The Grand Canyon and its History: 17 Things You Probably Didn't Know

The Grand Canyon and its History: 17 Things You Probably Didn't Know

Whether crossing on foot or taking a helicopter, visitors to the Grand Canyon explore thousands of years of human and natural history.

Some vistiors have said gazing into the grand canyon temporarily cured them of their depression. It is one of the world's wonders. The colorado river carved this massive canyon complex into the land and formed a habitat that is home to unique animal species and layers of rock formations. It is a place that people from all over the world travel to see. People come to stand on the edge and gaze into the abyss while others come to float its copper-colored river and sleep at the foot of its walls. Many events have taken place in the air above it and at in between its walls. The events connected to the history of the grand canyon include both fun and interesting anecdotes and occurances that have left an impact on people's lives today.

Here are 10 of facts about the Grand Canyon:

Advent of the FAA

It's possible that during a trip, visitors will see a helicopter tours flying over the canyon or possibly a service helicopter lowering or lifting something from the basin. This could be a delivery of emergency supplies or even the process of removing people who need to be evacuated. Sometimes things happen in the canyon that require emergency assistance. One of these events changed the way the flight industry has operated for moer than 50 years.

A popular way to view the grand canyon is from miles in the air floating over the expanse below. Views of the canyon from these heights make it feel much smaller than when viewed standing on the canyon's edge. In the 1950s many passenger planes in the area would detour to take their passengers over the Grand Canyon. In 1956 two planes requested permission to fly over the Grand Canyon and collided with each other. This event is what inspired the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1958.

It Reveals the History of the Earth

When forming the Grand Canyon the Colorado River cut through rock that is 1.75 billion years old. This rock is called schist. These rocks are composed of materials whose composition has morphed over time due to high temperatures and pressures. The result are rock formations that reveal a history of ancient marine and volcanic rocks. Geologists use this formation to study the Earth's history. The layers of rock are older than the dinosaurs. No dinosaur bones have been found but many bones of other creatures dating back more than 10,000 years have been found in canyon caves. Its layers also hold animal tracks and marine fossils dating back thousands of years. Such openings in the surface of the earth reveal a history of the earth that can't be understood with such ease from the earth's surface.

Modern Discovery

Although it is highly debatable, seeing as Native Americans lived near it and on it since eons past - and most likely saw it as nothing more than a really big ditch - it was Spaniards who first came across the Canyon and marveled at its beauty. Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, a conquistador for the Spanish Crown, was searching for the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. Back then, anybody who set foot on the New World had a hangup with towns drenched in gold and silver (El Dorado, being the ever elusive dream). He was mid-expedition, during 1540, when he happened to cross the southern part of the canyon. His mind focussed solely on sparkly jewelry and legendary riches, the Conquistador and his crew didn't even give the gorge a second glance. They camped for a spell, refilled their canteens and proceeded on their merry way, marking the spot as nothing more than a road sign of their maps.

Pink Snakes

The most common specie of snake in the Grand Canyon is pink. Most snakes are shades of brown, green, yellow and contain an array of other colors depending on the patter on their back skin and underbelly skin. Many visitors who come to the Grand Canyon haven't seen a pink snake and while rounding corners they are surprised by these brightly colored creatures bathing on rocks, hiding within bushes and cutting across the soil. They are one of the many colorful and impressive animals that are unique to this area. Many photos of these snakes can be found on the internet. They are a true spectacle.


NASA, the National Air and Space Administration, has used the Grand Canyon, on numerous occasions as a training ground. When the Mars Rover uploaded and send its first pictures of that fourth planet in the solar system, the control station down by Cape Canaveral instantly saw a correlation with one of planet Earth's busiest natural landmarks. The typography, the landscape and, overall, the well-defined layer pattern of some of the Red Planet's mountains instantly caught the gathering's attention. Controllers' marked the Rover's target site, and its final resting place, as "Bradbury Landing," in honor of Ray Bradbury, the sci-fi author. Since that day, especially considering the Mars Rovers abysmal performance up in space, NASA has used sections of the Canyon to try out some of their instruments and drones. The place, so eerily familiar to Mars' environment and terrain, that it would be foolhardy to pass out on the opportunity for research and robotics experiments.

"Grand Canyon" Wasn't its First Name

Tribes of indans roamed the American West before European settlers ventured there. The Paiute tribe that called this land home during this time called what we know as the Grand Canyon the Kaibab. In the Paiute language, this means "upside down mountain" or "mountain laying on its side". After settlers conquered this land a one-armed war veteran named John Wesley Powell continued to refer to it as the Grand Canyon while charting its waters. Today, geologists refer to the rock crust that viewers stand on while viewing the canyon as Kaibab.

Its Origin is Still Debated

Many scientists believe the Colorado river carved this great wedge into the Earth's crust on its own and have concluded that the Colorado river broke through the Western edge of the canyon about 5 million years ago. But different groups of thought hold different views on what happened before this. Scientists have concluded that some rock formations at the Western opening were exposed about 70 million years ago. Some scientists believe that there might have been an older river underground that joined the younger river on the surface as it cut through the land and it was the work of both of these forces together that created the size of the wedge that exists today.

Doesn't Sell Water Bottles

One of the most trekked places in the world, does not only prohibit the sale of bottled drinks but highly frowns upon the camper who tries to sneak into the Canyon with a Pepsi. A recent study, at the tail end of 2010, determined that 20 percent of the parks waste, its contamination, came from discarded plastic bottles. The park officially eliminated the sale H2O that very year. Still, considering that the last thing the local rangers want is a series of dehydrated travelers, a series of free water stations were quickly erected throughout.

How Big Is It?

