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The United States has some of the most fascinating and awe-inspiring parks in the world. The U.S. National Parks system includes everything from Sequoia National Park to Hot Springs National Park. However, there’s one national park that stands in a league of its own. It is the Grand Canyon.
Looking at a picture of the Grand Canyon, you can see that it is stunning. The canyon walls, plant life, and Colorado River are majestic, and the canyon has nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history.
Whether or not you actually travel to Arizona to view the Grand Canyon for yourself, it’s worth spending some time to learn about what makes the Grand Canyon so special. Doing so, you can not only become smarter about a great American landmark, but you can impress your friends and family!
Some Fascinating Facts About the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is located in the northern part of Arizona. It is 277 miles long, about 18 miles wide, and is over one mile deep. The river that flows through the Grand Canyon is the Colorado River. Temperatures at the Grand Canyon vary by the time of year. For instance, in the summer, temperatures at the Grand Canyon’s Inner Gorge can be higher than 100 degrees. In the winter, temperatures can sometimes fall below zero degrees.
The Colorado River basin, which encompasses the Grand Canyon, has been developing over the past 70 million years. The canyon itself is a product of a natural process called erosion. While the basin itself emerged 70 million years ago, geologists have found that caves began to form 17 million years ago.
Now, you may be wondering: how did the Grand Canyon get to be so deep? Ultimately, it comes down to uplift of the Colorado Plateau, which occurred around 65 million years ago. The uplift cut through rock and slowly formed the large canyon that we see today. As for the Colorado River’s formation through the Canyon, the base level of the Canyon changed around 5 million years ago. The Gulf of California lowered the Colorado River’s base point (its lowest level), which increased erosion and cut basically all of the Grand Canyon’s current depth. While the process took some time, the Colorado River began flowing through the Canyon.
In the end, it took a very long time for the Grand Canyon to form its shape. But after the natural process of erosion for millions of years, the Grand Canyon took its current shape. Even still, the Canyon continues to evolve, so it will likely look differently even one million years from now.
Beyond the Grand Canyon’s sheer beauty, the Canyon has been home to different groups of people. The earliest humans to live in the Grand Canyon were Ancestral Puebloans. They are also called the Anasazi people. Archaeologists believe that the Anasazi emerged in the Grand Canyon in around 1200 BC. Native Americans, like the Sinagua and Cohohina, lived in or near the Canyon in the years after the Anasazi.
European explorers began arriving in the Grand Canyon in the 16th century. For example, in September 1540, Spanish explorers traveled through the Canyon. They were astounded by the huge rocks in the Canyon, allegedly saying that they were “bigger than the great tower of Seville, Giralda.”
These explorers were the last Europeans to visit the Grand Canyon for more than 200 years. While some other Spanish missionaries visited the Grand Canyon in 1776, the first Americans to do so were a group of trappers in 1826.
Some of the most important moments in the Grand Canyon’s history occurred in the early 20th century. In 1903, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon. Roosevelt was known for being an outdoorsman and a conservationist. He was struck by the beauty of the Canyon and redesignated the Grand Canyon Game Preserve to be a U.S. National Monument in 1908. 11 years later, the Grand Canyon was designated a U.S. National Park by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919. These federal protections helped preserve the wildlife and natural beauty of the Canyon.
Today, in the Grand Canyon, you can find over 1700 types of vascular plants, 167 species of fungi, and 64 species of moss. In terms of animals, you can find about 90 different types of mammal species in the Canyon. Of those 90 mammal species, 22 of them are bats and 18 of them are rodents. Many of these animals are smaller, so don’t expect to see many large mammals going up and down the Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful sites in the United States. If you were to visit the Grand Canyon, you could participate in many different activities.
As a starting point, almost every visitor to the Grand Canyon wants to view it from above. If you feel the same way, one of the places that you can visit is the South Rim. You will get an outstanding view of the Canyon, which can be used for Instagram photos or even longer videos.
There is also the Grand Canyon Skywalk, where you can walk onto a glass platform to view the Grand Canyon from above. It can be quite scary for those who are afraid of heights! If you are more adventurous, you can hike down the Grand Canyon, take a helicopter tour, or even raft down the Colorado River.
Ultimately, there’s something for everyone at the Grand Canyon. If you haven’t yet been to the Grand Canyon, I strongly suggest that you consider it.
One of America’s Most Treasured Landmarks
The Grand Canyon has evolved over millions of years. Even now, it is a living and breathing thing that continues to slowly change. It will continue to do so even millions of years from now.
In the end, the Grand Canyon is a remarkable landmark. It is an important piece of our natural history. From the stunning light on the Canyon walls to the rapidly flowing water of the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon will continue to delight humans for years to come.