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Sumidero Canyon; Chiapas, Mexico
Sumidero Canyon; Chiapas, Mexico
It seems almost impossible to now be in awe of the spectacle before you upon entering this canyon, the sheer rock cliffs that surround you are an almost perfect example of nature at its finest. Even when one learns that this example of “natural” beauty at its finest is in fact a product of a man-made obstruction place on a river to aid in water storage and hydroelectric production, it’s difficult to find that as a “fault”.
It may be hard to believe, or maybe not, that these cliffs that rise more than 3000ft from the surface of the water were much taller before much of the canyon was flooded. Also, the river that is now obviously peaceful and serene was at one time almost unnavigable even to the most skilled members of the boating community.
Now, the river that flows the length of the canyon, named after one of the first people to explore the region in the sixteenth century, is for the most part slow and serene. Once inside the canyon, however, the river takes on a more hostile demeanor. Some of the attractions found within the canyon walls are over twenty rapids, five waterfalls, various beaches, freshwater springs, various plant and animal species, and an eco-park that is only accessible by water.
The region in which this location can be found is personally a favorite of mine, having visited some ancient ruins built by what is considered to be one of the most advanced civilizations of early human history. Located at the extreme southern end of the country that it calls home, the population of the region is also one of the most diverse on the planet, counting several recognized ethnicities among its people. The region was also the scene of a violent indigenous uprising in the 1990’s, one that officially began at that time and continues to this day.
The geographical boundaries of this canyon are the previously mentioned obstruction constructed to save water and produce electricity at one end, which is one of the most important in the country in which it is found, and a bridge at the other end. The bridge is mostly inconsequential, except for the fact that it is a link in a major highway system that runs the length of several countries, I, however am only looking for one. So…Where in the World are You?
Sumidero Canyon, located in the Mexican state of Chiapas and formed by the Grijalva River, was formed in 1981 when the Chicoasen Dam was built on the river to store water and produce electricity. A fortunate side benefit of the building of the dam was the creation of this gorgeous canyon and an eco-park found within the canyon; the dam is now one of Mexico’s most important sources of hydroelectric power.
At the opposite end of the reservoir that was created by the dam is the Belisario Dominguez Bridge which is part of the Pan-American Highway system, a system of highways that runs from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska in the north to Puerto Montt, Chile in the south. All told the Pan-American Highway system covers a total of 29,800 miles and except for a stretch called the Darien Gap, a 54 mile stretch of dense rainforest in Panama and Colombia, the highway system stretches the length of North, Central, and South America.
An aspect of the Sumidero Canyon that gets lost in the visual beauty of the picturesque cliffs of the canyon in the issue with pollution and solid waste. Unfortunately, the Grijalva River carries the wastewater of more than 500,000 people through the canyon on a daily basis. Rough estimates put the annual trash accumulation in the river at about 5,000 tons, which consists mostly logs and tree branches but also includes plastics and human waste. Conservation efforts are underway but have describe by many as inadequate.
In 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation declared a war against the Mexican state. The Zapatistas are an indigenous organization of native Maya and is named after Emiliano Zapata who fought for the area during the Mexican Revolution. The Zapatistas launched their insurgency in 1994 on the day that the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) went into effect and have been passively (mostly) resisting outside influence ever since.
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