The Grand Canyon is among the most impressive natural wonders in the world. As one of the most extensive canyon systems globally, the Grand Canyon has many features that tourists flock to see.
Located in the remote stretches of Arizona, the Grand Canyon was first a nature reserve. In 1919, the United States federal government reclassified the canyon as a national park, a title it still holds today.
Let's go through some Grand Canyon facts, including its size, history, and involvement with the local community and economy.
We'll also discuss some Grand Canyon stats, such as how old the canyon is and how long it took to form.
The Grand Canyon is At Least 6 Million Years Old
For years, geologists estimated the age of the Grand Canyon to be between 5 and 6 million years old!
But more recent studies are putting that number into doubt. A study by Science in 2012 said the age of the Grand Canyon could be 70 million years, but more research needs to happen before researchers can definitively date the iconic formation.
The Grand Canyon Attracts Millions of Visitors
In 2021, the Grand Canyon National Park hosted more than 4.5 million visitors.
That makes the Grand Canyon the second most visited park in the United States, only behind the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. One of the best ways to visit is on a Las Vegas to Grand Canyon tour.
It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Grand Canyon became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979.
UNESCO World Heritage sites are landmarks protected by international laws against exploitation and harm to the site's natural beauty. It's one way we can help preserve the wonder of the Grand Canyon for generations.
The Grand Canyon is the Result of the Colorado River
The mighty Colorado River flows from the Rocky Mountains into the Gulf of California. During its winding route, the river travels through what is now the Grand Canyon.
The Colorado River formed the Grand Canyon by cutting a channel into the rock. Over the course of millions of years, that channel dug deeper, ultimately producing the Grand Canyon's deep ravine.
Want to read more facts about the Grand Canyon? Read our post on the Best Time to Visit Grand Canyon.
The Hopi Tribe Consider the Grand Canyon as Sacred
The Grand Canyon National Park encompasses an area that includes 11 different Indian tribes, but the Hopi have a distinct connection to the Grand Canyon.
The Hopi are a tribe from northwestern Arizona that have lived near the canyon for millennia. They still consider the site sacred to their way of life.
It's the Eighth Largest Canyon System in the World
Although the Grand Canyon's size is stunning to witness up close, it isn't the largest canyon in the world.
People measure canyon size by its length and width. The Grand Canyon is a whopping 278 miles long and has an average width of 10 miles.
The largest canyon, the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Tibet, is 300 miles long!
It's Also Not the Deepest
Sadly, the Grand Canyon isn't the world's deepest canyon, either. The average depth of the Grand Canyon is around a mile.
The title of the deepest in the world again goes to the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Tibet, which can reach nearly 3 miles deep!
Scientists Haven't Comprehensively Researched the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon National Park covers a vast area of more than 1,900 square miles. With all that area, it's unsurprising that scientists haven't surveyed the whole site.
Intensive archaeological surveys on 5% of the area are the only studies to occur, but who knows? There could be an exceptional find waiting for the right person to discover it!
There are Plenty of Fossils in the Canyon
As the Colorado River eroded the walls of the Grand Canyon over millions of years, it exposed thousands of fossils.
Researchers found fossils that include plants, reptile footprints, marine life, and even a dragonfly wing!
But the Grand Canyon Doesn't Have Dinosaur Fossils
Although the canyon is home to many types of fossils, it lacks dinosaur fossils.
The Grand Canyon is older than any known dinosaur, so it's impossible to find their bones tucked away into the layers of rock.
One Small Town Still Remains in the Canyon
The town of Supai is the only permanent population that lives within the Grand Canyon. The town's primary population is an Indian tribe and has a population of about 200 people.
The village is the most remote settlement in the continental United States. There are only three ways to enter the town—by air, foot, or pack animals, such as horses or mules.
The Grand Canyon Impacts the Weather
The Grand Canyon's length and dramatic elevation changes impact the weather in the area.
Some areas have significant rainfall, while others have almost none. For example, the coolest area is only 8 miles from the hottest area!
Lightning is Common In and Around the Canyon
The Grand Canyon sees more than 25,000 lightning strikes every year! That means they get an average of 68 lightning strikes every day.
The National Park Service recommends always bringing rain gear and knowing where the closest shelter is, just in case a lightning storm occurs.
It Has Weird Geology
When rivers carve crevices in the rock, it exposes rock layers called strata. Researchers have found that the different layers of rock have wildly different ages in the Grand Canyon.
Some strata are as young as a few million years, while others are almost a billion years old. Scientists call this phenomenon the "Great Unconformity."
The Grand Canyon is Made Up of Three Types of Rocks
The Grand Canyon is primarily made up of three types of rocks—igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.
Igneous rocks form from cooled magma, while sedimentary rocks form because rocks and sediment stick together in distinct layers. Metamorphic rocks form when the other two types of rocks change due to heat and pressure.
Of the three, the majority of geologic material in the Grand Canyon is sedimentary.
The Grand Canyon is Home to a Wide Array of Wildlife
The Grand Canyon and its surrounding area are home to more than 2,000 species of animals, ranging from birds and reptiles to invertebrates like butterflies.
Nine animals are endemic to the park, including the Grand Canyon Black Tarantula and the Bark Scorpion.
The Grand Canyon Has a Ton of Caves
The United States Parks Service estimates that more than 1,000 caves are present within the Grand Canyon, but only 335 have been explored.
Most developed due to the erosion of limestone. Scientists believe the caves play a pivotal role in the movement of water through the canyon, especially during heavy rainfall.
European Explorers Only Reached the Canyon's Bottom in 1869
Although native Americans have known about the canyon for millennia and European settlers knew about its existence, no European had explored the bottom of the canyon until 1869.
That's when John Powell and a group of explorers traversed to the bottom of the canyon. But the trip was deadly, with only six of the original ten men returning.
The Grand Canyon is one of the greatest natural wonders in the world. It will amaze you with its overwhelming size and beauty.
Now that you know some Grand Canyon facts, you'll be able to enjoy the beauty while also knowing how the canyon formed and what groups still live there to this day.
So, what are you waiting for? It's time to enjoy the beauty of the Grand Canyon, armed with your new knowledge and a keen eye for exploration!