Rock of Ages: the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is 270 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and took approximately 17 million years to form. Think about that, 17 million years. To put that into context, that was about the time of the cycle of Ice Ages began, and was at least 10 million years before the earliest form of humans evolved (Creationists, please exit stage left). What appears to be nothing but a jagged crack in the parched Arizona landscape is actually a thriving oasis of life in the middle of a red desert. It also provides an incredibly accurate slice of what happened to this geographic area completely beyond our scope of Now.

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It’s not difficult to imagine giant prehistoric creatures roaming these canyons for millions of years. The Ancient Pueblo Native Americans (“Anasazi,” meaning ancient enemy, is not a preferred term) in the Four Corners area of the United States were the first to live in and around the Grand Canyon, joined by Cohonina and Sinagua peoples, between 500 and 1200 AD. The height of the Byzantium Empire was in 500 AD, and Mohammed was believed to have been born in approximately 570 AD. Europeans came along in 1540 AD, under the direction of conquistador Francisco Coronado, and President Woodrow Wilson created the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919 AD.

The youngest rock in the canyon is from the Triassic Period.

Changing water levels of the Colorado River are easily visible.
Changing water levels of the Colorado River are easily visible. Photo credit: Louisa Gaylord
An ancient landslide deposited rocks into the main river, creating rapids perfect for rafting.
An ancient landslide deposited rocks into the main river, creating rapids perfect for rafting. Photo credit: Louisa Gaylord
The iconic step- slope- step formation that the Grand Canyon is known for.
The iconic step- slope- step formation that the Grand Canyon is known for. Photo credit: Louisa Gaylord
Millions of years of flowing water have carved away at these rocks until they form a smooth channel.
Millions of years of flowing water have carved away at these rocks until they form a smooth channel. Photo credit: Louisa Gaylord
Thor's Anvil: volcanic activity deposited ash and lava in the Colorado River between 3 million and 100,000 years ago.
Thor’s Anvil: volcanic activity deposited ash and lava in the Colorado River between 3 million and 100,000 years ago. Photo credit: Louisa Gaylord
The parched red desert of Arizona.
The parched red desert of Arizona. Photo credit: Louisa Gaylord
The author, prior to jumping the waterfall into the clear pools below.
The author, prior to jumping the waterfall into the clear pools below.

It almost never happens that we are able to touch the evidence of such ancient history with our own hands. It maps climate changes, water levels, volcanic activity and the shifting of tectonic plates. Due  in part to the protection and preservation of the government, the Grand Canyon is an irrefutable example of the enduring history of time, rather than our of our species.

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