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The Grand Canyon

JANUARY 22, 2020 8 min. read
The Grand Canyon

There are plenty of canyons and valley in the world. Some of them are frequently visited by tourists, and some remain untouched. Canyons are among the most attractive, most exciting, and most studied relief forms in the world. There are hundreds of canyons in different countries around the world. However, the canyon in the US is distinguished from the rest for its uniqueness. The most well-known canyons in the US are the followings:

Bryce canyon
This canyon in Utah, the USA, looks like a natural amphitheater due to the giant rock columns called Hoodoo. The spectacular scenery gained enormous popularity in the early 1900s after being featured in newspapers and magazines. The length of the edges varies between 2400-2700m. There are not many transport options to visit this area. Nevertheless, it is an excellent place to watch the 7400 stars in a starry sky.

Antelope canyon 
This place, with its unique shaped rocks and colorful forms, is perhaps the most visited tourist destination among all canyons of the world. It is located in the northwestern part of America near the city of Page. Navajo sandstone erosion, flood, and ground factors were the reason for the formation of the canyon.

The Grand Canyon 
The Grand Canyon is one of the deepest canyons in the world. This canyon, located on the Colorado Plateau, Arizona, the USA, is part of the Grand Canyon National Park. This area is also considered the reservation of the Indian tribes such as Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai. The length of the Grand Canyon is 446 km, and the depth is 1600-1800 meters. The width varies from 8 km to 25 km in the top, and in the lower part, it does not exceed 120 m. Since 1979, the Grand Canyon has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

THE GRAND CANYON

Geography: The Colorado Plateau, located in the west of the United States, mostly in Arizona, is formed by almost horizontal stratified rock layers of varying thickness. The height of the separate mountains here is about 3000 m. The plateau is interrupted by the Colorado River, which originates from the Long Peak (4345 m) of the Eastern Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Many tributaries join it as it approaches the Gulf of California. Colorado, along with its tributaries, formed narrow valleys with vertical walls – canyons - by craving the layers over several million years. The Grand Canyon is not the largest in the world. The Kali Gandak Gorge in Nepal is considered the deepest canyon in the world.

Geology: In the distant geological times, the Colorado Plateau has been a part of the North American platform. The base of the platform consists of pre-Cambrian rocks, while the horizontal platform is composed of Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks. The plateau was subjected to substantial uplift 60-70 million years ago, and crustal structures were formed in some places. The Colorado Plateau continued to rise slowly for an extended period. The rivers create narrow, semi-arid valleys gradually carving the rocks. Colorado and its tributaries flow without counting the "resistance" of geological structures. For example, the Green River crosses the orogeny that can quickly be passed over. The reason is that rivers have flown in this direction before these orogenies occur. The rivers continued to deepen the existing bed by craving the growing orogenies since the area was exposed to rise. The enlargement speed of the valleys was related to the orogenies that correspond to the rate of river erosion. It took 5-6 million years for canyons to come to today's shape.

The Grand Canyon cuts the Plateau of Coconino and Kaibab, the highest parts of the area, reaching a height of 2,500 m. Therefore, the geological crave of rocks in the Grand Canyon covers a long time interval. At the lowest part, the bottom of the canyon, limestone, and sandstones belong to Upper Cambrian or Riphean and shales of the Pre-Cambrian period. These rocks are deposited on the orogeny, and the Paleozoic rocks of high thickness with sharp incompliance are laying over them. The lower slopes of the canyon are composed of relatively soft clay sediments of Cambrian age. There is the abyss from carbon and partly grey limestone of Cambrian age over them. This wall can be traced very clearly throughout Canton.

At the top of the canyon slopes, there are numerous red, and purple stairs of the Supai red form that gives the valley a good look. These sediments, consisting of sandstones of different hardness, belong to the Perm system. Gray Perm sandstones and Kaibab limestone cover the upper part of the canyon.

Climate: Several climatic zones are characteristic of the Grand Canyon. Temperatures vary depending on the location of the canyon bottom up to 2000m and higher. The weather at the bottom of the valley is more reminiscent of the desert of Arizona. In summer, the temperature rises to +40°C. The air is relatively calm as it rises upwards: the temperature in the upper parts of the canyon in summer falls to +38°C and in the winter to -17°C. Snowfall in these areas is not uncommon.

The climate in the Canyon according to seasons:

Summer: The temperature is +27+32°С in South Rim at 135 meters, and + 38°C in the Phantom Ranch at 762 meters. The highest temperature in North Rim is relatively low: +21+26°C, due to its location at a higher altitude (2440m). The most moderate summer temperatures range between +4 +15°C and +16 +26°C. Heavy rains are most commonly recorded in July, August, and early September. Snowfall and strong wind are sometimes observed along with a shower.

Autumn: Hot summer days are replaced by colder autumn. The average monthly temperature in the upper part of the canyon drops from +16 +21°C to +10 +15°C. In areas along the river, it drops from +32 + 37°C to + 21°C. The temperature is sometimes near zero at the edges of the canyon. Summer rains last until mid-September, and the second half of autumn is drier.

Winter: Winter is more severe in the upper parts of the canyon. Snow and ice-covered roads are typical for these areas. Cold weather usually begins in November, and negative temperatures remain stable throughout December and January. In the second half of the day, the weather sometimes rises to +4 + 9°C. The average monthly temperature of the winter months at the bottom of the canyon along the river is +4 + 15°C, and sometimes falls to -1 +9°C. In the upper areas, annual snowfall is 1.3-2.5 meters. Fog is often observed in the winter and early spring.

