Mexico is composed of many different landforms due in part to the geological shifting of plate tectonics in the region. The geography of this country includes swamps, mountains, plains, plateaus, canyons and caves. Over half of Mexico is located at an altitude over 3,300 feet and 40 percent of the country is made up of an arid plateau. (Pictured below: Valley of the Enigmas near Tapalpa, Mexico with the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range in the distance)
Mexico is home to several mountain ranges including the Sierra Madre, Sierra de Pachuca and the Sierra Nevada. The Sierra Madre is one of the world's largest mountain ranges, spanning from the northwestern corner of the country all the way down into the southern border state of Guatemala. The Sierra Madre is made up of three smaller mountain ranges: the Sierra Madre Oriental, Sierra Madre Occidental and the Sierra Madre del Sur. The tallest mountain in Mexico is El Pixo de Orizaba, which reaches 18,406 feet above sea level. Mexico is home to three mountains over 16,000 feet, eight peaks over 13,000 feet and 28 which exceed 9,843 feet in elevation.
Highest and Lowest Points
As mentioned above, the highest point in Mexico is El Pixo de Orizaba, which is located in Southern Mexico and is also a volcano. It is the highest volcano in North American and third-highest mountain in North America after Denali and Canada's Mount Logan. The lowest depression in Mexico is Laguna Salada, at 33 feet below sea level. Laguna Salada is a dry lake in Baja California in the Sonoran Desert. During times of excessive rainfall the lake does fill with water but when the lake is dry it is a favored place for off-roading.
The Yucatan Peninsula, which borders Central America, is very flat and separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Caribbean Sea. The landscape is comprised of water soluble rocks such as limestone. Sinkholes are also common in this region and are referred to as cenotes, which make popular swimming holes. The coast all along the Gulf of California, which separates the Mexican mainland from the Baja California Peninsula, is also quite flat as is the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula.
Copper Canyon is Mexico's most prevalent canyon. It is located in the Sierra Madre mountain range in northwestern Mexico and is composed of six main canyons that together rival the Grand Canyon of the Unites States in size. Each of the canyons was formed by a river, all of which merge into the Rio Fuerte. The bottom of the canyon is hot and humid throughout the year while the upper, mountainous regions of the canyon have moderate temperatures in the fall and spring. The rainy season usually begins in June but before precipitation begins to fall drought can be a major problem in Copper Canyon.
Plains and Plateaus
Mexico's Central Plateau is a large feature in the country, covering nearly a fifth of Mexico. The plateau is arid and located on average about 6,000 feet above sea level. It stretches from north to south across much of the country and a southern portion of the plateau is home to many of the population centers in Mexico including Mexico City, Guadalajara and Leon. The Northeast Coastal Plain stretches from the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern parts of the Sierra Madre Oriental.