country.

There is a natural rock arch at the brink of the falls, which would make this the tallest waterfall in the world with an arch spanning the waterfall. We've seen figures for the height of the falls ranging from almost 1100 feet down to about 700 feet. Without seeing topographic maps, we can't be too sure, but we feel that the present figure is close to accurate.

 
CUSARARE

Is located 13 km south of Arareco by a surfaced highway in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico.

The main attractions of Cusarare are:

• The Tarahumara Museum, where an exposition of domestic utensils and other aspects of this culture are exhibited a 30-meter-high waterfall .


• In a place named Abrigo Rocoso, situated 1 km. east of Cusarare, we find several rupestrian paintings with hunting motifs.





ARARECO

San Ignacio de Arareko is located 8 km. south of Creel, on the road to Cusarare. This prodigious area offers incredible beauty to the visitor: The Arareko lagoon, the Batosarachi waterfall, the Valley of the Gods, the Valley of the Mushrooms, the Barranca del Cobre mountain passages which are refuge four cougars and deers. But above all, Arareko is full of mysterious magnetism from the ceremonies and customs of the local raramuri people. People who love their land to such extent that they say their life has no meaning without the vital strength provided by the nature surrounding them.

In Arareko you can also hire horses, boats, bicycles and experienced guides.
For the person who wants to blend with nature, there is nothing like the more than 20 thousand hectareas (124,000 square miles) of woods in Arareko, right in the middle of the Tarahumara mountain range. There is a beautiful lake with blue waters surrounded by grey rocks, oak and pine trees. You can rent boats, go fishing and engage in water sports.





CUEVA LEONES

This tourist development is managed by eleven people. It is located near Creel in the municipality of Bocoyna, just a couple of kilometers east of town. The area is named after the American lion, a species which is currently on the verge of extinction but occasionally it can be seen in this Tarahumara region.

Cueva de Leones used to be a sawmill but it is now a main tourist attraction just 250 kilometers from the capital, Chihuahua City in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. However, tourism has not altered the life and customs of the local people who live in the mountains.This tourist center, surrounded by rock formations and trees, is made up of 12 rustic cabins with bright white walls, tin roofs, bathrooms, running water and electricity. There is a cave in the middle of this center which used to be a discotheque.

You can take walks around the nearby cascades, mountain paths and indigenous communities or visit the town of Creel which has a wide range of restaurants, horse rentals, discotheques, supermarkets and regional handcraft stores.

Other tourist atractions in the area are the Arareko Lake, the Cusarare and Rukiraso waterfalls, the Cristo de la Montaña, the San Ignacio Mission, the Los Monjes or the Los Hongos valleys.