Interesting Facts About Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon national park is an American year-round vacation destination found in north-western Arizona.

The park receives millions of tourists annually, all thanks to the Grand Canyon (mile-deep gorge), which is the main attraction.

Scientific findings estimate parts of the canyon to be approximately 70 million years old, with the newest being about 6 million years old.

While the canyon has been a human habitat since the last Ice Age, the first Europeans (Spanish explorers) didn’t reach the Grand Canyon until in the 1540s.

It was first protected as a forest reserve in 1893 before being designated a national monument in 1979.

Later, on February 26, 2019, the canyon became a national park.

Read on for more interesting facts about the Grand Canyon National Park to increase your basic knowledge of one of the world’s most fascinating destinations.

grand canyon
Lennart Sikkema, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

1. It Influences the Weather

The gorge has an elevation spanning from about 2,000 ft. at the Phantom Ranch to over 8,000 ft. in the North Rim, allowing it to impact temperature and precipitation, thus influencing the weather.

Generally, the temperature increases by 5.5 degrees Celsius with every 1000 ft. drop in elevation.

Depending on where you’re located and the altitude, the weather can either be rainy or sunny.

You may also experience extreme heat during summer and below freezing-point temperatures during winter in different parts of the landmark because it’s so vast.

2. There’re Plenty of Hidden Caves in The Canyon

Hidden within the gorge are about a thousand caves, with only 335 having been explored and documented.

Even fewer caves have been mapped as only one cave, but only the Cave of the Domes is open for visitation by the public.

3. It’s Bigger Than the State Of Rhode Island

The Grand Canyon National Park measures 1,904 square miles and it’s not the entire canyon.

The Grand Canyon itself measures about a mile in depth, 277 miles in length, and 8 miles in width. While Rhode Island is just 1,212 square miles.

The canyon is also larger than the United States of Virgin Islands, American Samoa, District of Columbia, and Guam.

4. The Real Age Of The Grand Canyon Is Not Really Known

The Grand Canyon is one of the most studied sites in the world, with much archeological history and extensive fossil records.

It was long believed that this famous landscape was carved as a result of erosion and powerful currents from the enormous Colorado River over 5 to 6 million years ago.

Nonetheless, a 2012 study suggested that the process may have actually started about 70 million years ago.

Recent geological evidence points to a likelihood of the present Grand Canyon having started as a series of smaller canyons millions of years ago, with the current formation taking shape more recently.

Moreover, the great depth of the canyon reveals many rock layers with the youngest layer spanning about 240 million years old, and the oldest 1.7 billion years old.

5. The Grand Canyon National Park Is One Of The Most Popular Tourist Destinations In The United States

The park received approximately 44, 173 visitors in 1919 when it was created.

A century later, Grand Canyon receives about 6 million visitors a year, making it the second most popular national park in the U.S.

The most visited national park in the U.S. is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park of North Carolina and Tennessee, which draws over 11 million tourists annually.

6. The Rock Squirrel Is The Most Dangerous Animal In Grand Canyon

While the Grand Canyon is home to a wide array of wild animals including, mountain lions, black bears, rattlesnakes, scorpions, elks, California Condors, venomous lizards, bighorn sheep, Gila monster, etc., the rock squirrel is the animal to be most afraid of.

Every year, hundreds of patients visit various hospitals seeking medical care as a result of attacks by the rock squirrel.

However, it has been established that these animals only attack when startled or when visitors try to feed them.

Visitors must thus learn to keep their distance when touring the park.  

7. You Don’t Have To Set Foot On The Grand Canyon To Enjoy Its Charm

The Skywalk by the Hualapai Tribe consists of a horseshoe-shaped steel structure with a glass floor and sides, which allows visitors to get an aerial view of the canyon while on air.

It’s the main attraction at Grand Canyon West.

8. Visiting The North And South Rims In The Same Day Is Not As Easy As It Seems

While the North and South Rims of the Grand Canyon are only about 10 miles apart, you’d have to drive for over 5 hours to get between the two points.

This is about 215 miles through the park, over the Colorado River, and around the canyon.

This is one of the many ways to understand the vastness of this landscape.

9. Souvenirs And Other Keepsakes May Be Bought, However, They Should Not Be Taken

Being a World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon National Park belongs to everyone.

Therefore, every artifact, plant, wood, etc. must be left as it was found so others can have a similar or better experience in the future.

10. Home To Grand Canyon Pink Rattlesnakes

This pink rattlesnake species is only found in the Grand Canyon among five other rattlesnake species that live within the park boundaries.

The pink color allows the snake to blend into the rocks around it, making it very hard to see but very gratifying when a tourist sees one.

11. It’s Still Evolving

Given that the Colorado River flows through the canyon, erosion, rain, wind, etc. continue to shape it over time.

It may be gradual, but it’s happening nonetheless.

12. It’s A Thriving Plant And Animal Community

At a glance, the park looks like a desert with very little vegetation, nevertheless, it features over 1700 species of several plants including fungi, moss, lichens, coyote willow, arrow weed, and cat-claw acacia among others.

While 10% of the plants are exotic Flora, dozens are endemic. As elevation increases along the North Rim, forests take over.

You’ll also find over 90 species of mammals at the canyon, including 22 bats and 18 rodents.

13. It’s Not The Deepest Gorge

While being the world’s most spectacular gorge, it’s still not the deepest nor the longest in the world.

With an average depth of about a mile, the Grand Canyon is a far cry from the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon in the Himalayas, which features a depth of 17, 567 ft.

14. There’re Human Inhabitants Within The Park

The Supai village hosts a population of about 208 people and is the only human settlement around within the park boundaries.

The village is only accessible by air and is considered the most remote residential community in the continental U. S.

You might assume you know all there is about the Grand Canyon; however, this Arizona wonder will still surprise you.

It would be greatly rewarding to pay a visit to Grand Canyon National Park to learn about the rich history and enjoy its inexpressible natural beauty.

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