Arizona’s Grand Canyon – A Stupendous Gift of Nature

by Heike Winnig,

The Grand Canyon is one of the most beautiful, awe-inspiring and humbling natural places to visit in the world. It is nature’s absolute gift of opulence.

First sight of Grand Canyon

First sight of Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is millions of years of eroded layers of rock that tell their own tales of history. Residues left behind reflect the conditions (muddy, rocky, sandy, and volcanic, etc.) of specific periods in time. The Colorado River wound its way through the various layers seen on the canyon’s walls for millions of years.,

The Making of a Canyon

The river’s water carved a gorge of epic proportions, which was followed by wind and water eroding the rock and sweeping it away. Though hard to imagine, the river was actually once on top of the canyon. The layers of the Grand Canyon are a stunning facet revealing various time periods and conditions. In other words, the Colorado River has cut through the earth to reveal the passing of millennia before our very eyes.

History of the Canyon’s Native Peoples

Indigenous peoples have called the Grand Canyon home for thousands of years. Approximately 10,000 years ago, paleo-hunters were known to have hunted big game throughout the area. According to historical data, hunters lived in the area until about 1000 BC. Archaeological discoveries, such as pottery found in the canyon, have been carbon dated to 4,000 years ago.

Grand Canyon seen from far

Archeological evidence concludes that almost 2,000 ancestral villages, which include the Tusayan Pueblo built in 1185 AD, existed at the Grand Canyon. Research ascertained that by the late 1200’s the early Grand Canyon Native Peoples abandoned their homes possibly due to an extended drought.

By the 1300’s the Cerbat peoples, who are the ancestors of the present day Havasupai and Hualapai Tribes, moved into the canyon with the Southern Paiutes. The Navajo and Dine peoples, who are relatives of the Apache Tribe, settled in and around the canyon. The members left of what once was the Great Navajo Nation live on a reservation that is situated along the eastern section of the Grand Canyon.

How the Grand Canyon Got Its Name

One of the first rafting expeditions by way of the Colorado River was led by John Wesley Powell with a party of nine in 1869. They traveled 1,000 miles in wooden boats through the Grand Canyon. It was a dangerous venture causing the loss of three men. However, a second journey in 1871 garnered Powell critical information about this mostly unexplored part of the United States.

The Paiute peoples called the canyon “The Mountain Lying Down”. John Wesley Powell decided to call the area “Grand Canyon”, which term he published in the 1870’s, and which name was deemed appropriate to all concerned.

Today’s Destination – the Grand Canyon

There was a time during the 1870’s and 1880’s that mining was attempted in the canyon, and stakes were claimed. The mining discovered lead, zinc, asbestos, and copper, but mining proved to be too dangerous. Instead the miners turned to the enterprising business of tourism.

Grand canyon rim walk

Grand canyon rim walk

There are three major rims of the Grand Canyon attracting tourists and vacationers. The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is the most popular and most accessible, enjoying over 5 million visitors each year. It is only 60 miles from Williams, Arizona, which is home to the Grand Canyon Railway. The South Rim is also only about 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff, Arizona, which is the nucleus of Northern Arizona. The red rock country of Sedona, another wonder of nature, is just about 20 miles south of Flagstaff on State Route 89A.

The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is very remote with few services. It may be more ideal for the adventurous and exploratory visitor. Although the North Rim of the Canyon can be seen from the South Rim and is only 10-15 miles away by way of an eagle’s flight, it is about a 5 hour drive to get to the other side. Located more remote, the view is more incredible compared to the South Rim, and is most accessible from southern Utah.

The Grand Canyon’s West Rim is not governed or controlled by the National Park Service. It is owned and operated by the Hualapai Indian Tribe, who is increasing its amenities and services to attract a greater number of tourists. The West Rim is the home of the “Skywalk” where tourists can walk out over the canyon on a glass-like surface, which experience is an absolutely breathtaking adventure. The West Rim is located closer to Las Vegas and enjoys a great number of tours from the Las Vegas area.

A Grand Canyon vacation offers tours, adventurous river rafting expeditions, hiking, mule rides, and camping. Each of the rims is unique and offers a variety of different adventures in vacation pleasures.

Ultimately, gazing at the timeless wonder that is the Grand Canyon is inspiring to the senses and humbling to the spirit. Watching the sun rise or set over the canyon is one of the most magnificent gifts of nature to witness. The glorious colors of the rocks come to life with a brilliance all their own and stir the imagination of an unforgettable vision, awaiting reminiscence.

Cited Sources: Arizona Leisure Vacation Guide, Grand Canyon Hotels and Tours, Arizona Travel Planner

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