Grand Canyon National Park:
A Majestic Western Vista
The Grand Canyon is truly… grand. It is one of the most beautiful parks in
the U.S., and has many artistic landforms. Lots of people describe seeing the
Grand Canyon as like something you would see on their “bucket list”. Some of
these are the Colorado River and the Colorado Plateau.
The Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919 by the U.S.
Congress in northwestern Arizona. The boundaries of the park were extended
by Congress in 1975. It was established because of its natural beauty, and has
become one of the most popular parks in the U.S. ever since it was established.
The Grand Canyon is a mile-deep gorge that stretches 3 miles over
northwestern Arizona. The whole park has an area of 1,904 square miles. The
Colorado River has eroded this area for thousands of years. The river’s Spanish
name is “Rio Colorado”, (Rio means river). It was named after its red color from
the sediment that the river carries. The Green River is a major tributary of the
Colorado, and together, they drop 1,000 feet in elevation on their journey
through the canyon. Marble Canyon, Havasu Falls, and Grand Falls are all
waterfalls within the park whose water changes color. Each is a unique natural
paradise. Another must-see in the park is Point Imperial. It is an astounding 8,803
The Grand Canyon is hottest in late spring and summer. Although the
canyon is hot and dry in summer, snow is common in winter. Just because Arizona
is an arid state, doesn’t mean it doesn’t get cold. Another popular sight is Cape
Royal. People love to watch sunrises and sunsets here. One of the most popular
trails in the whole park is the South Kaibab Trail. This trail is part of a 21-mile
trans-canyon trail that runs throughout the park. Near the Utah-Arizona border
of the park are the Vermilion Cliffs. The Vermilion Cliffs are made of 1,000 feet of
Mesozoic rock. Above that is a layer of Kaibab Limestone. You can see beautiful
sunrises and sunsets here as well.
The history and culture of the Grand Canyon is very rich. The first
Spanish man to see the Grand Canyon was Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, but he
wasn’t the very first. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was sent on an expedition
to North America by the king of Spain in January 1540. He was sent on this
expedition to look for the legendary “golden cities”. Instead of golden cities, he
found Pueblo villages made of mud and rocks near the border of present-day
New Mexico and Arizona. Although discouraged, Coronado traveled further west
and found the Hopi village of Oraibi, the oldest continually inhabited village in the
U.S. Almost at the point of giving up, Coronado stumbled across the giant gorge.
He is (as far as we know) the first European man to ever lay eyes on the Grand
The artifacts left behind in the Grand Canyon date back to the Paleo-
Indian period, almost 12,000 years ago. These artifacts are some of the oldest
artifacts known to man. All of the following Indian tribes left artifacts behind in
the Grand Canyon: Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, Euro-American,
Archaic, Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan (both branches- Kayenta and
Virgin), and Paleo. The biggest cultural group is the Paleo tribe; they left behind
the most artifacts. Grand Canyon National Park currently has more than 4,800
recorded archeological sites that display these ancient treasures.
Even though the desert has a tough climate to live in, that doesn’t mean
there isn’t any plant and animal life. Plants include mostly trees and desert
shrubs. Cacti are common as well. At the top of the canyon, you are most likely to
find blue spruces and aspen trees. Paleontologists find this area very interesting
because it is rich in fossils and extremely old skeletons. There are few live animals
within the park. A rare sight, you can see a mountain lion roaming near the
borders of the park. Another uncommon animal to see is the collared lizard, also
spotted near the park boundaries. The rest of the ecosystem includes mostly
rodents and a few coyotes.
The Grand Canyon today is really a magnificent sight to see. Tourism
includes hiking, fishing, mountain biking, camping, and white-water rafting.
Sometimes tourists will ride mules or other animals around the park. A big tourist
favorite is the Grand Canyon Skywalk. It opened just a few years ago along with a
café, airport, and a theatre. The whole park has a total of 337 buildings, 257 of
which are located in the Grand Canyon village. Yet another attraction is the
Desert Watchtower, located near the Four Corners Region. You can see over 100
miles on a clear day from the top.
Grand Canyon National Park doesn’t have many problems, but the River
Monitoring Program and the Vanishing Treasure Program work hard to keep the
park stay interesting and beautiful. As long as they do their job, the Grand
Canyon will always be the most popular scenic national park in the country.