My time in Sinaloa has been limited to a full day, and two partial days, in October 2015.  My visit was part of a train trip through the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua-Sinaloa.  Other than views from the train, my time on the ground was limited to time spent in El Fuerte.  Photographs from that trip can be found at the Sinaloa, Mexico photo gallery.  A video of the trip can be seen below:

The following material is part of that which was posted to the Chihuahua (Copper Canyon) page where the trip is described in full.

October 15, 2015 - An Overview

I have just returned from a tour of the Copper Canyon of Chihuahua and Sinaloa, Mexico.  Those of you who follow this blog will know that I avoid tours like the plague, I prefer to travel independently.  An exception to the rule has developed recently, however.  The Pink Store, located in Puerto Palomas, Chihuahua, Mexico, offers tours into northern Mexico.  Luis Benavidez runs the tours and it is because of him that this exception to my normal travel practices has developed.  The tours go to interesting places (Rebecca and I have toured Mata Ortiz and Paquimé with him in the past), are reasonably priced, and feature Luis as the driver and guide.  All tours start in Palomas.

Photographs of various bird species from this trip can be found in The Birds of Mexico photo gallery…

We boarded the Chepe in Divisadero and rode to El Fuerte in Sinaloa.  We spent a day in El Fuerte, looking at sites, taking a float trip on the El Fuerte River, and photographing hummingbirds (a Violet-crowned Hummingbird is shown below).  

On October 10 and October 12 of this year (2015), I rode the train.  Specifically, I rode the Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico (Chihuahua-Pacific Railway), also known as El Chepe (after its reporting mark CHP).  We boarded the train in Divisadero and rode it to El Fuerte on October 10 and made the return trip on October 12.  

The El Chepe rail line runs between Chihuahua and Los Mochis (on the Sea of Cortez).  At Divisadero the elevation is about 7,900 feet, at El Fuerte it is about 400 feet.  In clothing terms, you travel from a light jacket to a t-shirt.  It takes roughly seven hours to travel between Divisadero and El Fuerte.

The train passes through more than fifty tunnels and over roughly thirty bridges in the rail segment which we travelled over.  In many locations the track makes a giant “u-turn” in a canyon, at one location the rail line loops over itself, some of those turns are in tunnels, in one tunnel the train makes a 180 degree turn, in the tunnel.  When not in tunnels, the scenery is dramatic.

In the lowlands near El Fuerte we saw fields with crops stacked for drying.  I could not figure out what the crop might be given the size and nature of the stacks (photo below).  Turns out, it was sesame.  Sesame is not grown commercially in the United States (at least not in a significant way).  India is the top sesame producer in the world, in this area of Mexico sesame production is equivalent to about 5% of the Indian production.

November 11, 2015 - El Fuerte, Sinaloa Mexico

Our ride on El Chepe took us to the lowlands, to El Fuerte which was founded in 1563.  It is a small city (pop. about 13,000) and quite beautiful.  As is typical of most municipal buildings in Mexico there are murals, usually telling the history of the place.  In this case, that history includes the Yaqui indians.

There is a museum with several rooms in the old fort.  The ramparts of the fort offer nice views of the town and the Rio Fuerte.  There is also a church with steeple.  That is about it for tourist attractions.

The ambiance of the place is very nice, it has a comfortable small town feel to it which relaxes the soul.  The tropical setting, the differences in  architectural style, the dress of the people remind you that you are not in the United States.  Palm and papaya trees certainly reinforce that fact.

While in El Fuerte we stayed at the Posada del Hidalgo which is a complex of three old haciendas melded together quite nicely.  The hotel has a one room museum which is rather interesting as well.

We took a float trip on the river while there, more on that later.

November 15, 2015 - Birds of Sinaloa - Broad Billed Hummingbird

We have had a Broad-billed Hummingbird, Cynanthus latirostris, in our yard in Hillsboro, New Mexico, USA since October 23.  It is a distinctive female which is definitely the exotic bird of the month here, having wandered from its normal range in southern Arizona.  On October 10-11-12, almost a month ago now, I had the opportunity to photograph Broad-bills (like the males in the photographs above and below) at leisure in El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico.

November 16, 2015 - Birds of Sinaloa - Violet-crowned Hummingbird

There were two very common hummingbirds in El Fuerte, one, the Broad-billed Hummingbird, was the subject of my post yesterday.  The other is the Violet-crowned Hummingbird, Amazilia violiceps.  I have very little experience with this species so being able to spend time with it on October 10, 11, and 12 was a real treat.  My previous experience with this species was limited to the Guadalupe Canyon of southeastern Arizona/southwestern New Mexico, USA, just about as far north as its range extends.  This species is found as far south as the very northern part of Oaxaca, but only on the Pacific side of the mountains.

