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Grand Canyon Nationa Park - History

Grand Canyon Nationa Park - History

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Grand Canyon a National Park

On February 26, 1919 President Wilson signed the Congressional Act that designated the Grand Canyon as a National Park

Today, around 5.5 million people each year see the 1 mile deep (1.6 km) Grand Canyon each year. The canyon is 277 river miles (446km) long, and up to 18 miles (29km) wide. The Colorado River runs through the canyon and it created the canyon over millions of years.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is the first large canyon on the Yellowstone River downstream from Yellowstone Falls in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The canyon is approximately 24 miles (39 km) long, between 800 and 1,200 ft (240 and 370 m) deep and from .25 to .75 mi (0.40 to 1.21 km) wide. [1]

Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap
Download coordinates as: KML
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone


Current archaeological evidence suggests that humans inhabited the Grand Canyon area as far back as 4,000 years ago [1] and at least were passers-through for 6,500 years before that. [2] Radiocarbon dating of artifacts found in limestone caves in the inner canyon indicate ages of 3,000 to 4,000 years. [1] In the 1950s split-twig animal figurines were found in the Redwall Limestone cliffs of the Inner Gorge that were dated in this range. These animal figurines are a few inches (7 to 8 cm) in height and made primarily from twigs of willow or cottonwood. [1] This and other evidence suggests that these inner canyon dwellers were part of Desert Culture a group of semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer Native American. The Ancestral Pueblo of the Basketmaker III Era (also called the Histatsinom, meaning "people who lived long ago") evolved from the Desert Culture sometime around 500 BCE. [1] This group inhabited the rim and inner canyon and survived by hunting and gathering along with some limited agriculture. Noted for their basketmaking skills (hence their name), they lived in small communal bands inside caves and circular mud structures called pithouses. Further refinement of agriculture and technology led to a more sedentary and stable lifestyle for the Ancestral Pueblo starting around 500 CE. [1] Contemporary with the flourishing of Ancestral Pueblo culture, another group, called the Cohonina lived west of the current site of Grand Canyon Village. [1]

Ancestral Pueblo in the Grand Canyon area started to use stone in addition to mud and poles to erect above-ground houses sometime around 800 CE. [1] Thus the Pueblo period of Ancestral Pueblo culture was initiated. In summer, the Puebloans migrated from the hot inner canyon to the cooler high plateaus and reversed the journey for winter. [1] Large granaries and multi-room pueblos survive from this period. There are around 2,000 known Ancestral Pueblo archaeological sites in park boundaries. The most accessible site is Tusayan Pueblo, which was constructed sometime around 1185 and housed 30 or so people. [3]

Large numbers of dated archaeological sites indicate that the Ancestral Pueblo and the Cohonina flourished until about 1200 CE. [1] But something happened a hundred years later that forced both of these cultures to move away. Several lines of evidence led to a theory that climate change caused a severe drought in the region from 1276 to 1299, forcing these agriculture-dependent cultures to move on. [4] Many Ancestral Pueblo relocated to the Rio Grande and the Little Colorado River drainages, where their descendants, the Hopi and the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, now live. [3]

For approximately one hundred years the canyon area was uninhabited by humans. [1] Paiute from the east and Cerbat from the west were the first humans to reestablish settlements in and around the Grand Canyon. [1] The Paiute settled the plateaus north of the Colorado River and the Cerbat built their communities south of the river, on the Coconino Plateau. The Navajo, or the Diné, arrived in the area later.

All three cultures were stable until the United States Army moved them to Indian reservations in 1882 as part of the removal efforts that ended the Indian Wars. [1] The Havasupai and Hualapai are descended from the Cerbat and still live in the immediate area. The village of Supai in the western part of the current park has been occupied for centuries. Adjacent to the eastern part of the park is the Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the United States.

Spanish Edit

The first Europeans reached the Grand Canyon in September 1540. [1] It was a group of about 13 Spanish soldiers led by García López de Cárdenas, dispatched from the army of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado on its quest to find the fabulous Seven Cities of Gold. [2] [5] [6] The group was led by Hopi guides and, assuming they took the most likely route, must have reached the canyon at the South Rim, probably between today's Desert View and Moran Point. According to Castañeda, he and his company came to a point "from whose brink it looked as if the opposite side must be more than three or four leagues by air line.” [7]

The report indicates that they greatly misjudged the proportions of the gorge. On the one hand, they estimated that the canyon was about three to four leagues wide (13–16 km, 8–10 mi), which is quite accurate. [5] At the same time, however, they believed that the river, which they could see from above, was only 2 m (6 ft) wide (in reality it is about a hundred times wider). [5] Being in dire need of water, and wanting to cross the giant obstacle, the soldiers started searching for a way down to the canyon floor that would be passable for them along with their horses. After three full days, they still had not been successful, and it is speculated that the Hopi, who probably knew a way down to the canyon floor, were reluctant to lead them there. [5]

As a last resort, Cárdenas finally commanded the three lightest and most agile men of his group to climb down by themselves (their names are given as Pablo de Melgosa, Juan Galeras, and an unknown, third soldier). [5] After several hours, the men returned, reporting that they had only made one third of the distance down to the river, and that "what seemed easy from above was not so". [5] Furthermore, they claimed that some of the boulders which they had seen from the rim, and estimated to be about as tall as a man, were in fact bigger than the Great Tower of Seville, at 104.1 m (342 ft). Cárdenas finally had to give up and returned to the main army. His report of an impassable barrier forestalled further visitation to the area for two hundred years.

