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Grand Canyon

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View from Hermit’s Rest of the Colorado River flowing through the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is an enormous gorge created by the Colorado River in northern Arizona. It is about 446 km long, deep up to 1,600 meters and a width varying from 500 meters to 27 kilometers. For the most part is included in the National Park of the Grand Canyon, one of the first national parks in the United States. President Theodore Roosevelt was very fond of the area of the Grand Canyon and visited it several times to go hunting for cougars and admire the scenery.

Nearly two billion years of Earth’s history have emerged to light thanks to the Colorado and its tributaries, which over millions of years have eroded layer after layer of sediment, and by lifting the Colorado Plateau.

The first European to see the Grand Canyon was García López de Cárdenas Spanish in 1540 that departed from New Mexico in search of the mysterious river they were talking about the Hopi Indians. The first scientific expedition to the canyon was led by Major John Wesley Powell U.S. in the late 70s of the XIX century. Powell described the sedimentary rocks exposed in the canyon as “pages of a great book of history.” However, long before these discoveries, the area was inhabited by Native Americans who built settlements within the walls of the canyon.

Ancestral Puebloan granaries at Nankoweap Creek.

Geography

The Grand Canyon is a long cut, very deep – in some places even 1,600 meters – in the region of the Colorado Plateau which makes visible layers of the Proterozoic and Paleozoic. The layers are gradually brought to light by a light slope that begins in the resort Lee’s Ferry near the town of Page, Arizona and continues up to Hance Rapid. The canyon ends at the point where the river forms the waterfall Grand Wash Faul (near Lake Mead).

The lifting of the building of the mountain (the orogeny) associated with plate tectonics, the elevation caused hundreds of meters of sediment, creating the area of the Colorado Plateau. The elevation of the region also caused an increase in rainfall in the whole catchment area of the Colorado River, but not enough to save the Grand Canyon area from being semi-arid. In fact, landslides and mudslides caused more then a collapse of the bed and the consequent diversion of the river, which increased the depth and width of the canyon, and the dryness of the environment.

The elevation of the Colorado Plateau is uneven: the northern boundary of the Grand Canyon is higher than about 300 meters to the south. The fact that the river flows closer to the South Rim of the Canyon is asymmetrical due to this exaltation of the land. Almost all the water that falls above the northern edge of the Plateau (which receives more rain and snow) conveys inside the Grand Canyon, on the contrary, below the southern edge, the water flows in a ‘ other direction, following the general inclination. The result is an erosion north of the river much more pronounced, with a Canyon Canyon and its tributaries are characterized by more rapid widths north of the river.

The temperatures on the verge north are generally lower than those in the south rim because of the altitude (2,438 m above sea level). Are common during the winter heavy snowfall. The views from the rim north tend to give a better impression of the immensity of the canyon in contrast to the views that characterize the south rim.

Grand Canyon covered with snow

Tourism

There are two ways to visit the Grand Canyon, by the North Shore, inaccessible and remote, or by the southern, much more accessible (and therefore more crowded). There are on the two sides many campsites, hostels and restaurants for accomodation. Expect, however, that these places are overcrowded during the high season (summer). So do the other seasons to visit the Grand Canyon (the show is unforgettable every time). Note that some sites are not open all year.

Aerial view of the less-visited lower Grand Canyon, down river from (west of) Toroweap Overlook

What to do

  • Hiking in nature. One of the most memorable places of the Grand Canyon is Bright Angel Trail, which descends to the bottom of the Canyon. It is best to make the trip in the day to Plateau Point to overlook Colorado
  • Rafting on the Colorado River (very expensive, waiting list of up to several months)
  • Overview of the canyon by plane or helicopter
  • Sky Walk, glass bridge with a bird’s eye view of the canyon (50 ¢)

Landmarks

  • Grand Canyon PLOTE
  • South Rime
  • North Rime

Smoke from prescribed fires on the south rim, as seen from Yavapai Point, April 2007.

Shopping

There are shops that sell various items of Indian origin, as well as classical objects of tourist attractions such as postcards, t-shirts, shirts, short-ponta etc …

Accommodation

The camping can be a good solution for both the price and the atmosphere that it emerges. However, it is strongly advised to go to the closest “visitor center” to all kinds of information. To book the camping grounds officials must send a fax 4 months in advance at least.

Motels are also present in large numbers and for everyone, however think if you come to book in high season.

The city of Flagstaff offers a range of accommodation and is a good starting point (80 miles from the park entrance anyway).

Health

Remember to take plenty of water, because there is no drinking water in the Grand Canyon and temperatures can rise very high (50 ° C are not uncommon in the summer if you descend into the canyon)! Then pay attention to the risk of dehydration. Hikers are removed each year by excessive optimism, unless you are a trained sportsman, you will not be able to go to the bottom of the canyon and back in the same day, plan your shot if you want to sleep downstairs (something to drink, eat and sleep …)

Guano Point – a popular vantage point for tourists, situated on the West Rim of the Grand Canyon

Images

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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