Spring: Spring begins to replace winter in mid-April. The temperature in the upper part of the canyon gradually rises from +10 +21°C to +21 +32°C. In the region along the Colorado River, it can increase from +27 +32°С to +41°C. Spring is usually dry. Due to the advantage of dry air masses, frost is sometimes observed during the spring months.

 

Fauna and Flora

There are 1,737 species of vascular plants, 167 species of fungi, 64 species of moss, and 195 species of lichen found in the Grand Canyon. This diversity extends up to 2400 meters above the bottom of the canyon. There are dozens of endemic and exotic species of plants in the area. Sixty-three species in the canyon have received the status of specially protected plants in the United States. The Mojave Desert influences the western sections of the canyon, and the Sonoran Desert affects the eastern. Ponderosa and pinyon pine forests have spread widely. Natural seeps and springs percolating out of the canyon walls are home to 11% of all the plant species found in the Grand Canyon. The canyon plays the corridor role between the west and the east. The direction of the slope is important in the spread of vegetation. The desert plants are characteristic of the south-facing slopes, which receive the full amount of sunlight, and plants of northern latitudes are common to the North-facing slopes. Of the 90 mammal species found along the Colorado River corridor, 18 are rodents, and 22 are bats. In general, the canyon area consists of several ecological zones.

1. Lower Sonoran
2. Upper Sonoran
3. Transition
4. Canadian
5. Hudsonian

History
The Great Canyon was known to the Native American Indians a thousand years ago. Indian paintings on canyon walls are almost 3,000 years old. In 1540, the Grand Canyon was first discovered by Europeans, Spanish soldiers. Garcia Lopez de Cardenas led the group. The purpose of the trip was to search for gold. During the journey, several Spanish soldiers, with the Indians guide, attempted to descend some one-third of the way into the canyon until they were forced to return because of lack of water. Since then, the canyon has remained untouched by Europeans for two centuries.

In 1776, two Spanish priests traveled with a group of soldiers across the Grand Canyon in search of a route from Santa Fe to California.

In 1869, John Wesley Powell, who led the Geological Survey in the Rocky Mountains, sailed with four small boats along the Colorado River from the mouth of the Green River, Wyoming, to the mouth of the Virgin River, Nevada. The trip (three of whom were killed by Indians), not safe then, was the first in the region to receive financial support from the Smithsonian Institution, a prominent US scientific institution. In 1872, Powell first used the term Grand Canyon. Until then, only the Great Canyon was used.

The Grand Canyon was declared the United States National Monument in 1908 and the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919.

Historical Monuments in the area
There are several monuments with historical features along the southern slopes of the Grand Canyon: Buckey O'Neill Cabin, Kolb Studio, El Tovar Hotel, Hopi House, Grand Canyon Railway Depot, Lookout Studio, and Desert View Watchtower, Bright Angel Lodge Hotel, and more. These monuments are visited by ten thousands of tourists each year.

Tourism
The Grand Canyon, as well as the National Park area, is one of the world's premier natural attractions, attracting about five million visitors per year. Overall, 83% are from the United States: California (12.2%), Arizona (8.9%), Texas (4.8%), Florida (3.4%) and New York (3.2%). Seventeen percent of visitors were from outside the US. The majority of foreign tourists are the United Kingdom (3.8%), Canada (3.5%), Japan (2.1%), Germany (1.9%) and The Netherlands (1.2%). The South Rim of the canyon is open all year round to tourists, and the North Rim is generally open mid-May to mid-October.

Travel to the canyon can be done in several ways: by foot (there are many trails in the canyon area), private inflatable boats, trains, bikes, and cars along the canyon. Airplanes and air balloons are also available for extreme-lovers. There are several observation areas in the canyon. The most notable of them is Skywalk, which costs $70. Besides, a glass bridge called the Milky Way is suspended at an altitude of 1,219 meters and is a favorite tourist destination.

Air disasters
Most airplanes that crossed this area in the 1940s and 1950s were deliberately planned to allow passengers to enjoy the view of the Grand Canyon. Pilots take several rounds along the canyon to increase the visibility of passengers. There were no lawful prohibitions on flights with several rounds because of visibility at that time. On June 30, 1956, two aircraft (Trans World Airlines Lockheed Super Constellation and United Airlines Douglas DC-7) flying in the light of the above rules eventually collided above the canyon. One hundred twenty-eight people were killed in the collision. It was the most horrific accident until the one in New York in the 1960s. Namely, after this disaster, flights in the area were banned. The next accident in the canyon was in 1986.

Activities
Hiking, running, helicopter tours, boat tours are popular in these areas. Generally, there are three viewpoints in the Grand Canyon: North Rim, South Rim, and West Rim.

West Rim
It is the easiest and most preferred option. It is possible to arrive at the Hualapai Tribe Reservation after about two hours by car from Las Vegas. A massive "U" bridge was built here at the very high point of the canyon. This bridge draws tourists' attention as it is transparent, and the entire canyon will be seen at your feet.

North Rim
The entrance to the canyon from this direction is the least visited. It is very snowy and frosty as it is the highest point. It is therefore closed from October to May.

South Rim
The most popular South entrance is open all year round. There is a Grand Canyon Village where hotels and campgrounds are available.

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