Grand Canyon

20 Apr, 2009

Grand Canyon: A Gorge that Parallel’s America’s Greatness

Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon, without a doubt, is one of the popular and one of the most visited attractions in America. For one, it attracts more than five million tourists a year; a number that rivals and even beats that of the Statue of Liberty in New York. This gorge located in the state of Arizona is considered as the biggest in the world—277 miles long, four to 18 miles in width, and over in depth, it is one of the most overwhelming natural wonders anyone can ever see on earth (the biggest canyon in the solar system is actually located on Mars). Surely, this only makes it an attraction tourists would willingly travel to.

To be fair, canyons are not exclusive to the United States, although the country does a considerable number of canyons. Among these canyons are located in the United States include the Black Canyon in Colorado, Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, Hells Canyon in Idahol, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Wyoming, among others. But of course, because of its size and because of its sheer enormity, the Grand Canyon beats them all, becoming the country’s most famed. Considering the size of the canyon, the Grand Canyon can be compared to the country of America itself. Both are big and overwhelming, yet its depth (and here the word works both literally and figuratively) is deceptive. The parallelism isn’t so far off, of course, as the Grand Canyon, recognized by UNESCO by including it in their World Heritage list, is definitely one of the most exciting natural attractions in the world.

Creation and history

Of course, as expected, a natural wonder as overwhelming as the Grand Canyon probably took years to be created. The start of the formation of the Grand Canyon is still currently a subject of debate, although many scientists and experts say that the canyon became to be formed as it is known today more than 40 million years ago, since this was when the Colorado River was developed (the Grand Canyon is part of the Colorado River). In any case, according to studies conducted on the area, parts of the canyon originated some 17 million years ago, although some estimates say that the canyon is much younger than what other estimates claim (around five or six million years). Interestingly, a recent study in the Science journal showed that the previous estimates were off. Nonetheless, while there is no universal acknowledged date connected with the formation of the Grand Canyon, it is acknowledged that it took years to form such a massive natural structure.

The physical history of the Grand Canyon is interesting, to be sure (as noted by travel guide materials and even history books), but what makes it more interesting is the actual history that happened in the area before it was acknowledged as a great natural and national site, which prompted the government to protect it. First among the people who decided to explore the canyon are the Spanish explorers. In 1540, conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado ordered the search of the Seven Cities of Gold.

It isn’t surprising that the Spanish explorers would think that one or two of these seven cities are actually located in the Grand Canyon (this was in a time when travel took vast amounts of money, considerable amount of time, and extreme effort on the traveler’s part, hence making traveling a very rare event. In any case, these seven cities are believed to be founded by seven bishops from Spain, during the conquest on the Moors in Merida in 1150. It can be remembered that during this time, the Muslims held much of Spain, making the Catholics a marginalized population. In hopes of protecting their treasures, these seven bishops founded the Seven Cities of Gold. However, the exploration failed, as they were not able to fully cover the area of the Grand Canyon. They did note, however, of the existence of large rocks greater than the tower of Seville (Seville is in Andalucia, Spain, and it serves as cultural and financial center even during that time). Other explorers from other countries tackled the great expanse of the canyon, and they have called the canyon “profound” and “expansive.”

Of course, later on, it was the American’s turn to explore the Grand Canyon. It has been the location of many settlers, making it the birthplace of many tribes and cultures in the country, including the Pai, the Hualapai, and the Dineh. It was during the term of then United States President Theodore that the Grand Canyon became a preserve; more so because of the establishment of the Grand Canyon Game Preserve in 1906. This is due to the proposals that the canyon be turned into a dam. President Theodore saw the importance of the Grand Canyon, especially after he first visited the place in 1904. After that, he frequented the place for his hunting trips, and later on became one of the attractions biggest protectors. It can be said that this lead to the naming of the Grand Canyon as a national monument, giving the area significance. During his term, he added national forest lands adjacent to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919. Obviously, with all the attention is gets today (millions of tourists, especially international ones, translate to increase in local and national revenue, after all).

Attractions and activities

Many tourists and travelers do not find the appeal of the Grand Canyon. Their reason seems very logical, although it also proves that they know nothing about the canyon. They think that the canyon is just that—a canyon. And what else can anyone see in the Grand Canyon but the gorge’s overwhelming expanse? But this isn’t exactly the case. For one, this forgets the fact that the Grand Canyon is among the more picturesque destinations in America. The country boasts of a number of natural attractions, but what can even compare to the enormity of this natural attraction? Thanks to the reason for its formation, the Grand Canyon actually has different color shades, so this makes the gorge look like a canvass, a painting, rather than just a canyon randomly carved by some unseen hand.

But beyond this poetic description of this majestic gorge, the Grand Canyon has a number of attractions and structures that add depth and character to the already appealing natural wonder. Not the very least of these attractions is the Grand Canyon National Park.

The Grand Canyon National Park, located in Arizona, of course, is among the country’s oldest park. Since it was founded during the 1900s, this isn’t very surprising. The formation of the park made the attraction more accessible, making travel to the different parts of the gorge easier and more convenient.

The Grand Canyon is divided into two parts for the tourists (at least the ones that can be explored by tourists): the North Rim and the South Rim. Located in the South Rim is the Grand Canyon Village. The village is perhaps the most appropriate tourist center; built in 1901, the village shows a piece of Grand Canyon history. Many of the structures that were built in the Grand Canyon Village still stand today, and this gives it a unique look and town design. This serves as a bonus to those who travel all the way to America just to see the Grand Canyon, as it showcases American architecture and design from more than a century ago. In turn, the village houses some of the most famed structures within the area. This would include the Bucky O’ Neill Cabin (the oldest standing structure in this part of the Grand Canyon) that is also a guest house, the El Tovar Hotel, and the Desert View Watchtower (which was named in 1987 as a National Historic Landmark). While the South Rim is for casual sightseeing, the North Rim is designated for the more physical activities, such as exploring the canyon in tours and taking a hike in the more scenic parts of the area.

Considering the location of the Grand Canyon, visitors should practice some precautions before their travel to the expansive natural wonder. For one, tourists—especially the hikers should always bring water, since many parts of the Grand Canyon resemblance the weather in Arizona (and Arizona is known for its torturous humid weather). Wearing sunglasses and a hat is also advisable, considering the high elevation in the area, as well as the varying conditions. Water activities are also possible in the North Rim. However, it is open through from May to October, due to the weather.

Therefore, it is safe to say that while the surface of the Grand Canyon may seem dry and boring, the natural structure actually offers a very diverse tourist experience, something that a travel guide or book can never explain. Truly, the Grand Canyon is just like America. Like the gorge, many say that the country is culturally lacking, although anyone who travels to the country would know that its history and its people have made the country a diverse one. Just the same, the Grand Canyon may seem lacking on the surface, but it hides many hidden treasures.

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon

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