The spectacular, 1-kilometer-deep Sumidero Canyon was the stage
for an epic battle between the Spanish and the Chiapanecan Indians,
who chose to jump into the sacred canyon rather than submit
to the invaders.
More recently, engineers tamed the whitewater by building the
Chicoasén dam, the fifth-highest in the world. It opened
in 1981 and is one of Mexico's important sources of electrical
power. Before the dam, the walls were even higher. The river
was barely navigable.
Today there are frequent boat trips. Visitors are sped along
to see the dam as well as points of interest, such as the Christmas
Tree, a waterfall with thick moss that has the uncanny appearance
of a ... Christmas tree.
The vegetation is rich due to the area's high humidity and
fertile soil. At the canyon's entrance are the remains of a
Chiapanecan ceremonial center, which archaeologists suggest
may have been dedicated to a water goddess.
A variety of birds are abundant here, including white herons,
cormorants, and kingfishers, and visitors may also see monkeys,
raccoons, iguanas, and crocodiles. The area is also famous for
its variety of butterflies.
A road overlooks the canyon and has five different lookouts
(miradores): La Ceiba, La Coyota, El Roblar, El Tepehuaje,
and Los Chiapas.
The Sumidero Canyon became headline news in August 2005 for
unsightly garbage. Photos of boats plowing through floating
refuse were broadcast on Mexican television networks. Tuxtla
Gutiérrez diverts its sewage into the Sabinal River which
empties into the Grijalva River. Officials are now trying to
figure out how to change the situation.