Arizona’s Natural Wonder
The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of America’s most visited national parks and one of nature’s most surreal and sublime creations. Grand Canyon National Park had 5.5 million visitors in 2015, ranking number 2 among U.S. national parks in visitation. The drive to the South Entrance of the park takes approximately four hours from the Phoenix area.
President Theodore Roosevelt
President Theodore Roosevelt first visited the Grand Canyon in 1903. An avid outdoors man and conservationist, he designated more than 600,000 acres of the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve as a National Game Preserve in November 1906. In January 1908, Roosevelt added adjacent national forest lands and designated it a U.S. National Monument, which was as far as the law allowed without the support of Congress. At that time, the Grand Canyon was a national monument while Arizona remained a territory. Land and mining claim owners successfully blocked additional conservation efforts for another decade, but Congress eventually approved legislation. On February 26, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law establishing the Grand Canyon as the 17th U.S. National Park.
The Grand Canyon numbers among the world’s greatest geological spectacles and may be the most spectacular gorge on the planet. The Grand Canyon measures 277 miles long, from 600 feet to 18 miles wide, and more than a mile deep. The Colorado River, earthquakes, and the powerful forces of water and weather helped create this giant crevice that meanders through the Navajo, Havasupai, and Hualapai Indian Reservations.
The canyon’s horizontal strata retrace the geological history of the last 2 billion years. Geologists estimate it would take nearly one million cubic miles of rock and soil to fill the canyon, which the Colorado River evacuated over time. To enjoy its storied sunsets, it’s best to arrive an hour early to enjoy the dynamic color palette and breathtaking views of mammoth buttes and shadowed side canyons.
The area has been inhabited for thousands of years by Native Americans. These Ancestral Puebloans considered the Grand Canyon a holy site, as do many Native Americans to this day. A member of the Coronado Expedition, García López de Cárdenas, was the first European known to have viewed the Grand Canyon in 1540.
The South Rim Historic Village
This is located at the northern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, features many buildings from the early 1900s. El Tovar Hotel, known as one of the most elaborate hotels west of the Mississippi when it opened in 1905, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987. Other buildings of note such as Hopi House (which also opened in 1905), Lookout Studio, and Bright Angel Lodge were designed by famed architect Mary Jane Colter and are located within walking distance. The South Rim with its average elevation of 6900’ is open year-round, whereas the North Rim is open only from mid-May to mid-October due to its higher elevation of 8100’ and its corresponding heavier snowfall.
The region offers an array of services and facilities for visitors, including more than 2,000 hotel rooms with campgrounds also available. Plenty of options for shopping, dining and other recreation exist, such as mule rides and land and air tours.
Planning your trip well in advance is highly recommended as lodging is sometimes booked up to six months in advance. For more information, visit grand-canyon-park.org.