Only in 1776 did two Spanish Priests, Fathers Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante travel along the North Rim again, together with a group of Spanish soldiers, exploring southern Utah in search of a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Monterey, California. [1] Also in 1776, Fray Francisco Garces, a Franciscan missionary, spent a week near Havasupai, unsuccessfully attempting to convert a band of Native Americans. He described the canyon as "profound". [8]

Americans Edit

James Ohio Pattie and a group of American trappers and mountain men were probably the next Europeans to reach the canyon in 1826, [9] although there is little supporting documentation.

The signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 ceded the Grand Canyon region to the United States. Jules Marcou of the Pacific Railroad Survey made the first geologic observations of the canyon and surrounding area in 1856. [2]

Jacob Hamblin (a Mormon missionary) was sent by Brigham Young in the 1850s to locate easy river crossing sites in the canyon. [10] Building good relations with local Native Americans and white settlers, he discovered Lee's Ferry in 1858 and Pierce Ferry (later operated by, and named for, Harrison Pierce)—the only two sites suitable for ferry operation. [11]

In 1857 Edward Fitzgerald Beale led an expedition to survey a wagon road from Fort Defiance, Arizona to the Colorado River. [12] On September 19 near present-day National Canyon they came upon what May Humphreys Stacey described in his journal as "a wonderful canyon four thousand feet deep. Everyone (in the party) admitted that he never before saw anything to match or equal this astonishing natural curiosity." [13]

A U.S. War Department expedition led by Lt. Joseph Ives was launched in 1857 to investigate the area's potential for natural resources, to find railroad routes to the west coast, and assess the feasibility of an up-river navigation route from the Gulf of California. [2] The group traveled in a stern wheeler steamboat named Explorer. After two months and 350 miles (560 km) of difficult navigation, his party reached Black Canyon some two months after George Johnson. [14] In the process, the Explorer struck a rock and was abandoned. The group later traveled eastwards along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

A man of his time, Ives discounted his own impressions on the beauty of the canyon and declared it and the surrounding area as "altogether valueless", remarking that his expedition would be "the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality". [15] Attached to Ives' expedition was geologist John Strong Newberry who had a very different impression of the canyon. [2] After returning, Newberry convinced fellow geologist John Wesley Powell that a boat run through the Grand Canyon to complete the survey would be worth the risk. [16] [a] Powell was a major in the United States Army and was a veteran of the American Civil War, a conflict that cost him his right forearm in the Battle of Shiloh. [2]

More than a decade after the Ives Expedition and with help from the Smithsonian Institution, Powell led the first of the Powell Expeditions to explore the region and document its scientific offerings. [6] On May 24, 1869, the group of nine men set out from Green River Station in Wyoming down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. [2] This first expedition was poorly funded and consequently no photographer or graphic artist was included. While in the Canyon of Lodore one of the group's four boats capsized, spilling most of their food and much of their scientific equipment into the river. This shortened the expedition to one hundred days. Tired of being constantly cold, wet and hungry and not knowing they had already passed the worst rapids, three of Powell's men climbed out of the canyon in what is now called Separation Canyon. [18] Once out of the canyon, all three were reportedly killed by Shivwits band Paiutes who thought they were miners that recently molested and killed a female Shivwit. [18] All those who stayed with Powell survived and that group successfully ran most of the canyon.

Two years later a much better-funded Powell-led party returned with redesigned boats and a chain of several supply stations along their route. This time, photographer E.O. Beaman and 17-year-old artist Frederick Dellenbaugh were included. [18] Beaman left the group in January 1872 over a dispute with Powell and his replacement, James Fennemore, quit August that same year due to poor health, leaving boatman John K. Hillers as the official photographer (nearly one ton of photographic equipment was needed on site to process each shot). [19] Famed painter Thomas Moran joined the expedition in the summer of 1873, after the river voyage and thus only viewed the canyon from the rim. His 1873 painting "Chasm of the Colorado" was bought by the United States Congress in 1874 and hung in the lobby of the Senate. [20]

The Powell expeditions systematically cataloged rock formations, plants, animals, and archaeological sites. Photographs and illustrations from the Powell expeditions greatly popularized the canyonland region of the southwest United States, especially the Grand Canyon (appreciating this, Powell added increasing resources to that aspect of his expeditions). Powell later used these photographs and illustrations in his lecture tours, making him a national figure. Rights to reproduce 650 of the expeditions' 1,400 stereographs were sold to help fund future Powell projects. [21] In 1881 he became the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Geologist Clarence Dutton followed up on Powell's work in 1880–1881 with the first in-depth geological survey of the newly formed U.S. Geological Survey. [22] Painters Thomas Moran and William Henry Holmes accompanied Dutton, who was busy drafting detailed descriptions of the area's geology. The report that resulted from the team's effort was titled A Tertiary History of The Grand Canyon District, with Atlas and was published in 1882. [22] This and later study by geologists uncovered the geology of the Grand Canyon area and helped to advance that science. Both the Powell and Dutton expeditions helped to increase interest in the canyon and surrounding region.

The Brown-Stanton expedition was started in 1889 to survey the route for a "water-level" railroad line through the canyons of the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. [23] The proposed Denver, Colorado Canyon, and Pacific Railway was to carry coal from mines in Colorado. Expedition leader Frank M. Brown, his chief engineer Robert Brewster Stanton, and 14 other men set out in six boats from Green River, Utah, on May 25, 1889. [23] Brown and two others drowned near the head of Marble Canyon. The expedition was restarted by Stanton from Dirty Devil River (a tributary of Glen Canyon) on November 25 and traveled through the Grand Canyon. [23] The expedition reached the Gulf of California on April 26, 1890 but the railroad was never built.