We don’t tend to think of hummingbirds and red bills in the same thought, but in Mexico there are several red-billed hummingbird species, the Violet-crowned being one.  The markings of this species are simple but brilliant.

The first time I saw this species was in Guadalupe Canyon.  I was imitating the call of one of the small owls at what might be an owl hole when two things happened.  The owl peaked out of the hole and a Violet-crowned Hummingbird immediately appeared to keep it in line.  One of those surreal moments which remains imprinted in my brain.

November 17, 2015 - More Birds From Sinaloa

Great Black Hawk, Buteogallus urubitinga ridgwayi, Rio Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico

While I was in El Fuerte, I had time to roam around and on the 11th (October) I took a float trip on the Rio Fuerte.  During this time I was able to photograph a number of common species including Great-tailed Grackle, Great Blue Heron (photo below), Social Flycatcher (here it is close to the northern border of its range along the Pacific Coast), Osprey, Great Black Hawk (photo above - again near the northern border of its range on the Pacific Coast), Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, Black Vulture, Painted Bunting (photo below), Neotropic Cormorant, Gila Woodpecker, Turkey Vulture, Rufous-bellied Chachalaca, and Muscovy Duck.

November 25, 2015 - Museums and Art in El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico

Many tourists will head to the local church when visiting a Mexican town or city, they think that is where all the art will be - and there is often art to be had at such places.  Two other locales are dependable for art in Mexico, municipal buildings and the plaza(s).  And, in general, the municipal buildings are wonderful examples of Mexican architecture.

The photo, above, is from the municipal building in El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico.  This style of architecture, two stories, arch arcades sheltering the entries to various offices, and a large open area are typical of that found in small to moderate sized cities.  There will generally be a central stairway to the second story and in the stairway alcove there will almost always be murals, see photo below.  The themes of the murals are pretty consistent - noble pre-columbian civilizations, some priests and peasants, and the revolution(s).  

Photographs of the municipal building in El Fuerte, its murals, and details from the murals have been posted to the Mexico - Sinaloa photo gallery as were photographs from the museums in El Fuerte.

November 26, 2015 - The Human Side of El Fuerte - A Wrap Up

This is the second to the last post about El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico.  I thought I would take some time to talk about the ambiance of the place, the pace of the place, the friendliness of the place.  We stayed a full day in El Fuerte, arriving by train the evening before and departing the morning after our day of sightseeing.  One of the unexpected treats of the trip was the float trip along the Rio Fuerte, not unexpected in the sense that the trip was unanticipated but rather unexpected in the sense that it was a treat (photo above).  Seems like a very tourist thing to do but it turned out to be rather relaxing and quite enjoyable.

The town of El Fuerte has a population of several thousand, but it was remarkably quiet and laid-back.  Walking along the sidewalk, photo above, definitely reminds you that you are not in the United States.  

As in almost every Mexican town the central plaza is the place that people congregate.  There is usually a central “kiosco”, fountains, and many benches.  It is a place to sit back, relax, reflex, and people watch.  And as with most plazas, the one in El Fuerte is fronted by a church, photo above, a municipal building, and a few other buildings of some importance in the community.  

This was a tourist trip - it was about the train ride and a bit of Mexican ambiance - but there was time for a some natural history.  I will post on that tomorrow.

The rest of my photographs of cultural history from El Fuerte have been posted to the Mexico - Sinaloa  photo gallery.

November 27, 2015 - The Natural Side of El Fuerte - A Wrap Up

My last post about my visit to El Fuerte in Sinaloa, Mexico is about the natural history that I have not covered in previous posts.  For instance, I have seen the Giant Swallowtail species pictured below in Panama but not elsewhere in its range.  It was a nice treat to get some time to work this specimen.  The photograph was taken outside the Fort Museum in town, inside the fort I managed a photograph of a Green Iguana and some cactus, most notably what I think is Stenocereus montanus.

Papilio cresphontes, Giant Swallowtai,l The Fort Museum, El Fuerte, Sinaloa, Mexico

Along the walk to the river, I saw the Winged Calabash, Crescentia alata, pictured to the right.  This is an interesting fruit in that it grows directly from the trunk of a hard wood tree which looks (the trunk) like some species of oak.  Pretty exotic looking to me.

I posted the remaining photographs from Sinaloa to the Mexico - Sinaloa photo gallery, to the Reptiles photo gallery, and to the Butterflies and Moths Photo Gallery - as appropriate.



© Robert Barnes 2017-2018