The Grand Canyon is one of the most recognizable places on Earth. Drawing millions of tourists every year from all across the globe, it is a bucket list item for many people. With a history as grand as the canyon itself, however, even the most frequent visitor doesn’t know everything about this natural marvel. Keep reading for twenty interesting facts about one of the world’s most famous destinations.
1. Grand Canyon National Park is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island.
The Park comes in at a massive 1,904 square miles, while Rhode Island is around 1,212 square miles. In some places, the canyon itself is over a mile deep and ten miles across. (Photo by NPS/Grand Canyon National Park)
2. The Hopi Tribe considers the Grand Canyon a gateway to the afterlife.
The tribe has always placed great spiritual significance on the site. They believe that upon death, a person passes westward through a “place of emergence,” located upstream from the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers in the canyon, on his or her journey to the afterlife.
3. Temperatures vary greatly within the canyon.
From the rim of the canyon to its lowest point, the temperature can change by more than 25 degrees. The depths of the gorge are notoriously hot during the summer, while the North Rim is often below freezing in winter.
4. The canyon is full of hidden caves.
There are an estimated 1,000 caves within the canyon, but only 335 have been recorded. Only one cave is open to the public.
5. In 1909, the canyon was the site of a giant hoax.
The Arizona Gazette reported that archaeologists had discovered traces of an ancient Tibetan or Egyptian civilization in an underground tunnel in the canyon. The Smithsonian denied this entire story, claiming that they had no knowledge of the archaeologists. To this day, conspiracy theorists still believe this may have been a government cover-up.
6. The Grand Canyon was once home to a booming photo business!
The Kolb brothers discovered that they could make money photographing tourists while they were photographing the canyon for themselves. They would take a photo when the tourists departed on mules and sell them back when the riders returned from their journey. The Kolb Studio is located in Grand Canyon Village.
7. Despite being the most famous, the Grand Canyon is not actually the world’s deepest canyon.
Depending on how the depth of the gorge is measured, the Arizona landmark actually comes behind the Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru and the Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal.
8. The most dangerous animal in the canyon is actually the rock squirrel!
Even though Gila monsters and bighorn sheep also live there, visitors are most often bitten by this humble squirrel.
9. The drive from the North Rim Visitor Center to the South Rim Visitor Center is about 200 miles (320km) and takes roughly four hours.
This definitely puts the size of this marvel into perspective!
10. No one is completely sure about the age of the Grand Canyon.
It was long believed that the Colorado River started carving out the canyon six million years ago, but recent studies have shown this process may have actually started 70 million years ago.
11. The canyon is full of fossils.
Though none of them are from dinosaurs, since the canyon layers were formed long before dinosaurs walked the earth. It is, however, home to fossils of ancient marine animals that date back 1.2 billion years. (NPS photo by Michael Quinn)
12. There’s a town inside the canyon.
With a population of 208, Supai Village is the most remote community in the continental United States.
13. It’s home to a huge mystery!
The Grand Canyon displays a geological phenomenon known as the Great Unconformity. This phenomenon refers to the fact that 250-million-year-old rock layers lie directly against 1.2 billion-year-old rocks. No one knows what happened to the hundreds of millions of years of missing layers.
14. The canyon is home to pink snakes.
The Grand Canyon Pink Rattlesnake is only found in the Grand Canyon, and is one of six rattlesnake species that live within park boundaries. The snake’s pink color means it blends into the rocks around it, making it extra surprising when a tourist catches a glimpse of one.
15. Fewer people have successfully completed a continuous length-wise hike through the Grand Canyon than have walked on the moon.
16. The air at the Grand Canyon is among the cleanest air in the United States.
Take a deep breath! The elevation of the South Rim is around 7,000 feet (2133m) above seal level.
17. It’s still changing shape!
The Colorado River flows through the canyon, which, combined with wind and rain, shapes it over time. It’s happening too slowly to see, but it is changing nonetheless.
18. The Federal Aviation Administration exists because of the Grand Canyon.
In the 1950s, commercial airplanes often took detours over the park to give passengers a look at the marvel. In 1956, however, two of these planes tragically collided. The crash had no survivors, leading the federal government to create the FAA.
19. Hundreds of split-twig figurines have been discovered in the canyon walls, shaped like deer and bighorn sheep.
Anthropologists believe that prehistoric hunters used these in religious rituals.
20. The Grand Canyon is so big and so diverse that visitors can actually experience completely different ecosystems.
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