The Grand Canyon is a premium tourist destination, which has been drawing people in for over a century. It’s estimated that around 5.9 million people visit the national park every year, which means it’s the second most popular national park, trailing behind the Great Smoky Mountains. As far as locations go it’s one of the most recognizable destinations on the planet.
What is it about this place that brings in so many people to explore it? Part of it is the sheer size– the whole place is completely awe-inspiring. That aside, there is much to discover about the Grand Canyon, as there has only been so much time, access, and resources to find out all the secrets it holds. Many people place the Grand Canyon on their bucket list because it’s such a unique find. There are so many amazing things about the grand canyon, it’s no wonder that some of them defy logic, and sometimes scientific explanation. Geologists, nature enthusiasts, and scientists are all keen to unlock the secrets within the borders of this wonder of the world.
Here are 25 amazing things about the grand canyon that will help fuel wanderlust and get it to the top of many ‘must visit’ locations in America.
25 A Gateway to the Afterlife?
No matter what you believe in, when a place is sacred to a culture, there’s no doubt that a sort of magical energy exists that is worthy of exploring and paying respect to. Such is the case for the spiritual significance Native tribes have placed on the canyon, seeing it as a ‘place of emergence’, where many are said to set sail through the Colorado rivers inside the canyon as a part of their journey from this human life towards their next afterlife destination.
24 The Canyon Is Its Own Mother Nature
When visiting The Grand Canyon it can be essential to make sure you’re wearing layers since temperatures vary dramatically based on location and elevation. Elevation in the canyon ranges from 2,000 feet to over 8,000 meaning the temperature rises around 5.5 degrees with each 1,000 feet loss in elevation. From the top of the canyon to the very bottom the temperature changes by over 25 degrees.
The base of the gorge is scorching hot in the summer and the rim at the top is icy cold in the winter months. The coldest, soggiest weather in the canyon is at the Bright Angel Ranger Station, and the hottest and driest is only eight miles away at Phantom Ranch.
23 Cleanest Air in The US
While nearby California houses eight of the ten most polluted cities in the United States, the Grand Canyon has clear air worthy of your vacation. A report from the American Lung Association revealed that in America, more than four in 10 live in areas with unhealthy amounts of lung pollution, so perhaps it’s time to visit somewhere with better air quality.
With an elevation on the South Rim of nearly 7,000 feet above sea level, travellers and locals can experience some of the cleanest air in the country while visiting the Grand Canyon, so enjoy some of the restorative benefits that a trip to the canyon has while you’re there.
22 Age Unknown
There is a great deal of debate as to exactly how old The Grand Canyon is. For a long time, it was believed that the Colorado River first began to carve it out six million years ago. A 2012 study revealed a big change in this theory, showing evidence suggesting the canyon began to form some 70 million years ago with rocks dating back billions of years ago. It was once thought to be several, smaller canyons, that slowly began to take shape together.
There are a lot of rocks that need to be examined in order to determine for sure what and when the canyon first came to be.
21 No Jurassic Roots Here
You’d think that something as old as the Grand Canyon would hold interesting and exciting dinosaur fossils, but it doesn’t. The rocks found making up the walls of the canyon were formed long before dinosaurs ever roamed the earth, around a billion years older. There are still many fossils, some marine animals even dating back 1.2 billion years, as well as some more recent land mammals who have been discovered, who were living in the canyon as recently as 10,000 years ago.
20 The Mystery of The Cursed Relics
We all know the adage when visiting historic places, or anywhere natural of ‘don’t leave more than footsteps, don’t take more than photos’. It’s said that those who have taken what doesn’t belong to them at The Grand Canyon are haunted by what they have stolen from the land.
Park Rangers have reported receiving letters and the return of things that tourists have taken with an explanation that they had experienced extreme bad luck and illness since removing these items from the park, where they belong.
19 Fire At The Canyon is A Good Thing
When we think about fire, especially in modern times seeing the way it can ravage our land, it’s hard to imagine fire being a good thing for a natural space such as The Grand Canyon. Fire has been a productive part of the Colorado Plateau’s ecosystem for thousands of years now, with man using ‘controlled fire’ in the canyon for some time. These fires naturally thin the forest, bring nutrients into the soil, and create new plant growth. Fire managers hired by the park work hard to balance the need for fire all while protecting human and animal life, as well as the park property.
