Human History
Life Zones
Predator and Prey
South Rim Village
South Rim Drive

Grand Canyon

Bright Angel Trail Head.JPG (85811 bytes)Click to enlarge wpe1.jpg (33829 bytes)  Geology map
GC sunsetcrop2.JPG (88025 bytes)Desert View  Bright Angel Trail.jpg (131472 bytes)Desert View of the Colorado River
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2 billion years of geologic history in front of your eyes is mind boggling at first.  Stand on the rim and the Colorado River looks like a quiet little stream.  Stand on the canyon floor and it’s a raging torrent of water.  Hance Rapids, visible from Lipan Point, is about the only place that gives you a sense of The River’s power from a mile away. 

 Capt Hance $ cabin.JPG (21345 bytes)Captain John Hance was a product of wander lust fostered after the Civil War who found his niche dazzling tourists with his stories and wilderness knowledge.  Bright Angel Trail was blazed by him in the later 1880’s.  As you walk to the edge of the Colorado, your footsteps will fall in his.

 Exploring the Canyon can be the pursuit of a lifetime.  Only the hardy need apply.  The air’s thin; the heat at the bottom of the canyon is the same as it is in Phoenix and the sun is relentless, yet 5 million people gaze into the majestic depths each year, drawn like magnets to it’s beauty and history.

Because the Grand Canyon ranges from 1,200 feet at the canyon's western bottom to more than 9,100 feet on the North Rim, it supports a variety of plant and animal life indigenous to both desert and mountain environments. Below are the three life zones found in the park and some of the plants and animals you will find in each of them. For information on North Rim Flora and Fauna, click here.

Day Trips
There's a lot to see on the Colorado Plateau. East of the park are many major sights, including the Painted Desert; the Navajo Reservation where Monument Valley is located; and Sunset Crater Volcano, Walnut Canyon, and Wupatki National Monuments. Guided tours are offered and are a great way to explore these scenic wonders.

1524 m to the Colorado River, crossing several biotic zones in the process. It is a landscape characterized by abundant sunshine, extremes of temperature, and long periods of drought punctuated by torrential downpours in summer and snow in winter. The soil is thin; bedrock lies just a few inches below the surface. The competition for moisture in this dry land is keen.

On the rim at elevations above 7000 feet/2134 m, ponderosa pine is the dominant tree in the forest. Below 7000 feet, pinyon pine and Utah juniper are the dominant trees. Gambel oak is another common member of the forest. The trees are interspersed with drought-resistant shrubs like cliffrose, fernbush, and serviceberry. Warm, sunny areas along the rim may be home to desert plants like banana yucca and claretcup cactus.

From the rim, it looks like another world. The vast space between the rims is filled with buttes, peaks, spectacular side canyons, endless layers of multi-colored rock, light and shadow. The Paiute Indians called it Kaibab or "Mountain Lying Down. The Spanish called it Gran Caņon. John Wesley Powell explored it in wooden boats from Green River, Wyoming to its eastern end in 1869. The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural wonders in the world and there is no other canyon anywhere that truly compares to it. More of the earth geologic history is revealed here than in any other place on earth and the scale is so immense that it can be overwhelming no matter how many times you see it.

Sunlight, clouds and snow transform it. Rain may hide it. Fog can fill it. The longer you look, the more impressive it becomes. You will never experience anything else quite like it. In the Grand Canyon, Arizona has a natural wonder which so far as I know, is in kind absolutely unparalleled throughout the rest of the world. Leave it as it is. You can not improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it. What you can do is to keep it for your children, and for all who come after you.Geologists disagree as to exactly how old it is and some believe that the eastern part of the Canyon is older than the western part. safe to say that it was cut between 3.8 and 6 million years ago.The rock in the Grand Canyon illustrates 2 billion years of the earth development, nearly half of its total history and geologists can read the rock layers like a book. The rock you stand on at the rim was formed about 250 million years ago. Deep in the gorge, the Canyon's oldest rock, the Vishnu Schist, is estimated to be 1.7 billion years old.Vishnu Schist is one of the oldest exposed rock surfaces in the world and the remains of a mountain range that existed during the late Precambrian era when wide, shallow seas covered most of northern Arizona. The schists were buried deep until about six million years ago when the Colorado River exposed them.As you descend into the Canyon, you regress in time about 20,000 years with each step unless you are long-legged or a mule in which case each step is worth about 30,000 years. When you reach the place known as the Great Unconformity, a single step takes you back an additional 1.2 billion years or four times as long a period as you covered from the rim to that point.

The Colorado River did most of the work. Many geologists believe the river cut down through the rock layers of the Kaibab Plateau while the surrounding landscape rose. However, there are other theories about the formation of the Grand Canyon and many questions remain unanswered.


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Map of Arizona


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Map of the reservations and Four Corners 


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