Above/featured: West-northwest from Mohave Point – 15 October 2018.
The Grand Canyon National Park has very different timescales: over 100 years of human inscription as a national park, but over 1 billion years of geologic history.
European colonizers and settlers recognized protection was required for the big dramatic landscape. On 26 February 1919, U.S. Congress passed legislation “An Act to Establish the Grand Canyon National Park in the State of Arizona” which was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. With its official designation, the country’s 15th National Park encompasses over 1-million acres (almost 405-thousand hectares) in surface area and several thousand years of history of human habitation by indigenous peoples, including the Havasupai, Hualapai, Hopi, Navajo, Paiute, and the Zuni, who consider the Grand Canyon as their ancestral birthplace. UNESCO inscribed the Grand Canyon National Park as World Heritage Site in 1979.
The park also includes over 1.5 billion years of geologic history. By geologic standards, the Grand Canyon itself is relatively “young” with the Colorado River carving into the rock about 5 to 6 million years ago. However, the Vishnu basement rock in the Grand Canyon is over 1.7 billion years old; “only” 38 percent as old as Earth’s oldest rocks at 4.5 billion years.
We spent three days in October 2018 exploring parts of the Grand Canyon National Park. After our drive from Flagstaff to Vermilion Cliffs, we pushed forward to the North Rim and the winding scenic drive took us to Point Imperial and Cape Royal in time for the day’s final illumination. With a night spent at the beautifully serene Cliff Dwellers Lodge, we retraced our drive back to Cameron, then turning west to Desert View and parts of the eastern end of the South Rim. With our new ‘base’ established in Flagstaff, we drove the following day to the main entrance of the Grand Canyon National Park (via Valle and Tusayan), and we spent the day in the western and central parts of the South Rim. The 1126 km (700 mi) we covered over the three days was 22 percent of the entire 5049 km (3138 mi) we accumulated through parts of New Mexico and Arizona.
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