18 Secret Caves
It’s estimated that there are more than 1,000 caves inside the Grand Canyon, with only 335 documented, and even fewer mapped, explored, or inventoried. Today only one cave is open for visitors to explore, and it’s called- the Cave of the Domes on Horseshoe Mesa. Those who want to feel like they’re living in a cave can book The Cavern Suite, located on a wooden platform in the cave’s largest ‘room’.
After 6:30pm (when the park has closed) guests can enjoy the two queen beds, and 70-foot-high vaulted ceiling while they have the cave all to themselves. The cost to stay there is $800 per night and includes a suite attendant located not far from the elevator to deliver food and help get you anything you need while enjoying cave life.
17 Fake Stories of the 1900's
Fake news isn’t just something from the modern day, it also existed in the heyday of newspaper reporting with a prominent fake news story targeting The Grand Canyon. Paper The Arizona Gazette falsely reported a story stating that archaeologists had made an incredible discovery.
The paper said that there were traces of an ancient Tibetan or Egyptian civilization located in an underground tunnel within the canyon. The Smithsonian denied any truth to this story, although some believe whatever was found in the tunnels, Egyptian, Tibetan or not, was hidden in a cover-up.
16 Unusual Dangerous Animal in the Canyon
In a park filled with snakes, big horned sheep, or even the venomous Gila monster, it’s hard to believe that you’re most likely to experience trouble from a cute little rock squirrel. Every year at the canyon dozens of tourists get bitten by these squirrels when they try to feed them (despite there being warnings everywhere not to feed these critters).
It’s best practice not to approach any animal you encounter in the Canyon no matter how cute it is as even just a bite can hurt, lead to infection, or carry diseases.
15 A Wonder of the World
There are different types of wonders of the world. Aside for man-made masterpieces, there are natural wonders of the world which are named for their awe-inspiring, astonishing natural attractions. The Grand Canyon holds the honour of a position on this list alongside: Paricutin in Mexico, the Northern Lights, Victoria Falls, the Great Barrier Reef, The Harbour of Rio de Janeiro, and Mount Everest.
People add seeing these amazing places to their lifetime bucket lists all the time, and no one regrets seeing these natural beauties.
14 Small Town Inside the Canyon
The Supai Village is a small community located in the base of the canyon, that most people don’t even know exists. With a population of only 208 people, it is the most remote place in the lower 48 states, a true place of solitary existence. People who live in the Havasupai Indian Reservation are located somewhere so remote that they are the only community in the entirety of the United States that receives their mail delivery via a pack mule.
The community is situated eight miles away from the nearest road with no cars in the community.
13 Beware of Pink Snakes
Animals will do what they need to on an evolutionary scale to survive within their habitat. There are six rattlesnake species that live within the Grand Canyon Park’s boundaries, but the lesser seen, and most interesting one is the Pink Rattlesnake, whose light pink colour camouflages it beautifully while it sits among the pink rocks of the canyon. Although these snakes are venomous, they are not aggressive and rely on their colouring (that matches their surroundings) to protect them.
They will only attack when they feel threatened. Keep an extra eye open for them as they work hard to make sure that visitors miss them.
12 The Road Trip Between Rims
When people say they are going to visit The Grand Canyon, many think that they are going to be able to explore it all in just a day, when in fact the Canyon is harder to navigate than that. While the South and North Rim are only 10 miles apart in distance as a bird flies, it’s much more time consuming to get from one part of the canyon to the other.
The drive between the North and the South is about five hours, or 215 miles long, so planning at least two days at the park is probably for the best.
11 Ever Evolving Shape
The Colorado River is responsible for the forming of the Grand Canyon and continues to shape what future generations will see here for centuries to come. While it’s too slow for the naked eye to see, the Grand Canyon is constantly changing shape thanks to the river, wind, rain, and other environmental factors it is exposed to.
The Grand Canyon itself is so large and varied that those visiting can see completely different ecosystems existing at the same time within the confines of the canyon.
10 Not the Best Fishing Hole
Since The Grand Canyon is such a force of nature, you’d think there would be primo fishing for outdoor adventurers. The fact is, until recently with the implementation of manmade flood control measures, the Colorado River was a challenging habitat for fish, so there weren’t many living there.
