Gateway to the Copper Canyon, El Fuerte is a lovely old colonial town clustered around an attractive central plaza of brightly painted houses full of historic character. Climb the hilltop fort for lovely views or relax on the river with a bird spotting raft ride, before boarding the El Chepe railway for a train journey into the heart of canyon country.
Founded by Spanish conqueror, Francisco de Ibarra, in 1564, El Fuerte was once the state capital of Sinaloa and is full of old colonial charm. Famed for the 17th century hilltop fort from which it takes its name, the town was built on the high point of Cerro de las Pilas to protect the Spanish and safeguard the silver mined in the canyons from attacks from local Indian tribes. In fact, it was this proximity to the silver mines that led to El Fuerte becoming the most important commercial centre in northwest Mexico and for three centuries the town was a major trading post for silver miners.
Located on the banks of the Fuerte River, around 75-kilometres northwest of Los Mochis, today El Fuerte is the most popular place to start the El Chepe train journey through the Copper Canyon and makes a lovely stopover at the start (or end) of your journey. Highlights include the charming old colonial courtyard of the Palacio Municipal (City Hall) where you may catch a live music performance; the main square, Plaza de Armas and the replica of the original fort which is now a museum, Museo Fuerte Mirador. The museum is full of local photographs, documents and artefacts documenting the history of the town and there is access to the roof where you can stroll around the ramparts for great views of the town and the Sierra Madre Mountains. This is also a lovely spot to watch the sunset.
Birders will enjoy taking a boat tour along the river where you can see peacocks, quail, geese and blue heron and you can also see the ancient rock art and carvings along the riverbank. For those taking the train through the Copper Canyon, we think a stopover at El Fuerte makes a lovely additional to your trip.