Prospectors in the 1870s and 1880s staked mining claims in the canyon. [22] They hoped that previously discovered deposits of asbestos, copper, lead, and zinc would be profitable to mine. Access to and from this remote region and problems getting ore out of the canyon and its rock made the whole exercise not worth the effort. Most moved on, but some stayed to seek profit in the tourist trade. Their activities did improve pre-existing Indian trails, such as Bright Angel Trail. [3]

Transportation Edit

A rail line to the largest city in the area, Flagstaff, was completed in 1882 by the Santa Fe Railroad. [24] Stage coaches started to bring tourists from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon the next year—an eleven-hour greatly increased in 1901 when a spur of the Santa Fe Railroad to Grand Canyon Village was completed. [22] The first scheduled train with paying passengers of the Grand Canyon Railway arrived from Williams, Arizona, on September 17 that year. [24] The 64-mile (103 km) long trip cost $3.95 ($105.93 as of 2021), and naturalist John Muir later commended the railroad for its limited environmental impact. [24]

The first automobile was driven to the Grand Canyon in January 1902. Oliver Lippincott from Los Angeles, drove his American Bicycle Company built Toledo steam car to the South Rim from Flagstaff. Lippincott, Al Doyle a guide from Flagstaff and two writers set out on the afternoon of January 2, anticipating a seven-hour journey. Two days later, the hungry and dehydrated party arrived at their destination the countryside was just too rough for the ten-horsepower (7 kW) auto. Winfield Hoggaboon, one of the writers on the trip, wrote an amusing and detailed three page article in the Los Angeles Herald Illustrated Magazine on February 2, 1902, "To the Grand Canyon by Automobile". A three-day drive from Utah in 1907 was required to reach the North Rim for the first time. [24]

Competition with the automobile forced the Santa Fe Railroad to cease operation of the Grand Canyon Railway in 1968 (only three passengers were on the last run). The railway was restored and service reintroduced in 1989, and it has since carried hundreds of passengers a day. Trains remained the preferred way to travel to the canyon until they were surpassed by the auto in the 1930s. By the early 1990s more than a million automobiles per year visited the park.

West Rim Drive was completed in 1912. In the late 1920s the first rim-to-rim access was established by the North Kaibab suspension bridge over the Colorado River. [22] Paved roads did not reach the less popular and more remote North Rim until 1926, and that area, being higher in elevation, is closed due to winter weather from November to April. Construction of a road along part of the South Rim was completed in 1935. [22]

Air pollution Edit

The primary mobile source of Grand Canyon haze, the automobile, is currently regulated under a series of federal, state and local initiatives. The Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission cites U.S. government laws regulating automobile emissions and gasoline standards, often slow to change because of the automobile industry's planning schedule, as a primary contributor to air quality issues in the area. [25] They advocate policies leaning toward stricter emission standards via cleaner burning fuel and improved automobile emissions technology.

Air pollution from those vehicles and wind-blown pollution from Las Vegas, Nevada area has reduced visibility in the Grand Canyon and vicinity. During the past decade, various regional coal-fired electric utilities having little or no pollution control equipment were targeted as the primary stationary sources of Grand Canyon air pollution. [26] In the 1980s the Navajo Generating Station at Page, Arizona, (15 miles away) was identified as the primary source for anywhere from fifty percent to ninety percent of the Grand Canyon's air quality problems. [25] In 1999, the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada, (75) miles away settled a long-standing lawsuit and agreed to install end-of-point sulfur scrubbers on its smoke stacks.

Closer to home, there is little disagreement that the most visible of the park's visibility problems stems from the park's popularity. On any given summer day the park is filled to capacity, or over-capacity. Basically the problem boils down to too many private automobiles vying for too few parking spaces. Emissions from all those automobiles and tour buses contributes greatly to air pollution problems.

Accommodations Edit

John D. Lee was the first person who catered to travelers to the canyon. In 1872 he established a ferry service at the confluence of the Colorado and Paria rivers. Lee was in hiding, having been accused of leading the Mountain Meadows massacre in 1857. He was tried and executed for this crime in 1877. During his trial he played host to members of the Powell Expedition who were waiting for their photographer, Major James Fennemore, to arrive (Fennemore took the last photo of Lee sitting on his own coffin). Emma, one of Lee's nineteen wives, continued the ferry business after her husband's death. In 1876 a man named Harrison Pierce established another ferry service at the western end of the canyon. [24]

The two-room Farlee Hotel opened in 1884 near Diamond Creek and was in operation until 1889. That year Louis Boucher opened a larger hotel at Dripping Springs. John Hance opened his ranch near Grandview to tourists in 1886 only to sell it nine years later in order to start a long career as a Grand Canyon guide (in 1896 he also became local postmaster).

William Wallace Bass opened a tent house campground in 1890. Bass Camp had a small central building with common facilities such as a kitchen, dining room, and sitting room inside. Rates were $2.50 a day ($72.01 as of 2021), and the complex was 20 miles (30 km) west of the Grand Canyon Railway's Bass Station (Ash Fort). Bass also built the stage coach road that he used to carry his patrons from the train station to his hotel. A second Bass Camp was built along the Shinumo Creek drainage. [24]

The Grand Canyon Hotel Company was incorporated in 1892 and charged with building services along the stage route to the canyon. [27] In 1896 the same man who bought Hance's Grandview ranch opened Bright Angel Hotel in Grand Canyon Village. [27] The Cameron Hotel opened in 1903, and its owner started to charge a toll to use the Bright Angel Trail. [27]

Things changed in 1905 when the luxury El Tovar Hotel opened within steps of the Grand Canyon Railway's terminus. [22] El Tovar was named for Don Pedro de Tovar who tradition says is the Spaniard who learned about the canyon from Hopis and told Coronado. Charles Whittlesey designed the arts and crafts-styled rustic hotel complex, which was built with logs from Oregon and local stone at a cost of $250,000 for the hotel ($7,200,000 as of 2021) and another $50,000 for the stables ($1,440,000 as of 2021). [27] El Tovar was owned by Santa Fe Railroad and operated by its chief concessionaire, the Fred Harvey Company.

