The Grand Canyon & the Colorado River, Arizona
June 16, 2003: Marble Canyon, Put In
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Rafting the Colorado is a fun and exciting way to see one the world's most spectacular natural formations, the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage Site, encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins. [National Park Service Excerpt]
Recommended travel guides on the Grand Canyon:
History of the Grand Canyon area [Wikitravel]:
The known history of the Grand Canyon area stretches back 10,500 years when the first evidence for human presence in the area started. Native Americans have been living at Grand Canyon and in the area now covered by Grand Canyon National Park for at least the last 4,000 of those years. Anasazi, first as the Basketmaker culture and later as the more familiar Puebleoans, developed from the Desert Culture as they became less nomadic and more dependent on agriculture. A similar culture, the Cohonina, also lived in the canyon area. Drought in the late 13th century was the likely cause for both cultures to move on. Other cultures followed, including the Paiutes, Cerbat, and the Navajo, only to be later forced onto reservations by the United States Government.
Under direction by conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to find the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas led a party of Spanish soldiers with Hopi guides to the Grand Canyon in September of 1540. Not finding what they were looking for, they left. Over 200 years passed before two Spanish priests became the second party of non-Native Americans to see the canyon. In 1869, U.S. Army Major John Wesley Powell led the Powell Expeditions through the canyon on the Colorado River. This and later study by geologists uncovered the geology of the Grand Canyon area and helped to advance that science. In the late 19th century there was interest in the region because of its promise of mineral resources—mainly copper and asbestos. The first pioneer settlements along the rim came in the 1880s.
Early residents soon discovered that tourism was destined to be more profitable than mining, and by the turn of the century Grand Canyon was a well-known tourist destination. Most visitors made the grueling trip from nearby towns to the South Rim by stagecoach. In 1901 the Grand Canyon Railway was opened from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim, and the development of formal tourist facilities, especially at Grand Canyon Village, increased dramatically. The Fred Harvey Company developed many facilities at the Grand Canyon, including the luxury El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim in 1905 and Phantom Ranch in the Inner Gorge in 1922. Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a forest reserve and later as a U.S. National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve U.S. National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today, Grand Canyon National Park receives about five million visitors each year, a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 in 1919.
Native American inhabitation
Current archaeological evidence suggests that humans have inhabited the Grand Canyon area as far back as 4,000 years and at least were passers through for 6,500 years before that. Radiocarbon dating of artifacts found in limestone caves in the inner canyon indicate ages of 3,000 to 4,000 years. In the 1930s artifacts consisting of 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. This find along with other evidence suggests these inner canyon dwellers were part of Desert Culture; a group of seminomatic hunter-gatherer Native Americans.