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The Copiapó River Valley, Atacama Region

The Copiapó river near Pabellon

Museo Virtual, Atacama
W. Griem, 2014 - 2017
Copiapó river near El Yeso; Atacama Region: Here at this altitude, near Nantoco still has water.

Photo: Copiapó river near El Yeso; Atacama Region: Here at this altitude, near Nantoco still has water..   W. Griem (Canon Powershot - 2003) - Foto grande

Atacama: Copiapo river

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The Copiapó River:
In the Nantoco - El Yeso - Pabellón sector, the Copiapó river generally contains a considerable flow. On the other hand, further down, between Tierra Amarilla and San Pedro there is a decrease in the riverbed or simply the river becomes dry.
On average it has a flow rate of 1.9 m3 / second, but after rainy years this figure increases. It is worth mentioning that it is very difficult or simply not very useful to characterize the Copiapó River with general statistical methods. Especially the high variations per year, decade or century do not allow the elaboration of a general guideline. Just one event - a rainy year - can change the figures for decades.

The Copiapó river basin covers an area of about 18,400 km2. But a large amount of tributaries do not have a permanent flow - it is only activated after heavy rains. The precipitation rate generally increases considerably towards the mountain range. This is why rivers such as Pulido, Cachito and Montosa show a good flow throughout the year. On its way down the Copiapó River, the river loses its flow for several reasons: natural reasons such as evaporation and downward filtration, in addition to anthropogenic reasons: agronomy, mining and the pumping of drinking water consume a great deal of water resources.
In "Potrero Seco" cretaceous rocks, strongly sloping intercept the valley.
Formerly in this place the railroad to Chañarcillo (see here) turned west to climb up to Molle.
In Potrero seco there is also the junction of the road that leads to Cerro Blanco - Yerbas Buenas. (see here)

Cuadro Informativo:

Gilliss (1855):
"Within twelve miles of the city the road at last approaches the river; but what sort of stream does the reader picture to himself? one like the Delaware, or Thames, or Seine ? The geographical student would be warranted in such belief on inspection of the old maps ; and such a stream as either would be a source of wealth more valuable than all the riches of Tres Puntas. No, no; the river Copiapó is but a trench half filled with water, not a foot deep, and across which you may easily stride."

Charles Darwin (1835, 11. June):

The valley of Copiapo, forming a mere ribbon of green in a desert, runs in a very southerly direction; so that it is of considerable length to its source in the Cordillera. The valleys of Guasco and Copiapo may both be considered as long narrow islands, separated from the rest of Chile by deserts of rock instead of by salt water. Northward of these, there is one other very miserable valley, called Paposo, which contains about two hundred souls; and then there extends the real desert of Atacama -- a barrier far worse than the most turbulent ocean. After staying a few days at Potrero Seco, I proceeded up the valley to the house of Don Benito Cruz, to whom I had a letter of introduction. I found him most hospitable; indeed it is impossible to bear too strong testimony to the kindness with which travellers are received in almost every part of South America. The next day I hired some mules to take me by the ravine of Jolquera into the central Cordillera. On the second night the weather seemed to foretell a storm of snow or rain, and whilst lying in our beds we felt a trifling shock of an earthquake.
see Charles Darwin

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Places of interest
Information about Atacama

Pic Atacama geovirtual2.cl

Intro valle Río Copiapó
Copiapó (Km 0,0)
Tierra Amarilla (km 15,7)
Nantoco (Km 22,2)
Sector Nantoco
The Copiapo river   

FFCC Chañarcillo
Portezuelo Dadín
Cerro Blanco
Yerbas Buenas

Punta Brava (Km 53,7)
Los Loros (Km 62,3)
San Antonio (Km 70,1)
Smelter Inka (Km 74,0)
Aqueduct Amolanas (Km 82,2)
Reservoir Lautaro (Km 84,2)
Iglesia Colorada (Km 110,1)
Río Montosa (Km 115,4)
Junta de Potros (Km 118,9)
La Semilla
Pastos Grandes (Km 137,1)
Qda. Pircas Coloradas (146,1)
Port. Cachitos (Km 167,1)
Río Turbio (Km 194,5)

next page of geovirtual
Valle Copiapó

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Cerro Blanco

Del sector
FFCC Copiapó - San Antonio
Qda. Carrizalillo
GILLISS excursion Come Caballo

Charles Darwin

Related pages
The Andes mountains
Atacama desert
History of Atacama
Mining history of Atacama

Páginas of interes
The railroad history of Atacama
Mining history of Atacama
History of Atacama
Virtual vantage point to the Desert
Vida Atacama en b/n

Wolfgang Griem en:
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geovirtual.cl: Mining, Geology and Atacama desert
Sector El Yeso - Potrero Seco; Atacama Region - Chile: The mountain range of strata, almost vertical, marks the sector.

Photo: Yeso Sector - Potrero Seco; Atacama Region - Chile: The mountain range of strata, almost vertical, marks the sector.. W. Griem (2005; Kodak4279) - Foto en grande

Literature:
GILLISS, J.M. (1855): The U.S. Naval Astonomical Expedition to the southern Hemisfere, during the years 1849-50-51-52. - Volume 1 (Chile); Washington A.O.P. Nicholson Printer. Collection W. Griem.
• DARWIN, CH. (1876): Geological observations on the volcanic islands and parts of South America visited during the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle. - 2. Edition,  Smith,  Elder & Co.; London.

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Updated: 19.9.2017, 12.8.2018
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