The national park that the canyon is located in encompasses about 1 million acres of land and about 5 million people visit it each year. It is over 270 miles long, stretches to about 18 miles wide in some areas and is over a mile deep in the deepest spot. It is impossible to see the end of the canyon from any view point. When standing on the edge, viewers see an tapestry of differently colored rock layers, a maze of canyons branching off from one another, cliffsides, greenery, animals and flowing water. The only way to understand the magnitude of these numbers is to see the it in person either from the river below, the canyon rim or looking out the window of a plane passing above.

Indian Reservations are Located Within the Park

The Havasupai tribe called home the land that the park encompasses today. It is a land of blue and green waters cutting through gorges and falling from cliffsides forming sparkling waterfalls. The Havasupai tribe are connected to these waters. The Havasui see the water as something that flows through the land and through their spirits. "Havasui" means "people of the blue-green waters". The Havasui are an isolated community in teh Havasui Indian Reservation. Visitors who would liek to see their community must walk about 8 miles from the nearest road to get there. Visitors will bay an entry fee of $35 per person to enter their village. This land lies outside the boundary of the Grand Canyon National Park.

It Can Take Many Days to See The Whole Canyon

Some visitors come to see one section fo the canyon and stay in one of the many forms of accommodation nearby. Others choose to see as much of the canyon as possible. Driving from one end of the canyon to the other takes about 5 hours. The time it takes to see different parts of the canyon while traversing from one end to the other is more than 5 hours. After taking time for lunch and stops at viewing points along the way this trip can take several days.

It Has Claimed Many Lives

Since the late 19th century there have been over 600 recorded deaths in the Grand Canyon. Some were drownings in the Colorado River, some were the result of people losing their footing at the canyon's rim. Other deaths were caused by the efforts of photographers to get a the shot of the canyon and the air plane crash mentioned above.

Crossing the Canyon on Foot is Possible

Many visitors drive tot he park and find a viewing point to park their car and gaze into the expanse below and continue on to another point later on. Standing on the Canyon's rim can make a someone feel microscopic. Others cross over the Grand Canyon suspended miles in the sky and see the layout of the gorge in relation to the land surrounding it. Another popular way to see it is by floating the Colorado River. Those in charge of managing the park control the amount of visitors allowed to float the river each year. There is a waiting list for people wishing to float and many of those on the list will have to wait years before their time is called. Another way to experience the park is via the South Kaibab Trail. It goes down into the canyon, crosses the Colorado river and climbs up the opposing wall. trail that expands across the whole canyon. It is a 21 mile hike and takes several days and nights to traverse and temperatures at the base of the canyon can be 30 degrees hotter than at the rim.

No Dinosaurs

As you veer deep into the Canyon, the kid in us actively imagines a pack of Brontosaurus stalking the plains, a horde of velociraptors running around in a tight group, a silent T-Rex roaring up and proclaiming its dominance, while a murder of pterodactyls swoop down and cry havok. Unfortunately, reality has a way of slinking away from a runaway mind and braking into the intersection known as mundanity. You will not find any dinosaur bones in the Grand Canyon. happenstance will not step in and casually make you catch your toe on the half-buried skull of a brachiosaurus. Due to the fact that most of the soil, rocks and formations predate those mighty lizards, the Canyon has yet to yield its first viable dino bone. What little fossil you do find, are nothing short of ancient even by T-Rex standards.
A hawkish observer and amateur paleontologist might be able to dig out such fare as corals, sponges, and trilobites; simple prehistoric creatures.

Not the Deepest or Longest

Though its attraction and beauty are undeniable, and its is widely considered a wonder of the natural world, the Grand Canyon is not exactly the grandest canyon in the world. It is neither the longest nor the deepest gorge Earth's geological past has to offer. It has an average drop of 1.6 kilometers which is not exactly an awesome figure to behold. The honor of being the king canyon goes to the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in the Himalayas (its drops reach down to almost 5 kilometers and its total length is a staggering 496.3 kilometers. In 1994, The Guinness Book Of World Records personally oversaw the measurement and handed over the appropriate title.

National Park Status

On 1919, the Grand Canyon obtained its National Park Status with all the publicity, fanfare and federal protection such a lofty title brings with it. It became the 17th National Park in the list. Before that period, due to a decree by avid huntsman and birdwatcher, President Theodore Roosevelt, the Canyon was a National Game Preserve, and in 1908 he designated the place a National Monument, thereby preventing further exploitation by mining companies. That very day, Washington went into a tailspin. The bill and reclassification were heavily opposed for 11 years. Interested parties, who's efforts had claimed the lives of mountain lions, eagles, and wolves lobbied strongly against the resolution. In 1919, an Act Of Congress was passed, despite the attempts made by different heavyweights, President Woodrow Wilson officially signed the declaration that would forever mark the Grand Canyon as a National Park.

An Experience of a Lifetime

The Grand Canyon is one of the most impressive natural landmarks in the world. It is not the biggest but it is big enough to attract people from all over the world each year. Most of its visitors are Americans. It's a wonderful experience to fly over this expanse in a private jet or to remind ones' self to peak out the window of the commercial jet they are taking somewhere across Nevada over that happens to cross over the this area. Standing on the edge gazing into the abyss is a great way to pull ones' self outside of ones' head and absorb all that such a view has to offer. For riding enthusiasts, there are many places to go for a mule ride. This canyon has had a great impact on the lives of many Americans either directly or indirectly. Tragic events like the plane crash that resulted in the establishment of the FAA has affected the life of anyone who has ever flown across the United States. It's size impacts both the physical and nonphysical realms. It's impact on so many lives and the many ways that people can explore this wonder make it an experience unlike anything else.

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