The Grand Canyon is a type of landform known as a canyon – a geographical or topological landscape feature that broadly consists of two steep cliffs with a valley running through the centre. For many people, the Grand Canyon is the canyon – the one against which all other canyons are measured. Canyons must be formed through erosion, and with the Grand Canyon, this is indeed the case. www.travelrows.com
Grand Canyon on the satellite view map:
This enormous, steep sided canyon is 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and reaches over a mile in depth. It was carved over the ages by the Colorado River. Almost two billion years of the Earth’s geological history have been exposed as channels were cut through layer after layer of rock, while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. It is believed that the Colorado River established its course through the area about 5 to 6 million years ago.
Sandstone, lava and limestone layers created during the Paleozoic era, between 550 and 250 million years ago, form the most common rock strata in the canyon. There are also remarkable cinder cones and lava formations which display volcanic activity that began around 6 million years ago. Karst systems, landscapes formed by water flowing through porous rock, have molded many caves and underground fissures and sinkholes throughout the canyon, though these are off limits to the general public.
The Colorado River is the most powerful force to have shaped the canyon’s landforms. As it traversed the landscape, it has gradually worn away the land, exposing the layers of rock in the canyon walls. But water is not the only natural force that has shaped this landform. The Grand Canyon also displays faults, caused by tectonic activity. The best known of these is Bright Angel Fault.
Grand Canyon for people
This landform has long been important for human beings, as well as for a range of wildlife. For thousands of years, Native Americans have inhabited the canyon. They built settlements on the canyon floor and lived within the canyon’s many caves.
* The Ancestral Puebloans were the first known group to live here. They are believed to have emerged as a distinct culture in around 1,200 BC. In addition to the Puebloans, a number of other distinct cultures have lived in the canyon and its surrounding area.
* The Cohonina, for example, lived to the west, and are the ancestors of the tribal groups who inhabit the area today. The Sinagua lived to the southeast of the Grand Canyon and may have been ancestors of the Hopi people.
* By the time the first Europeans arrived in the 16th Century, newer cultures had evolved. Hualapai, Havasupai, Southern Paiutes and Navajo all still live in this wider region today.
* Spanish explorers arrived in 1540, though they did not reach the canyon floor and no Europeans visited the canyon again for more than 200 years. Other Spaniards arrived in the 18th Century and Anglo-American trappers arrived in 1826, heralding in an era of American exploration.
The Grand Canyon became an official national monument in 1908 and a National Park in 1919. Now, many come each year to see this amazing natural wonder and marvel at the power of nature, and the landforms it represents.