Fred Harvey hired Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter in 1902 as company architect. She was responsible for five buildings at the Grand Canyon: Hopi House (1905), Lookout Studio (1914), Hermit's Rest (1914), Desert View Watchtower (1932), and Bright Angel Lodge (1935). [3] She stayed with the company until her retirement in 1948.

A cable car system spanning the Colorado went into operation at Rust's Camp, located near the mouth of Bright Angel Creek, in 1907. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the camp in 1913. That, along with the fact that while president he declared Grand Canyon a U.S. National Monument in 1908, led to the camp being renamed Roosevelt's Camp. In 1922 the National Park Service gave the facility its current name, Phantom Ranch. [27]

In 1917 on the North Rim, W.W. Wylie built accommodations at Bright Angel Point. [22] The Grand Canyon Lodge opened on the North Rim in 1928. Built by a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad called the Utah Parks Company, the lodge was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood who was also the architect for the Ahwahnee Hotel in California's Yosemite Valley. Much of the lodge was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1932, and a rebuilt lodge did not open until 1937. The facility is managed by TW Recreation Services. [24] Bright Angel Lodge and the Auto Camp Lodge opened in 1935 on the South Rim.

Activities Edit

New hiking trails, along old Indian trails, were established during this time as well. The world-famous mule rides down Bright Angel Trail were mass-marketed by the El Tovar Hotel. By the early 1990s, 20,000 people per year made the journey into the canyon by mule, 800,000 by hiking, 22,000 passed through the canyon by raft, and another 700,000 tourists fly over it in air tours (fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter). Overflights were limited to a narrow corridor in 1956 after two planes crashed, killing all on board. In 1991 nearly 400 search and rescues were performed, mostly for unprepared hikers who suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration while ascending from the canyon (normal exhaustion and injured ankles are also common in rescuees). [28] An IMAX theater just outside the park shows a reenactment of the Powell Expedition.

The Kolb Brothers, Emery and Ellsworth, built a photographic studio on the South Rim at the trailhead of Bright Angel Trail in 1904. Hikers and mule caravans intent on descending down the canyon would stop at the Kolb Studio to have their photos taken. The Kolb Brothers processed the prints before their customers returned to the rim. Using the newly invented Pathé Bray camera in 1911–12, they became the first to make a motion picture of a river trip through the canyon that itself was only the eighth such successful journey. From 1915 to 1975 the film they produced was shown twice a day to tourists with Emery Kolb at first narrating in person and later through tape (a feud with Fred Harvey prevented pre-1915 showings). [29]

By the late 19th century, the conservation movement was increasing national interest in preserving natural wonders like the Grand Canyon. National Parks in Yellowstone and around Yosemite Valley were established by the early 1890s. U.S. Senator Benjamin Harrison introduced a bill in 1887 to establish a national park at the Grand Canyon. [18] The bill died in committee, but on February 20, 1893, Harrison (then President of the United States) declared the Grand Canyon to be a National Forest Preserve. [30] Mining and logging were allowed, but the designation did offer some protection. [18]

President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903. [22] An avid outdoorsman and staunch conservationist, he established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve on November 28, 1906. [30] Livestock grazing was reduced, but predators such as mountain lions, eagles, and wolves were eradicated. Roosevelt added adjacent national forest lands and re-designated the preserve a U.S. National Monument on January 11, 1908. [30] Opponents, such as holders of land and mining claims, blocked efforts to reclassify the monument as a National Park for 11 years. Grand Canyon National Park was finally established as the 17th U.S. National Park by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919. [30] The National Park Service declared the Fred Harvey Company to the official park concessionaire in 1920 and bought William Wallace Bass out of business.

An area of almost 310 square miles (800 km²) adjacent to the park was designated as a second Grand Canyon National Monument on December 22, 1932. [31] Marble Canyon National Monument was established on January 20, 1969, and covered about 41 square miles (105 km²). [31] An act signed by President Gerald Ford on January 3, 1975, doubled the size of Grand Canyon National Park by merging these adjacent national monuments and other federal land into it. That same act gave Havasu Canyon back to the Havasupai tribe. [22] From that point, the park stretched along a 278-mile (447 km) segment of the Colorado River from the southern border of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the eastern boundary of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. [31] Grand Canyon National Park was designated a World Heritage Site on October 24, 1979. [32]

In 1935, Hoover Dam started to impound Lake Mead south of the canyon. [16] Conservationists lost a battle to save upstream Glen Canyon from becoming a reservoir. The Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1966 to control flooding and to provide water and hydroelectric power. [33] Seasonal variations of high flow and flooding in the spring and low flow in summer have been replaced by a much more regulated system. The much more controlled Colorado has a dramatically reduced sediment load, which starves beaches and sand bars. In addition, clearer water allows significant algae growth to occur on the riverbed, giving the river a green color.

With the advent of commercial flights, the Grand Canyon has been a popular site for aircraft overflights. However, a series of accidents resulted in the Overflights Act of 1987 by the United States Congress, which banned flights below the rim and created flight-free zones. [34] The tourist flights over the canyon have also created a noise problem, so the number of flights over the park has been restricted.

In 2008, the Grand Canyon Railway [35] and their parent company, Xanterra, decided to use only EMD f40ph diesel locomotives as their main motive power for their trackage, since they felt that their steam locomotives, as well as their Alco fa units, gave the environment more visible smoke. Not only that, but the steamers burn more oil than an average diesel unit, hence they can also be more pricey to operate and maintain. However, after a variety of formers protested to the GCR to bring back steam operations, [36] the GCR decided to bring back steam operations, as they converted both of their operational steamers, 29 and 4960, to burn recycled waste vegetable oil collected from nearby restaurants by third-party suppliers. [37]

The History of Mules at the Grand Canyon

They’ve been characterized as the tractors of the 19th century. So it’s really no wonder that mules played a central role in the human history of the Grand Canyon.

