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12 Things You Didn’t Know About The Grand Canyon

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The Grand Canyon is one of those wonders of the world that you have to just see in person. But, even when you see it, it is as if your brain is not fully equipped to take in the mental, physical and emotional stun that the sight sends to the human brain. Its shear size, depth and relationship to the vast sky above is a lot to take in.

You can go and enjoy the visitor’s centers, stand at the ledge and peer out at the view and even talk to a ranger. But there will still be questions. The Grand Canyon is a place that you must spend time in and immerse yourself in quiet reflection to really FEEL like you are there. In doing so, you may find yourself wanting to know more. Being such an earthly enigma begs for questions to be asked and answered.

Why is the Grand Canyon called the Grand Canyon?

“The Mountain Lying Down” and “Big Canyon” had been the names uttered from men’s mouths for the huge chasm in the earth that is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and a mile deep. But the Grand Canyon as we call it today didn’t come to fruition until 1869 when, one-armed, Major John Wesley Powell and his companions, explored 1,000 miles of the canyon in wooden boats. Major Powell’s expedition prompted him to promote a new name. Because of course, it isn’t just big, it’s grand!

This feat of impossibility garnered such publicity that the name stuck and 150 years later the Grand Canyon is still a canyon and it is just as grand.

Is the Grand Canyon man-made?

I have to chuckle about this question, because not only is the Grand Canyon NOT man-made, but it began forming through acts of nature and time, more than 5.5 million years before man was even on the planet.

The Colorado River has long since been at work rushing past the sandstone that it has whittled away at a rate of around one foot every 200 years.

12 Things You Didn't Know About The Grand Canyon
Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park

What is the lowest point of the Grand Canyon?

The lowest point of the Grand Canyon is still pretty high at almost a half a mile. But, comparatively it is still at a low point. The seldom visited North Rim is at over 8,800 feet so the difference is pretty astounding.

As a side trip, it would be fun to start at the North Rim and then descend into the lowest point at Phantom Ranch where you would have traveled 6,400 feet to get to the lowest point of the Grand Canyon at 2,400 feet.

Was the Grand Canyon filled with water?

Five hundred million years ago the Grand Canyon area was a shallow sea called the Cambrian Sea. About seventy million years ago, two plates came together and began to push up what would become the Rocky Mountains. This began at nearly sea level and raised the elevation of the Colorado Plateau by thousands of feet. Six million years ago, water running off of the Rockies began the rushing Colorado River, which is what began carving the enormous chasm you see today.

What is the volume of the Grand Canyon?

The Grand Canyon is huge! It is so huge that it is difficult to wrap your brain around. However, if you put in numerical terms, it helps to fathom what the mind has a hard time conceptualizing.

If you were to fill the Grand Canyon with water, it would take 1-2 quadrillion gallons of water to fill. That is the same as taking all the water out of every river on the planet and putting it into the Grand Canyon. Except then, it would still only be half full.

How deep is the water in the Grand Canyon?

The Colorado River famously runs through the canyon as it has been doing for six million years. In this time, it has managed to carve through two billion years of geologic history, exposing it for highly trained, scientific minds to decipher.

However, when you see the Colorado River, you might ask yourself, how deep is the river and how much of the Grand Canyon is underwater?

The Colorado River cuts through the Grand Canyon at an average of four miles per hour, although it varies as seasons change and water runoff waxes and wanes with snow melt. The average width of the river is about 300 feet across. This is where the average depth is around 40 feet deep.

But, the chasm does narrow at a point to only 76 feet across, which makes the river deeper at 85 feet deep cutting through the oldest rock in the park, which is almost 2 billion years old.

Is the Hoover Dam part of the Grand Canyon?

The Hoover Dam is one of man’s greatest modern day engineering accomplishments. This feat is an amazing part of history and is definitely something you should see when visiting the Grand Canyon. You may be wondering, is it part of the Grand Canyon?

Hoover Dam is actually located in the Black Canyon, which is 240 miles from Grand Canyon National Park. But, if you take a helicopter ride as part of your Grand Canyon itinerary, chances are you will get an aerial view of the Hoover Dam and the Black Canyon. This view is fabulous and you will see that there are definitely similarities between the two canyons.

12 Things You Didn't Know About The Grand Canyon
Hoover Dam outside of the Grand Canyon

How long does it take to walk the Grand Canyon?

It takes 71 days to hike the 277 miles that is the entirety of the Grand Canyon. But, this task of epic proportions is so difficult, that only a few dozen people have ever accomplished it.

There are no trails for 90 percent of the trek and the major problem becomes finding a water source. . Although the Colorado River runs through the bottom of the canyon, water isn’t everywhere. While hiking everyday, you can only carry about 2 gallons of water at a time, so finding a daily water source is very difficult.

Additionally, the bottom of the canyon isn’t flat. You must climb up and down elevation in order to continue moving forward through the 277 miles and it is taxing mentally, physically and emotionally. From start to finish, because of the elevation changes you will have hiked what is equivalent to the entire length of California or what is like climbing Mount Everest multiple times from sea level. Now, that would be something to brag to your friends about!

Why isn’t hang gliding allowed at the Grand Canyon?

Although the Grand Canyon has some areas that are wide enough for hang gliding, it is illegal to do so inside the park. There is little room for error and the danger of slamming into the rock face is very real.

Does this mean that people abide by this law? Of course not! People still engage in the daredevil activity and some live to tell the tale. There are many Youtube videos of people documenting their hang gliding journey and they feel the risk is worth the reward.

How many states is the Grand Canyon in?

The Grand Canyon is in Arizona. Although it borders the states of Utah and Nevada, Arizona is the proud home to one of the greatest national parks in America.

Do people live in the Grand Canyon?

For thousands of years eleven native American tribes called the Grand Canyon their home, but today the Havasupai people are the only inhabitants living below the rim of the Grand Canyon.

It is not difficult to see why they never wanted to leave such an incredible place. The Havasupai people have been long protectants of the area in which they reside, which has arguably the mot beautiful scenery in the Grand Canyon.

The Havasupai lands are home to five main waterfalls. Havasupai Falls, being the most popular, is 100 feet high and falls into the most beautiful blue-green pool you will ever gaze upon. The other waterfalls are definitely worth the ten mile hike you will need to make to get there, though. Make sure you apply for a permit if you are planning on going, which can be difficult to come by, as the Havasupai area has increased in popularity due to social media.

12 Things You Didn't Know About The Grand Canyon
Havasupai Falls in the Grand Canyon

Can you drive into the Grand Canyon?

There are no roads that lead down into the canyon that are within the national park. But, if you are in for an adventure, you can drive almost 100 miles outside the limits of the North Rim of the park to Lees Ferry. There is a road accessible by 4X4 all the way down to the Colorado River.

You can also access the river inside the canyon at Diamond Creek which is at the western part of the canyon. Take a tour van to the bottom in style and be served a picnic lunch as you enjoy the scenery at the river.

Keep in mind that the dramatic mile high views that you may be expecting can only be reached from inside the park by hiking or taking a mule to the bottom.

The Grand Canyon is a place of history and beauty. Stand at the edge or walk down into the canyon. Any way you choose to see the canyon will be one of the best experiences of your lifetime.

Wendy Edwards
Wendy is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. But for the past seven years she has traveled by RV to many National Parks, monuments and everywhere in between. She and her family of five, a furry canine friend and a bearded dragon have crossed the United States thirty one times. She never tires of hiking, biking, camping and photographing this beautiful country.