The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular natural attractions in the United States. It is visited by more than 5 million (!) people a year for trekking and sightseeing. Thanks to such fame, there is almost nothing we don’t know about the Grand Canyon – many facts wander from website to website, from prospect to prospect. With that in mind, here are 10 facts about the Grand Canyon that you may not have known.
1. Indigenous People
The Grand Canyon is still home to a tribe of North American Havasupai Indians, which translates to “people of blue-green water.” They live in a village near one of the Colorado River’s tributaries, the Havasu River. You can get here by helicopter or on foot trails winding along the canyon walls.
2. The Size of the Grand Canyon
This may disappoint many, but the Grand Canyon is not the largest canyon in the world. It is the second largest in the world and second in length and depth to Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet.
3. Water and Plastic
In Grand Canyon National Park you cannot buy water in plastic bottles. As of late, all the retail outlets have been closed. It turns out that 20% of all the waste the park produces is plastic bottles. You may ask: What should I do if I’m thirsty?
It’s simple: bring a sports flask or a reusable water flask. Throughout the park there are special “watering stations” where you can fill your flask with clean drinking water an unlimited number of times for free.
4. Dinosaur Fossils
No dinosaur remains have been found in the bottom rocks of the Grand Canyon. And that’s because these rocks are much older – about 2 million years old. Corals, sponges and trilobites are found here as fossils. The canyon itself began to form 5-6 million years ago.
People lived in the Grand Canyon area as early as 3,000 years ago. Archaeological evidence suggests that the first human settlements in and around the Grand Canyon appeared as early as 3,000-4,000 years ago.
Since then, the local landscapes have not changed much. Remember this if you are fortunate enough to visit here. When you watch the sunset or sunrise over the Grand Canyon you will see the same scenery as the locals did thousands of years ago!
6. Spanish Expedition
The Grand Canyon was “discovered” in 1540 by the Spanish expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. The Spanish reached the canyon in search of Native American riches and the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. They did not stay long in the canyon because of the lack of water. Of course, there had been no watering stations.
According to statistics, the Grand Canyon is a rather dangerous place. Every year several people die here. For example, in 2014, the Grand Canyon claimed the lives of 18 people. Causes vary:
- heart attack;
- car accidents;
- falls from heights and other accidents.
From 1925 to 2005, 53 people died after falling from the edge of the canyon, and another 48 people died of various causes while in the canyon itself. Several people died after failing to steer and falling into the canyon with their cars.
8. Spirits and their habitats
The Grand Canyon, even before it became a major tourist attraction in the United States, was a place of worship and pilgrimage among the indigenous peoples who inhabited the area. It was believed to be home to spirits and a place of great natural power.
9. South Kaibab Trail
There is a South Kaibab Trail that runs across the canyon. Traversing down the canyon wall, it crosses the Colorado River and goes up the opposite wall. The trail is 34 kilometers long.
It takes at least two days to complete this route, and you’ll have to spend the night in the canyon. Such a hike is clearly not for beginners – the temperature gradient between the top and bottom of the canyon reach several degrees, and still need to carry a tent!
10. South and North Rim of the Grand Canyon
It takes about 5 hours to get around the canyon by car. The direct distance from the South to the North rim of the canyon is only 15 kilometers. But to get from one edge to the other by car, you have to go around the canyon completely. The length of the way is 350 km and about 5 hours.
That’s why most people only get to visit the canyon from one side in one day. There is a special bus called the Transcanyon Shuttle which will take you from the north of the canyon to the south and back in one day.
A round trip ticket costs about $150. Perhaps a helicopter excursion would be worth it. It is $100 more, but you can see the entire Canyon from every possible vantage point in about 20 minutes, and save yourself a tremendous amount of time.