Thanks to frequent flooding, vast temperature changes from broiling heat in the summer and icy cold in the winter, waters with a lot of debris, and more there are only eight types of fish species native to the area, with six of these eight found only in the depths of the Colorado River. So, if you try to fish, odds are you’ll catch something that you’ve never run into before, and probably won’t ever again.
9 Protection From Teddy Roosevelt
Before it was explored in 1869, the Grand Canyon had other names. People simply called it the Great Canyon, and sometimes just the Big Canyon. It wasn’t until the Grand Canyon was explored, named, and protected by Teddy Roosevelt that it became the huge tourist attraction that we know it to be today.
When Roosevelt signed a bill declaring the area a national monument he famously 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.”
8 Not the Biggest, Internationally or Domestically
While many of us marvel at the Grand Canyon for its size, considering it’s larger than the entire state of Rhode Island, it isn’t the biggest in the world, or even the United States of America. Bigger canyons in the world are the Kali Gandaki Gorge located in Nepal and the Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru. The Tibetan canyon is a full two miles deeper and 30 miles longer than The Grand Canyon. Hells Canyon holds the honour of being the deepest canyon in the USA, not The Grand Canyon.
7 Only Recently Explored
With only 150 years of exploration into the Grand Canyon there is still so much to discover. While it is one of the most sought-after landscapes for geological study in the entire world, we are just beginning to tap the surface of the wonders found within the Grand Canyon.
As geologists work hard to document the fossil records and rocks within the rich archeological history of the canyon, there is still much work and discovery to be done. Only time will tell what secrets are held within the caves and walls of the Canyon.
6 The Earliest Days of Instant Photos
Photo tourism has changed a lot over the years. In a world of instant sharing, people can take photos atop or within the Grand Canyon and post it live to all of their social media accounts.
The Grand Canyon was home to some of the very first photo tourism entrepreneurs. The Kolb brothers were among the first to make a living photographing tourists as they set off on mules to explore the canyon. When visitors returned, they sold them the photos for a profit. The original Kolb studio is still located in Grand Canyon Village.
5 It's Not *that* Wide
While looking at its beauty you may think that the Grand Canyon is the widest around, but it’s not. In its narrowest spot, near Marble Canyon, it is a mere 600 yards across, while its widest spot is a whopping 18 miles across, with an average of 10 miles width from most locations.
To visit the widest canyon in the world you need to head down under to Australia and visit Capertee Valley where the canyon beats out the Grand by less than a mile in width.
4 What A Plane Crash Into The Canyon Did
Most people don’t know this but The Federal Aviation Administration came to be because of a tragic accident at The Grand Canyon. In the 1950’s it was quite common for commercial airplanes to fly over the canyon and give passengers a primo view of all of its beauty. In 1956 when two such planes were showcasing the canyon, and had asked for clearance to do so, they sadly ran into each other, with no survivors. It was then that the FAA was formed to help authorize flight paths and prevent future accidents.
3 A Key to 40% of the Earth's History
Rock discovered in the canyon has been dated at 1.75 billion years old, which has been around for nearly half of the age of planet earth (which is estimated to be roughly 4.5 billion years old). Because of this, study of the rock in the Grand Canyon can unlock much of the past of our earth, telling us about the creatures, plants, and landscape that once formed the very different world we live in now. The rocks in the canyon are older than what has been discovered in both marine and volcanic rock around the globe.
2 Scientists Still Can't Agree
As new discoveries are being made, scientists are having healthy debates about when and exactly how the Grand Canyon came to be. There is some noteworthy geological evidence saying the Colorado River first broke out of the west end of the Grand Canyon around five million years ago, whereas others wonder if the river carved out the canyon quickly or over time, or whether there was an ancient gorge that was carved by the river’s flow.
Since there is rock that is both 250 million years old laying directly against rock that is 1.2 billion years old, there are millions of years of missing layers of rock that still can’t be explained.
1 The View From Above the Park
Thanks to technology you no longer have to be in a plane or helicopter to enjoy an aerial view of the Canyon, in fact you can get one with your feet planted firmly on the ground. The Skywalk which is managed by the Hualapai Tribe on their tribal lands, is a horseshoe-shaped steel frame with a see-through glass floor showcasing 70 feet of air below, over the canyon’s rim. This spot is the most famous attraction on the west side of The Grand Canyon.