The How the Grand Canyon works.


How does the Grand Canyon work?

It’s the place where families enjoy their vacations, where movies are shot, and one of the most awe-inspiring and mysterious sights in the world. The Grand Canyon really does seem to be a massive crater that has been plunked down in the middle of Arizona but it is a place that is filled with rocks, rivers, and life and it is truly one of the most wonderful and spectacular places on Earth. But how big is it really? Its actual size is 277 miles long and the width varies from 10 to 18 miles. The depth of the Grand Canyon is one vertical mile but consider before trying this as a hike that this is if you were to walk straight down, which obviously, you cannot. The length of the Grand Canyon is measured in river miles, using the Colorado River, which lies at the very bottom of the Canyon. Although the Colorado River is actually 1,450 miles long, the 277 miles of it that lays within the Grand Canyon runs from Lees Ferry to the Grand Wash Cliffs.

It’s believed that erosion from the Colorado River formed the Grand Canyon, along with heat and uplift, over a period of millions of years. Although this is the generally accepted theory, there are some others. Creationists, for example, believe that the flood that happened during Noah’s time in the Bible was responsible for creating the Canyon. Creationists support this theory by pinpointing eight different points along the Canyon where the rock bends rather than cracks and by the way the rock is layered. The exact age of the Canyon isn’t known however, it is believed that the Canyon itself is approximately 5 or 6 million years old. However, many of the rocks that can be found within the Canyon, which were there long before the actual Canyon was, are estimated to be approximately 2,000 million years old.

It is this rock that is studied when geologists research the Grand Canyon to find out more about it and how it works. This rock consists of layers upon layers of shale-siltstone, sandstone, conglomerate, limestone, dolomite, igneous and metamorphic rock. In all, there are a total of 94 different types of rock within the Grand Canyon, along with other minerals. Iron is very prevalent within the Grand Canyon and it is this that gives certain areas of the gorge its bright red color. Many fossils have also been found within the Grand Canyon including petrified forests, lungfish, nautiloids, and even dinosaurs! But the Grand Canyon isn’t a great hole consisting only of rock, either. Within the Canyon lies much beautiful plant life, fish life, and other animal life. Wildflowers and cactus are just 2 of the 1,500 different plant species that can be found here and 355 different bird species also call the Canyon their home, including the endangered California condor. 89 mammal species, 47 reptile species, 9 amphibian species, and 17 fish species, also all are known to reside within the Grand Canyon. Of all of these species, 35 are endangered or considered to be of special concern.

Besides being simply a thing of beauty, the Grand Canyon has an archeological history that dates back as far as the Paleoindian Period. This dates back to nearly 12,000 years ago however, there have been human artifacts found in the Canyon from this time. But the Paleoindians were just some of the first people to occupy the area as other civilizations also claimed this land as their own, and left some of their artifacts behind to prove it, including: Archaic, Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan, Cohonina, Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo civilizations. It wasn’t until much later in the 1540s that Europeans began coming to explore the Grand Canyon for themselves, mostly looking for cities of gold that they had been told of. More recently during the 1880s, people from the Mormon Church began to colonize the area and in 1869, John Wesley Powell was the first to take a boat out onto the River to discover the length of the Canyon. It wasn’t until 39 years after that boating trip, in 1893, that the Grand Canyon was declared a national monument. And just 3 years after that in 1919, the area became what we know it as today, the Grand Canyon National Park. The site was then given the designation of also being a World Heritage Site in 1979. Tourism is most definitely the area’s number one economic resource but the region is also known for lumbering, ranching, and hunting.

When the park first opened as a tourist attraction it saw an impressive 44,000 people who came to see the great sites. Today, the park sees almost 7 million people every year! So what is it that draws such a great number of people? When going to see the Grand Canyon, people can either go to the North Rim or the South Rim but the South Rim proves to be the most popular because it is open all year and has lower elevation points, so it’s easier to go to. However, if you really want to see some of the most stunning scenery found on earth, there are some lookout points along the North Rim such as Cape Royal and Bright Angel Points. For the very adventurous, the North and South Rims are connected by a narrow footbridge that sits over the Colorado River called the Kaibab Trail. This can be taken by foot or by mule for further exploration of the Canyon. There are daytrips available but realistically, full exploration of the Canyon takes a few days to a couple of weeks. Exploration can be done by raft, mule, or foot. Many people like to simply camp within the Canyon while horseback riding or mule riding is also offered, as are scenic air trips. Most people however, tend to just like to walk along the rims and take in the breathtaking scenery.

The climate at the Canyon varies greatly, partly because its depth varies from 2,000 feet to 8,000 feet. Another reason for the many variables in climate is due to how different the weather is in different seasons. Summers are generally quite mild but down at the bottom, along the Colorado River, temperatures can spike up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The summer isn’t humid generally, nor are there many storms. The winter however, sees many storms within the Canyon’s rocks and caves as well as extreme cold temperatures and wind-chills. Often, due to bad weather, the roads within the Canyon need to be closed.

The Grand Canyon

the Grand Canyon.

 The How the Grand Canyon works of the Grand Canyon.

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