Early prospectors used the beasts of burden in seeking their fortunes. And by the late 1880s, when tourists began arriving, the sturdy, sure-footed animals provided an easy way to experience the marvels within the grand chasm.

Bigger and stronger than horses, these hybrid beasts (the offspring of a female horse and a male burro) offer a relatively smooth ride as they pick their way across the narrow switchback trails leading to the canyon floor.

Pioneer hotelier John Hance is believed to be the first to put tourists on mule back for the trip into the canyon. He opened a hotel about 15 miles east of where the present Grand Canyon Village sits, and advertised lodging and mule rides as early as 1887.

Mules were also instrumental in widening old Indian trails that to this day remain major routes into the canyon. In 1890, businessman and future U.S. senator Ralph Cameron widened the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden, about half way down the canyon. Thanks to mining claims in the area, from 1913 to 1930 Cameron was able to charge $1 a head for mule riders on the popular trail.

But almost a decade earlier, two enterprising brothers, Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, set up a photo studio at the head of the Bright Angel Trail. From this spectacular perch, they snapped photos of riders descending into the canyon. They also collected the toll for Ralph Cameron in exchange for being able to create a building which would eventually become their home. They established a dark room 4.5 miles into the canyon at Indian Garden, where there was a steady source of water to develop the shots. Returning riders were greeted with a souvenir photo. (The Kolb studio on the rim has been lovingly preserved and is open to the public.)

It might seem remarkable in this fast-paced digital world, but the mule rides remain a staple of the Grand Canyon experience. Thousands of visitors annually gather at the South Rim’s Mule Barn eager to take a turn in the slow lane.

Two options await. The overnight ride to Phantom Ranch, nestled a mile beneath the rim on the canyon floor, is a bucket-list endeavor. The 10.5-mile ride down the Bright Angel Trail takes about six hours, including rest stops. The ride out the next morning is via the shorter, but steeper, 7.8-mile South Kaibab Trail. Guests sleep in comfy cabins and indulge in a hearty dinner and breakfast as part of the fare.

For those with less time, the Canyon Vistas ride is a three-hour experience (including four miles and two hours in the saddle) that winds along a rim-top trail amid juniper and pinon pine, each turn revealing another heart-stopping canyon vista.

The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular National Parks in America with more than five million visitors each year. The history of the Grand Canyon goes back approximately six million years with the Colorado River being the focal point of its creation. Over these millions of years, the Colorado River slowly eroded the land beneath it forming the spectacularly deep canyon that we all know today. The canyon&rsquos average depth is 4,000 feet deep and is 277 miles long, with a wide variety of ecosystems living all throughout the canyon. The Grand Canyon earned recognition as a National Park on February 26, 1919, and was later declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Though the canyon was discovered long before it earned this recognition. In 1776, 236 years after the South Rim of the Grand Canyon was first discovered by settlers, Father Escalante visited the ponderosa covered North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Over time, ownership of the North Rim was heavily negotiated as Arizona and Utah claimed the territory until Arizona earned official statehood on February 14, 1912.

If you ever have the chance to travel into the canyon, you&rsquoll see a wide variety of wildlife (such as Kaibab squirrels, goshawks, porcupines, mule deer, and elk), flora, and Native American petroglyphs at some point during your journey. As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon is a historical wonder to be explored with a variety of hiking trails available so visitors can explore the canyon for themselves.

Two national parks preserved, 10 years apart

On this day in history, two national parks were established in the United States 10 years apart–the Grand Canyon in 1919 and the Grand Tetons in 1929.

Located in northwestern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is the product of millions of years of excavation by the mighty Colorado River. The chasm is exceptionally deep, dropping more than a mile into the earth, and is 15 miles across at its widest point.The canyon is home to more than 1,500 plant species and over 500 animal species, many of them endangered or unique to the area, and it’s steep, multi-colored walls tell the story of 2 billion years of Earth’s history.

In 1540, members of an expedition sent by the Spanish explorer Coronado became the first Europeans to discover the canyon, though because of its remoteness the area was not further explored until 300 years later. American geologist John Wesley Powell, who popularized the term “Grand Canyon” in the 1870s, became the first person to journey the entire length of the gorge in 1869. The harrowing voyage was made in four rowboats.

In January 1908, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt designated more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon a national monument it was designated a national park under President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919.

Ten years later to the day, President Calvin Coolidge signed into law a bill passed by both houses of the U.S. Congress establishing the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.

Home to some of the most stunning alpine scenery in the United States, the territory in and around Grand Teton National Park also has a colorful human history. The first Anglo-American to see the saw-edged Teton peaks is believed to be John Colter. After traveling with Lewis and Clark to the Pacific, Colter left the expedition during its return trip down the Missouri in 1807 to join two fur trappers headed back into the wilderness. He spent the next three years wandering through the northern Rocky Mountains, eventually finding his way into the valley at the base of the Tetons, which would later be called Jackson Hole.

Other adventurers followed in Colter’s footsteps, including the French-Canadian trappers who gave the mountain range the bawdy name of “Grand Tetons,” meaning 𠇋ig breasts” in French. For decades trappers, outlaws, traders and Indians passed through Jackson Hole, but it was not until 1887 that settlers established the first permanent habitation. The high northern valley with its short growing season was ill suited to farming, but the early settlers found it ideal for grazing cattle.

