Grand Canyon, USA

Grand Canyon, USA

The Grand Canyon is an astonishing landscape of canyons, with mesa and butte formations created by the Colorado River and its tributaries between Lake Powell and Lake Mead, a distance of 277 miles. In places, the Canyon is 18 miles wide and attains a depth of over one vertical mile from the rim. The geological span of time between the oldest rocks deep in the canyon floor, the Vishnu schists, and the newest formations of Kaibab limestones high on the canyon rim, are thought to be around 500 million years. As the Colorado Plateau uplifted 56 million years ago, the river cut ever deeper through one of the most complete geological columns on earth, creating the depth and complexity of the Grand Canyon landscape and drainage we see today.

Despite high summer temperatures and low rainfall, the desert conditions within the Grand Canyon are ameliorated by the effect of the river and its tributaries. Riverine woodland abounds supporting white-tailed deer, ring-tailed cat and countless species of birds including the canyon wren and wall creeper. Other desert adapted animals include bighorn sheep, the grand canyon rattlesnake, chuckawalla, collared and leopard lizards.

The first inhabitants of the Grand Canyon to emerge were probably the Anasazi or ‘Ancient Ones’, Puebloean nations from the Four Corners districts around 1,200 BC. Since then First nations groups are still present, represented by Navajo, Havasupai and Hualapi. The first western explorer was thought to be Captain Garcia Lopes de Cardanes who under instructions from his Spanish Conquistador Generals, explored the South Rim with Hopi guides in 1540.

Grand Canyon was largely unknown until after the Civil War. In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran with a thirst for science and adventure, made a pioneering journey through the canyon on the Colorado River. He accomplished this with nine men in four small wooden boats. Though only six men completed the journey. His party was, as far as we know, the first ever to make such a trip. Powell went on to serve as the second Director of the US Geological Survey until 1891.

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