Physical Geology 2005



Photo Courtesy of Chihuahua Goverment


Related Links

Chihuahua to the Pacific Railroad:

Copper Canyon Goverment Site:



Photo Courtesy of Chihuahua Goverment



    Photo Courtesy of Chihuahua Goverment


    Corrido de Chihuahua

    Yo soy del mero Chihuahua,
    del mineral de Parral,
    y escuchen este corrido
    que alegre voy a cantar,
    ¡Que bonito es Chihuahua!

    Eres mi tierra norteña,
    india vestida de sol,
    brava como un león herido
    dulce como una canción.
    ¡Que bonito es Chihuahua!

    Lindas las noches de luna
    arrulladas con sotol,
    que por alla por "La Junta"
    me paseaba con mi amor.
    ¡Que bonito es Chihuahua!

    Las fiestas de Santa Rita
    del noble y viejo real,
    que tienen sabor añejo
    y alegria tradicional.
    ¡Que bonito es Chihuahua!

    La cascada Basiasiachic
    es como lluvia de plata,
    donde me iba por tarde
    a pasearme con mi chata
    ¡Que bonito es Chihuahua!

    Para valientes mi tierra,
    para manzanas el valle,
    asaderos Villa Ahumada
    y de la sierra la carne.
    ¡Que bonito es Chihuahua!

    Esas liebres orejeras
    y los pinos de Majalca
    y el gran ganado llamado
    cara blanca de Chihuahua.
    ¡Que bonito es Chihuahua!

    Las ferias de Santa Rosa
    plata y oro del Parral
    las grullas y los venados
    esa es mi tierra natal.
    ¡Que bonito es Chihuahua!

    Ya me voy, ya me despido
    no se les vaya a olvidar,
    pa' gente buena Chihuahua
    que es valiente, noble y leal.
    -- Felipe Bermejo/De Lille

Copper Canyon

Image Credit: Angus McIntyre

Introduction to Barrancas del Cobre

The Copper Canyon, or Barrancas del Cobre, is actually a 25,000 square mile system of six interconnected canyons located at the Southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico. Four of this six canyons are deeper that the Grand Canyon, some by over 1,000 feet. However, the Grand Canyon is larger that any of the individual canyons of the Copper Canyon system. The deepest canyon is the Urique Canyon with 6, 136 ft. in depth. The Batopilas Canyon is 6,002 ft. deep. The Sinforosa Canyon is 5,904 ft. deep. The Copper Canyon is 5,770 ft. deep. All of the rivers that formed the canyons merged into the Rio Fuerte which continues it’s way to the Pacific and emerges into the Sea of Cortez.

Geologic Processes of Canyon Formation

The formation of canyons can be related to the tendency of streams to reach a base elevation level. If the walls from the trough slope gently, the erosion caused from the stream forms a valley. If they slope steeply, the stream creates a canyon. In other words, the larger the difference in height between the stream and its inlet into a lake or ocean, the greater the energy the stream will downcut through its substrate. Canyons are formed when erosion from the stream occurs relatively faster than the rate at which mass wasting causes the walls on the side of the stream to collapse.

Deposition of First Layer

Image Credit: Stephen Reynolds:Geologic Scenary Images

Deposition of Second Layer

Image Credit: Stephen Reynolds:Geologic Scenary Images

Deposition of Third Layer

Image Credit: Stephen Reynolds:Geologic Scenary Images

River Erosion Leads to Canyon Formation

Image Credit: Stephen Reynolds:Geologic Scenary Images


Products of the Geologic Process

The Copper Canyon consists of six major ignimbrite units that erupted during a very short time span around 29.5 million years ago. Four rivers, Rio Verde, Rio Batopilas, Rio Urique, and Rio Fuerte, have carved the Sierra Madre Occidental canyons. The Geology of the region alternates between soft and hard layers. This is the reason why the Copper Canyon is a stair-step canyon


Photo Courtesy of Chihuahua Sate Goverment

Image taken by Erick Garcia



The temperature at the top and at the bottom of the canyon is significantly different. During the winter the temperature at the highest point of the canyon stays around the 50 degrees while the temperature at the bottom of the canyon reaches the 80 degrees. Vegetation is also different in the two zones. The highlands are home of Ponderosa pines and oak, whereas the bottom is predominately sub-tropical.


The Copper Canyon is also a major tourist attraction. In 1921, the Mexican government inaugurated a railroad that linked Chihuahua city with Los Mochis, Sinaloa. Seventy two tunnels and twenty seven bridges were needed to build such construction.

Photo Courtesy of Chihuahua Sate Goverment


The Copper Canyon is also home of the Tarahumara, the second largest tribe in North America. The Tarahumara are descendents of Arizona’s Apaches. It is estimated that the Tarahumaras inhabited the region some 2,000 years ago. The Tarahumara call themselves raramuri, or “light feet.” This is because the ethnic group is famous for running distances for over 100 miles non-stop. The bottom of the canyon gives the Tarahumaras protection from extreme weather.

Photo Courtesy of Chihuahua Sate Goverment

Photo Courtesy of Chihuahua Sate Goverment

Literature Cited

Annerino, John. Canyons of the Southwest. Sierra Club Books, 1993.

Barud, Alberto. Geology and Mineral Resources of Northern Mexico. Barrancas del Cobre Field Trip Report, March 12-16, 1999.

Beus, Stanley; Morales, Michael. Grand Canyon Geology. Oxford University Press, 1990

Chihuahua Sate Tourism Office.

Garza, Benito.

Hoernke, Craig. Copper Canyon.

Marshak, Stephen. Essentials of Geology. W. W. Norton, 2004

Mountain Nature.

Salas, Guillermo. Sierra Madre Occidental Metallogenic Province. Economic Geology, Mexico. Vol P-3. The Geological Society of America, 1991.

Swanson, Erick. Specialist in the Sierra Madre Occidental Volcanic Field. Personal Communication, 2005

Photo taken by Erick Garcia


Author: Erick Garcia
Creation/revision date: April 12, 2005

Link to other Student Webpages for 2005 Earlham Physical Geology

This website was prepared as an assignment for Geosciences 211 (Physical Geology) taught in the spring of 2005 at Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana.

Earlham College Geosciences Department Earlham Geosciences 211: Physical Geology

Copyright 2005 Earlham College. Revised April 12, 2005 . Send corrections or comments to garcier@earlham.eduErick Garcia