Tourists started coming to Jackson Hole not long after the first cattle ranches. Some of the ranchers supplemented their income by catering to 𠇍udes,” eastern tenderfoots yearning to experience a little slice of the Old West in the shadow of the stunning Tetons. The tourists began to raise the first concerns about preserving the natural beauty of the region.

In 1916, Horace M. Albright, the director of the National Park Service, was the first to seriously suggest that the region be incorporated into Yellowstone National Park. The ranchers and businesses catering to tourists, however, strongly resisted the suggestion that they be pushed off their lands to make a “museum” of the Old West for eastern tourists.

Finally, after more than a decade of political maneuvering, Grand Teton National Park was created on February 26, 1929. As a concession to the ranchers and tourist operators, the park only encompassed the mountains and a narrow strip at their base. Jackson Hole itself was excluded from the park and designated merely as a scenic preserve. Albright, though, had persuaded the wealthy John D. Rockefeller to begin buying up land in the Jackson Hole area for possible future incorporation into the park. 

In 1949, Rockefeller donated his land holdings in Jackson Hole to the federal government that then incorporated them into the national park. Today, Grand Teton National Park encompasses 309,993 acres. Working ranches still exist in Jackson Hole, but the local economy is increasingly dependent on services provided to tourists and the wealthy owners of vacation homes.

The Grand Canyon is in Northern Arizona

About 3.5 hours from Phoenix or Las Vegas, getting to the Grand Canyon is easy. Learn more.

Grand Canyon After Dark

Even after dark, things still look up at Grand Canyon.

5 Most Common Questions About Grand Canyon

From geology to human history to activities to planning a visit, there are hundreds of things to know about Grand Canyon.

13 Things You Didn’t Know About Grand Canyon National Park

For more than a century, tourists from all over the world have visited the Grand Canyon to experience its awe-inspiring vistas. First protected in 1893 as a reserve and later as a national monument, it wasn’t until February 26, 1919, that the Grand Canyon became a national park. As we celebrate nearly 100 years of protecting this special place, check out 13 great facts about this Arizona icon.

1. The Grand Canyon is bigger than the state of Rhode Island. The Grand Canyon is a mile deep, 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. While the park doesn’t include the entire canyon, it does measure in at a whopping 1,904 square miles in total. In comparison, Rhode Island is around 1,212 square miles.

With wide vistas and a view of the Colorado River to the west, Hopi Point off of Hermit Road is one of the most popular viewpoints for watching the sunset and sunrise because of its wide vistas. Sunset photo by Jack Denger (www.sharetheexperience.org).

2. The Grand Canyon itself can influence the weather. The Grand Canyon has an elevation spanning from around 2,000 feet to over 8,000 feet, allowing it to experience a variety of weather conditions. As a result, the temperature generally increases by 5.5 degrees with each 1,000-feet loss in elevation.

An amazing image of a total cloud inversion in 2013. This rare meteorological event fills the canyon with a sea of clouds when the air near the ground is cooler than the air above it. It's something park rangers wait years to see. Photo by Erin Huggins, National Park Service.

3. Hidden caves abound in the canyon. Tucked within the Grand Canyon are an estimated 1,000 caves, and of those, 335 have been recorded. Even fewer have been mapped or inventoried. Today, only one cave is open to the public -- the Cave of the Domes on Horseshoe Mesa.

The Redwall Limestone in the Grand Canyon is a water soluble rock, meaning that it can be slowly dissolved by water, eventually resulting in caves of various sizes. Photo by Kristen M. Caldon, National Park Service

4. The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. An estimated 5.9 million people visit the Grand Canyon a year, making it the second most popular national park following just behind the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 in 1919 when the park was created.

Visitors take in the stunning views of the Grand Canyon at Mather Point. Photo by National Park Service

5. The Grand Canyon was carved over some 6 million years. Geological activity and erosion by the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon as we know it today. It is one of the most studied landscapes in the world, with extensive fossil records, a multitude of geologic features and rich archeological history. Learn more about the history of the Grand Canyon.

The oldest human artifacts found in the Grand Canyon are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period. There has been continuous use and occupation of the park since that time. Photo of granaries above Nankoweap by National Park Service.

6. The most dangerous animal in the park is the rock squirrel. From bighorn sheep and the California Condors to the Gila monster, the Grand Canyon is home to a large array of wildlife. But it’s the rock squirrel that causes the most trouble. Every year, dozens of visitors are bitten when they try to feed these animals. To stay safe, do not approach or feed any animals found at Grand Canyon (or any park). Learn more about keeping wildlife wild.

Squirrels that are fed by people become dependent on human food, and may lose their natural fear of humans and their ability to forage for natural foods. Photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.

7. Visiting the North Rim and South Rim in the same day may be harder than you think. As the crow flies, Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim and the lodge on the North Rim are only about 10 miles apart. However, to drive between them through the park, over the Colorado River and loop around the canyon, you have to travel 215 miles or about 5 hours. That’s just one small way to understand the immensity of this incredible place.

Sun rays shine through clouds to light up the North Rim. If you’re looking to explore Grand Canyon National Park with less crowds, the North Rim provides serenity and spectacular views. The North Rim closes to vehicles during the winter and remains open to hikers, snowshoers and cross country skiers. Photo by Yan Li (www.sharetheexperience.org).

8. You can get an aerial view of the Grand Canyon without ever leaving the ground. The Skywalk, managed by the Hualapai Tribe and located on tribal lands, consists of a horseshoe shaped steel frame with glass floor and sides that projects about 70 feet from the canyon rim. It is the most famous attraction at Grand Canyon West.

A photo from the very first weeks of the opening of the Grand Canyon Skywalk by Chris Loncar (www.sharetheexperience.org).

