Creel: Gateway to the Copper Canyon
By Anita Draycott
Located high up in the Sierra Tarahumara, Creel is the springboard into two marvelous worlds: the magical universe of the Tarahumara and the breathtaking Copper Canyon.
Creel basks in the splendor of the Western Sierra Madre 247 km southeast of the city of Chihuahua. Mother Nature has blessed the town with gigantic rock formations, romantic lakes, endless forests and spellbinding waterfalls.
At the heart of the Arms Plaza, a tree-shaded main square, you'll find a statue of the town's namesake, Enrique Creel. At the northeast corner of the plaza, the neo-gothic Cristo Rey Church and its neighbor, the twentieth-century Nuestra Señora de Lourdes Church await your visit.
If you feel like delving into some local history, the Handicraft House and Museum, on the west side of the plaza, sheds some light on the customs and traditions of the Raramuri people. On the west side of town, you can’t help but notice the eight-meter tall statue of Christ, the Cristo Rey monument, an impressive reminder of the region's cultural and religious diversity and a local landmark.
If you venture just a few kilometers southeast of downtown Creel, you'll reach San Ignacio Arareko, home to the Tarahumara people who live scattered in the surrounding woods. Pay a visit to the old stone church and mission where ancestral celebrations are still held. Further afield, feast your eyes on the landscape in the nearby valleys, known for their large, whimsical, rock formations.
A few kilometers further, you'll arrive at the horseshoe-shaped, 40-hectare Arareko Lake set within a tranquil pine forest.
Why not rent a cabin and spend a peaceful night or two close to nature?
Creel is especially known for dried foods such as beef jerky and dried chile peppers, two of the basic ingredients of the classic caldillo de carne seca (jerky soup). Try it local-style served with blue corn tortillas. You might be surprised by the quality and variety of fresh seafood that arrives daily via train from Topolobampo, Sinaloa.
The traditional Raramuri handcraft is a style of woven palm-leaf basket called “ware.” Visit the local communities and you will also see that the craftspeople are skilled in woodworking. They turn out masterfully carved decorative objects and furniture, plus pottery and woven wool textiles. If there's space in your luggage, why not bring home a memento of your trip?