Posted June 25, 2005 by Kay Walten in Sustainable Tourism
A while back we took a long overdue trip to the incredible state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, a place we had been hearing about for years. We had only 10 days to pack as much adventure into this trip as we could and it was definitely worth the effort. Many people have heard of Palenque, Chiapas’s premiere Maya archaeological site, but few know that Chiapas is loaded with equally magical places. El Cañón del Sumidero is definitely another, in its own way no less spectacular than any we visited.
To get there we left San Cristobal de las Casas early and drove the exhilarating route between San Cristobal and Chiapa de Corzo through the Chiapan highlands. The road is a series of winding hairpin turns on the side of a mountain, crossing the ridge line several times. We started out in the fog which turned to intermittent rain all the way. One mistake on the plunge side of the road and we’d be history. Things didn’t clear-up until the descent down to Chiapa de Corzo. By the time we got into town and found the dock we were more than ready for a chauffeured boat ride. Our drive from San Cristobal
Chiapa de Corzo is on the Grijalva River. The tour goes 35 kilometers (23 miles) north to the Chicoasen hydroelectric dam. The scenery is rather common place until you pass under the bridge (photo below) and then things start to get interesting.
The bridge marks the entrance of the old gorge that the Grijalva river flowed through before the dam was built. These days the true canyon begins beyond the bridge and the walls eventually rise to a staggering 800 meters, 2640 feet above you. At the Sumidero’s elevation that’s 900 meters above sea level. Apparently the river was not navigable prior to the construction of the dam because of swift rapids and cataracts in the narrowest parts of the passage. Below you can see a partial cross section of the limestone karst. The layers are riddled with little caves that drain water during heavy rains. Various birds nest here and the boat captain typically points out migratory birds whenever he sees them. The Sumidero canyon ecosystem is quite diverse and thankfully intact. The Sumidero Canyon ranks among the top vacation destinations in Chiapas.
We missed the most dramatic time to see this geological oddity but even in its dry phase it’s obvious something unusual is happening. During heavy rains the water cascades down this section of cliff face from a drainage cave and the slope just above. Partial evaporation of the rainwater leaves a tiny bit of calcium on the rock. Over millenia the deposited calcium has built up to form these terraces in the shape of a Christmas tree. Moss and grasses cling to the overhangs.
The Sumidero Canyon lies on a geological fault that formed during the Pleistocene epoch, 1.81 million to 11,550 ago. Geological faults are the result of earthquakes and the Sumidero may be the result of repeated seismic activity. It seems unimaginable that a single earthquake could create a chasm this large in the landscape. Seismic activity is still occuring, the last events being mild, magnitude 4.3 to 4.5 from 1986 to 1997.
Out on the wider section of the Grijalva river, on its eastern shore, is a recently built ecological park Cañón del Sumidero Parque Ecoturístico. The park was opened in April of 2003. Actually there was an option by our boat tour provider to drop us off there for an addition fee that included entry. They have a main lodge, restaurant, gift shop and a lot more. Prices range from $16- $40 usd per person, depending on what you want included. Offered activities include: kayaking, abseiling, mountain biking, zip-line, swimming, bird sanctuary and an animal sanctuary. Access is only from the water and the view is beautiful.
The Chicoasen hydroelectric dam (aka. Manuel Moreno Torres dam) opened in 1981. Upon its completion it was the worlds 5th tallest dam at 261 meters. By Nov 2000 new generators were added and today the Chicoasen dam is Mexico largest producer of electricity. It is near the dam that the Grijalva river is at its deepest, ± 800 feet deep.
Needless to say, Chiapas is a long way from the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo. Nevertheless there are wonderous things to see and do that make Chiapas well worth the effort for those who have the flexibility to travel around while there. Please follow the links below for more about one of Mexico’s best kept secrets.
Riviera Maya Activities (212)
Mexican Art (61)
Community Organizations (26)
Mexican Culture (172)
Mexico Destinations (124)
Family vacations (94)
Food & Drink (224)
Guest Bloggers (20)
Riviera Maya Photos (300)
Riviera Maya events (78)
Riviera Maya Services (61)
Sustainable Tourism (112)
Vacation tips (55)
Destination Weddings (30)
Costa Maya (11)
Loco Adventures (42)
Mayan Ruins (35)
Riviera Maya Destinations (238)
Community Announcements (20)
Mexican Recipes (30)
Riviera Maya Restaurants (68)
Mindful Traveler (48)
Yucatan Activities (43)
Riviera Maya Vacation Tips (134)
Mexico Vacation Tips (163)
Restaurant Reviews (8)
Interview with a Local (15)
"I would recommend Locogringo to everyone I know. It is such a great service that they provide from researching and booking the perfect place to stay to finding all the needs you could possibly want during your stay. Thanks Locogringo."
"LocoGringo.com books total trip packages and I recommend LG to all my friends and even to strangers I hear talking about going to Mexico!!"
"quick and informative replies from Bart ( thanks Bart) , easy booking procedure plus online management of your booking . I am highly impressed."
--Theressa - Middlesex U.K.,
"When we use LG to book a trip we get immediate help with all of our questions in a very timely way by people who know what they are talking about and are extremely helpful, patient, knowledgeable, and congenial. They really get how to do customer service.
Once we book through LG we never have to worry about any of it again. We are always amazed at how smooth and trouble free our bookings through LG have been."
--K.B., Fort Worth, TX
"I have booked most of my Mayan Riviera trips through Loco Gringo and can only say I wouldn't even consider using anyone else to handle my bookings for stays in that area.
Their booking process is simple, fast and friendly, and they will answer your questions and queries until you are completely satisfied that every single detail has been taken care of.