9. Souvenirs may be bought but not taken. Grand Canyon National Park -- a World Heritage Site -- belongs to everyone. Rocks, plants, wood and artifacts must be left where you found them so others can enjoy them in the future. Learn more about Leave No Trace.

A visitor enjoys sunset at the Grand Canyon. Photo by Robert Shuman (www.sharetheexperience.org).

10. Controlled fires are good for the canyon’s landscape. Fire has been a part of the Colorado Plateau ecosystem for thousands of years. It naturally thins the forest, recycles nutrients into the soil and stimulates new plant growth. Fire managers at Grand Canyon National Park work to strike a balance between restoring and maintaining natural processes associated with fire, and protecting human life and property.

Smoke rises from a fire on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 2016. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.

11. Want to have the canyon to yourself? Head to Tuweep. A visit to Tuweep (also spelled Toroweap) Overlook offers a chance for an uncrowded, rustic and dramatic experience at the Grand Canyon. Here a 3,000-foot sheer drop provides stunning views of the North Rim of the canyon and the Colorado River. But be warned -- the area can only be reached by negotiating difficult roads with a high-clearance vehicle.

Sunrise at the Tuweep Overlook. Photo by Rebecca Wilks (www.sharetheexperience.org).

12. Hit the trail for some of the best views in the country. Mule trips, rafting the Colorado River and stargazing -- there is so much to do at the Grand Canyon. If you can only do one thing: Take a hike. Whether it’s long or short, all trails come an exceptional view.

Bright Angel is Grand Canyon’s premier hiking trail. Its endless switchbacks descend in the canyon, giving hikers epic views that are framed by massive cliffs. Be sure to check the weather and come prepared with water before setting out on the trail. Photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.

13. Teddy Roosevelt was instrumental in protecting the Grand Canyon. President Theodore Roosevelt first visited the Grand Canyon in 1903 and was deeply moved by the unique landscape. In 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill that proclaimed the area the Grand Canyon Game Reserve, and two years later, he made it a national monument. Of the Grand Canyon, he said, “Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

President Theodore Roosevelt and other officials pose in front of the Grand Canyon in 1903. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Grand Canyon National Park: Rich History and an Exciting Future

The sheer beauty and magnificence of Grand Canyon National Park have inspired the greatest naturalists and crafters of literature to recruit their most ambitious adjectives in attempts to capture a fraction of its aura with words. Interestingly, even the greatest writers of our time admit to failing in their quest.

The Colorado River and its tributaries have carved the most famous canyon in the world in what is a short period by geological standards with the bulk of the erosion taking place over about two million years. The now exposed terracing of the canyon walls’ – layers of sedimentary rock, sandstone, shale, and limestone reveal history dating back two billion years. To this day, the Colorado River and its collaborators remain the life source of this remarkable place, and the park continues to evolve due to these rushing waters, the freeze-thaw cycle, flash floods, and rock slides.

Today, visitors can explore this 277-mile long and 4-15 mile wide canyon with depths ranging from 3500 to 6000 feet deep to see the signs of its arduous formation. Its creation began roughly 65 million years ago when the Rocky Mountains began to rise, as did the Colorado Plateau. These stacks of rocks would eventually form the walls of the Canyon, and precisely how the Colorado River descended from the Rockies and began to flow across this site is a complicated puzzle for even today’s geologist.

The History of Grand Canyon National Park

Afforded its first Federal protections in 1893 as a Forest Reserve through the diligent efforts of then-Senator Benjamin, president Theodore Roosevelt also played a vital role in the park’s establishment. After a visit to the region in 1903 left him awestruck stating, “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity, and loveliness.” Roosevelt went on to establish the Canyon as a Game Preserve in 1906, and it was declared a National Monument in 1908. However, it took many years and Senate acts before the park’s existence was formally signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919.

Many of the park’s original historic structures, including the elegant El Tovar Hotel are enjoyed by travelers, who quickly discover that visiting this geological wonder and exploring it today is easier than ever before.

Activities and Grand Canyon Lodges

Most visitors consider approaching their explorations from two starting points: the North Rim and the South Rim. However, those wanting to discover the architectural feat commissioned and owned by the Hualapai Indian tribe, The Grand Canyon Skywalk, will have to venture to the eastern side of the canyon. Many visitors opt to seek Grand Canyon Lodging inside the park, so minimal driving is required to see the best of the canyon.

Grand Canyon Lodges In the Park

Standouts include the historic El Tovar Lodge, one of the first quarters established in the Grand Canyon Region in 1903, the hotel was built at the Grand Canyon Railway terminus and still services guests to this day. Bright Angel Lodge is ideal for the adventurous traveler. Close to the Bright Angel Trailhead and known for comfortable quarters, the Thunderbird Lodge is an option right in the center of the canyon’s Historic District.

The North Rim

The North Rim promises more remote terrain and fewer tourists and traffic, particularly during the winter months when North Rim is often called Winter Rim. Naturalists flock here, as do nesting bald eagles in the wintertime, and they nest regularly at the mouth of Nonkoweap Creek.

The only lodging inside the Park on the northern rim is the Grand Canyon Lodge, which gives visitors proximity to the best spots for seeing the canyon with easy access to Bright Angel Point, Cape Royal, and Point Imperial. The Bright Angel Point trailhead is a short half-mile trail hike near the Lodge. From the trail, one can hear Roaring Springs, which rush 3,600 feet below the rim and hikers are also rewarded with views of the Canyon Village along the South Rim.

Grand Canyon South Rim Lodging and Attractions

The South Rim is where the majority of the action happens, including the magnificent sites of the Desert View Drive, which follows the South Rim for 25 miles toward the East Entrance. Six of the finest panoramic viewpoints and several unmarked pullouts offer the finest views of the canyon including sites like the Tusayan Ruins and the Desert View Watchtower.

