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CHIAPAS

Exploring the Sumidero Canyon National Park
by Ron Mader

CHIAPAS WIKI

Thank God they're only after the gold and silver. They don't know about the jade.
- Mexico Notebook

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FLICKR ALBUM: Sumidero


NATURAL WORLD

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.

HEADLINES

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.


VISITING?

LOCATION -- Sumidero Canyon is south of Tuxtla Gutiérrez and north of San Cristóbal de las Casas.

Travel!

ACCESS -- There is an entrance charge. The most popular launch is Chiapa de Corzo.

DINING -- Many tours stop at the La Atalaya restaurant, which serves local food and snacks.


AUTHOR

Ron Mader is the responsible travel correspondent for Transitions Abroad and host of the award-winning Planeta.com website.


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