About The Grand Canyon
From the rim of the Grand Canyon the Colorado River has cut so deeply into the earth's crust as to be mostly hidden from view behind steep cliffs far below. The cliffs that drop from the rim gradually bottom out in a false canyon floor 3,000 lower. Out in the center of this lies another canyon, called the Granite Gorge, which drops another 2,000 feet and is hardly wide enough for the river at the bottom. In addition to the vast size of the Grand Canyon, a mile deep, and several miles wide, the colors of rock in the cliffs add to its splendor. They lie in successive layers of sediments (deposited over eons of geologic history) in yellows, cream, bright red and dark grays, stacked up in neat layers that extend from one horizon to the other on both sides of the canyon. These layers of rock are sculpted into fantastic buttes, pinnacles and mesas as the canyon walls wrap around side canyons in places, and jut out towards the middle in others.
While vegetation is sparse within the canyon, great forests of evergreen and decidious trees line both rims. Scrub oak and brushes are common along the trails at higher elevations. On the Tonto Platform (as the false canyon floor is named), an abundant growth of sagebrush give it a distinctly green tint.
The entire 277-mile length of the Grand Canyon from the mouth of the Paria River near the Utah border, to Lake Mead is included within Grand Canyon National Park. Most of the canyon is remote to an extreme. No road crosses the canyon between Hoover Dam on the California border and Marble Canyon, near the opposite end of the canyon. The many side canyons are also lined with cliffs, cutting up vast areas of terrain where few roads lead, and fewer people follow. Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim, along with some forty miles of road along the rim receives most of the visitors to the park. Most of the rest of the visitors visit at North Rim, just across the canyon from Grand Canyon Village. Some twenty miles of road access the rim on that side.
The Grand Canyon was designated a National Park on February 26, 1919. It covers 1,180,862 acres of land and received 4,102,541 visitors in 2003. Behind the rim, the ground is largely flat, stretching away to a great distance in most directions.
What to See at the Grand Canyon
For some people visiting the Grand Canyon is a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be enjoyed from the comfort of the overlooks on the South Rim. Others want a more intimate experience with the canyon, exploring its many viewpoints, trails and other points of interest over many years. Here are some of the common places to visit:
Grand Canyon VIllage
Grand Canyon VIllage welcomes visitors arriving at the Grand Canyon through the South Entrance. The South Entrance Road heads straight up to the canyon rim from the entrance and then loops off to the west to Grand Canyon Village. The tracks of the Grand Canyon Railway come to an end a short distance from the rim, surrounded by historic lodges, restaurants, shops and other accomodations built in the early 1900s.. Prime views of the canyon are right at hand.
Situated just inside the park's East Entrance, Desert View is named for its overlook of the deserts surrounding the Grand Canyon. Its famous landmark is a viewtower built in the early 1900s called the Watchtower.
The North Rim is the third major entry point into Grand Canyon National Park, but for visitors who approach from the south it is a much longer drive. Leaving U.S. Highway 89A at Jacob Lake, Arizona Highway 67 leads right to the Grand Canyon Lodge, and Bright Angel Point. North Rim is less busy than the South Rim, partly because of the distance, and partly because less of it can be accessed by road. A short distance before reaching Bright Angel Point, Arizona Highway 67 intersects Fuller Canyon Road, which leads to Point Imperial and Cape Royal.
For More Information:
See the National Park Service's official Grand Canyon National Park site, or Wikipedia's Grand Canyon National Park article. Read more about the Grand Canyon in John Muir's short book, The Grand Cañon of the Colorado and Georges James' The Grand Canyon of Arizona: How to See It.
Bright Angel Trail
Plateau Point Trail
The Colorado River|