The Grand Canyon South Rim offers an abundance activities including organized tours by bus or hummer, horseback rides into the canyon, air tours, and river rafting experiences. However, many of the best trails involve a bit of driving and hiking, and guided walking tours offer the safest and most informative way to explore the Canyon. Popular journeys include Pipe Creek, Hermit’s Rest, and Mather Point – all accessible via the South Rim.

Grand Canyon lodging along the South Rim offers superior amenities and easy access to the best of the region. The most popular lodging along the South Rim is The Grand Hotel, which boasts western interiors and several guest activities and services. Perhaps the Canyon’s only resort-style hotel, the Best Western Grand Canyon Squire Inn’s luxury amenities are in order. Those sticking to a budget will find that they can rest easy when calling the Red Feather Lodge home base.

There’s no experience comparable to embracing the rich history of Grand Canyon National Park, and regardless of the activities and accommodations are chosen, prepare for a unique, memorable vacation of a lifetime.

Grand Canyon History and Timeline

History of Grand Canyon National Park

In 1540 Garcia Lopez de Cardenas led a party of Spanish soldiers with Hopi guides to the Grand Canyon under orders from Francisco Coronado while searching for the Seven Cities of Gold. These were the first non-natives to see the Grand Canyon and the next visitors did not arrive until a group of missionaries came 200 years later.

In 1869 Major John Wesley Powell lead the first river trip through the Grand Canyon while on a geologic expedition of the Western US that followed the Colorado River. It wasn't until the late 1800s that the first influx of westerners arrived at the Grand Canyon. Copper, uranium and other minerals were mined briefly at the Canyon, but many would be miners discovered the tourism industry was much more profitable. In 1919 the Canyon was named a National Park, and today over 2,000 residents live within Grand Canyon National Park to support the millions of tourists who travel to this amazing destination each year.

Grand Canyon Historical Timeline

1100- Ancestral Puebloan first settled the Grand Canyon

1540- The first Europeans visit the Grand Canyon on the Coronado Expedition

1869- The first successful expeditions through the Grand Canyon is led by John Wesley Powell

1901- Trains began transporting people between Williams, AZ and the South Rim.

1905- Santa Fe Railway opened the El Tovar, Grand Canyon’s first hotel.

1908- Grand Canyon National Monument was established by Theodore Roosevelt.

1919- Grand Canyon was designated a National Park

1927- First scenic air flights over the Grand Canyon

1975- The park is expanded by the Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act

Geologic history

Although its awesome grandeur and beauty are the major attractions of the Grand Canyon, perhaps its most vital and valuable aspect lies in the time scale of Earth history that is revealed in the exposed rocks of the canyon walls. No other place on Earth compares to the Grand Canyon for its extensive and profound record of geologic events. The canyon’s record, however, is far from continuous and complete. There are immense time gaps many millions of years are unaccounted for, owing to gaps in the strata that resulted either from vast quantities of materials being removed by erosion or because there was little or no deposition of materials. Thus, rock formations of considerably different ages are separated by only a thin distinct surface that reveals the vast unconformity in time.

Briefly summarized, the geologic history of the canyon strata is as follows. The crystallized, twisted, and contorted unstratified rocks of the inner gorge at the bottom of the canyon are Archean granite and schist more than 2.5 billion years old. Overlying those very ancient rocks is a layer of Proterozoic limestones, sandstones, and shales that are more than 540 million years old. On top of them are Paleozoic rock strata composed of more limestones, freshwater shales, and cemented sandstones that form much of the canyon’s walls and represent a depositional period stretching over 300 million years. Overlying those rocks in the ordinary geologic record should be a thick sequence of Mesozoic rocks (about 250 to 65 million years old), but rocks dating from the Mesozoic Era in the Grand Canyon have been entirely eroded away. Mesozoic rocks are found nonetheless in nearby southern Utah, where they form precipitous butte remnants and vermilion, white, and pink cliff terraces. Of relatively recent origin are overlying sheets of black lava and volcanic cones that occur a few miles southeast of the canyon and in the western Grand Canyon proper, some estimated to have been active within the past 1,000 years. (See also Grand Canyon Series.)

The cutting of the mile-deep Grand Canyon by the Colorado River is an event of relatively recent geologic history that began not more than six million years ago, when the river began following its present course. The Colorado River’s rapid velocity and large volume and the great amounts of mud, sand, and gravel it carries swiftly downstream account for the incredible cutting capacity of the river. Before Glen Canyon Dam was built, the sediments carried by the Colorado River were measured at an average of 500,000 tons per day. Conditions favourable to vigorous erosion were brought about by the uplift of the region, which steepened the river’s path and allowed deep entrenchment. The depth of the Grand Canyon is the result of the cutting action of the river, but its great width is explained by rain, wind, temperature, and chemical erosion, helped by the rapid wear of soft rocks, all of which steadily widened the canyon. An experiment was conducted in March 2008, in which water equivalent to about 40 percent of the river’s original flow was released from Glen Canyon Dam for a period of 60 hours to measure the erosion and deposition of sediments along the river. Researchers monitoring the experiment noted additional sand deposition at numerous locations along the river following the release.

The most significant aspect of the environment that is responsible for the canyon is frequently overlooked or not recognized. Were it not for the semiarid climate in the surrounding area, there would be no Grand Canyon. Slope wash from rainfall would have removed the canyon walls, the stair-step topography would long ago have been excavated, the distinctive sculpturing and the multicoloured rock structures could not exist, the Painted Desert southeast of the canyon along the Little Colorado River would be gone, and the picturesque Monument Valley to the northeast near the Utah state line would have only a few rounded hillocks.