Who else would know the area better than folks who live and work right there? Try to get that level of expertise and knowledge with a booking agent who lives and works several hundred, or even thousands of miles away.
Not only that, but they are genuinely nice people as well, who really care for their customers and the community and area that they call home
Keep up the great work Loco Gringo!!"
"Go to the home page or check the forum."
"Loco Gringo has an AWESOME website with great info, it is lots of fun to visit, be sure to join their forums. The forums hold more information and trip reports than you can 'shake a stick at'!"
"We have been Booking our Riviera Maya vacations from Loco Gringo since 2005. Always Great communication, helpful tips and quick responses to our questions. They were especially helpful when Hurricane Wilma hit and put a stop to our Vacation plans. They made sure we knew about the weather situation and did all the work with re-booking our vacation in Paradise!"
"Loco Gringos is the VERY BEST booking site I have ever worked with. They respond to emails promptly, work hard to honor special requests, answer questions etc. They ALWAYS take great care of their customers and are conscientious and professional at all times. We have booked 8 trips with this company and NEVER hesitate to use them or recommend them when traveling to the Riviera Maya."
"You always recommend amazing accommodations and we are always comfortable and feel safe. Your staff does a fantastic job at making our vacation each year a ” hassle free ” experience ! All we have to do is ” show up ” and the rest is already taken care of. We will continue in future to use LocoGringo and also continue as we have done already, to highly recommend your company to anyone we know that is planning a vacation."
--Nancy & Bill, Toronto, Canada
"People who “live the area” will want to make sure you enjoy your vacation and come back again!"
"All our Riviera Maya trips have been booked using LocoGringo. We love their service."
"I just wanted to take a moment to say THANK YOU! The trip we booked through Loco Gringo was perfect! The price was exceptionally good and the service was second to none! If you’ve never booked with Loco Gringo before, we *highly* recommend them!"
"We usually need reservations for 2 to 4 people but for 2 years we needed reservations for 7 to 9 people, adults and kids and they have always done a flawless job in getting the resort we wanted and at the best price too!!"
"We spent a lot of our time sitting on the second floor porch with our feet propped on the railing just staring at the water. Coming home was hard this year..Staying for two weeks still wasn't long enough."
"So here is a GREAT BIG TEXAS THANK YOU TO LOCO GRINGO for all the awesome, fantastic vacations in Paradise."
"A company made up mostly of American Expats living in the Riviera Maya with a booking list of many hundreds of properties. Big enough to know each property intimately and small enough to know each customer personally. A level of service simply impossible for the giant companies to provide.
--Jim T., Colorado
"And their amazing website is one of the main reasons we started going regularly to the Riviera Maya and especially Akumal. No other place around the Caribbean has nearly as good a web presence as LG has given this area."
--Dan, St. Louis MO,
"It's a great comfort to visit the Riviera Maya and know that Loco Gringo is there to help, if needed. "
--Bryan in IN,
"and for the past five years we have used Loco Gringo for every reservation, I'm sorry that we did not find them sooner.
I have been searching Loco Gringo for all these years and one thing I have not yet found ........... someone who is not fabulous to work with. Great people, great owners and a great way to run a business."
--K & DB, Outer Banks, NC,
"I had contacted you before I left for my first trip to Mexico and all of your recommendations were spot on. I started in Playa Del Carmen and worked my way to Tulum. I had only expected to stay 2 nights there and instead wound up staying for a week-and that still was not nearly enough time. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks! I will be checking in with you guys as I am tring to plan a trip to Holbox next. That place looks amazing!"
--Louis Skip Gonzalez, Unidos Magazine
""I was soooo delighted with the Loco Gringo services. Everything was trouble free and all my questions were always answered promptly. Thanks for a GREAT trouble free vacation!""
"What an amazing company Locogringo is. Every silly question I have.... they answer , If something comes up like a travel day change, adding more people, or whatever it might be... you get a response from a real person ... who seems to love what they do . That is hard to find these days and I really appreciate that."
"It is like having a friend make your reservations for you .... we always feel comfortable knowing LG will be in charge of our arrangements because they know the area first hand, they live there ..... you ask a question and they answer it with good humor and great knowledge of what they speak. I will always recommend Loco Gringo in a heart beat!"
"I will be bragging about your site to any and all who will listen. Our experience was phenomenal!!!"
"Thanks for everything you have done with Locogringo… the site is great and your staff has been nothing short of incredible when it comes to helping us plan our trips. Maybe we’ll run into you on one of your walks some day."
"Both in 2011 and this year we have booked our room through Locogringo.com. We searched and found a great rate at the resort we wanted, and then Locogringo met that price, and with their booking came their amazing customer service and the peace of mind that if we need anything while we are there we simply need to call. I always get a fast turnaround on any email I send them, and they work so hard to find us the best rates and the rooms we want. We hope to have a long relationship with them, and recommend their site to everyone we know."
--Tim A and Teri A, Salem, UT
"Now is a great time to tell you how wonderful you and your staff are at making it so easy to find and book the best vacations, THANK YOU !"
--Joyce & Hugh,
"She & her new Husband had a fantastic hassle free trip. This was their very first time to Mexico and her comment upon return was " Dad, 7 days is NOT enough time ! " Super job, LG."
--Bernie in Denver,
"Not sure if we will be returning next summer, but will definitely let you know if we are, as Loco Gringo is the ONLY way to go for us!"
--Lesley P., Texas
"...for your patience with me and making this process go soooo much smoother! I truly appreciate you and the staff at LocoGringo. Thanks again! I can't wait to be sitting on the beach!
Maggie in Colorado"
* Denotes A Required Field
How much are you thinking about spending?