Río Sonora (Ruta del) Travel Guide

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Piedra Historica-Banamichi Sonora

Piedra Historica-Banamichi Sonora

Thomas Matthews

The Ruta del Río Sonora (Sonora River Route) begins just below Cananea, a large and fairly prosperous mining town some 80 km. (50 miles) southeast of Douglas AZ. There Sonora highway 118 sets off to trace an easy day's drive through spectacularly varied countryside and a number of picturesque villages quite different from those encountered along the more frequented national route 15. Historical interest lies in the fact that several villages were founded in the 1600s by Spanish explorers and missionaries, as the river valley provided a convenient route for exploration to the north.

Bacoachi and Arizpe, both founded in 1646, are the first towns of note going south from Cananea. Arizpe has the historical importance of having been a provincial capital in the 1700s, and its colonial church dating from not long after the town's foundation was the first in Sonora to gain Cathedral status.

Due to its elevated situation overlooking the valley to the west and the mountains beyond, its former prosperity from agriculture and the nearby Santa Elena gold mine, and its well preserved historical center, many visitors find Banámichi, dating from 1639, to be the most attractive of the Río Sonora valley's settlements. The central plaza -- a green oasis with an attractive kiosk -- is surrounded by colonial architecture of government buildings and homes, punctuated by the brilliant white presence of the well maintained Temple dedicated to Nuestra Señora de Loreto.

Futher south is Huépac, a mission settlement dating from 1644. Of architectural interest is the imposing 18th-century church, and the Palacio Municipal displays a mammoth femur found in the area. Aconchi is the next town of note, known for production of the tiny fiery chiltepín chile. Visitors are attracted to its 18th-century Franciscan church containing a black Christ figure, and to the thermal hot springs 4 km. to the south, whose waters are thought to have medicinal qualities. Baviácora (1639), also a chiltepín center, is the last of the villages going south on the Ruta del Río Sonora, which can be said to end at the intersection of Sonora highways 118 and 21.
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