The Grand Canyon is a steep-sided formation created by the Colorado River in Arizona, United States. The canyon is known throughout the world for its size and colorful landscape. Measuring 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and over 6,093 feet deep, the wall of the canyon contains rocks that reveal a timeline of the history of the Earth. The formation process of the canyon may have begun over 70 million years ago, but the majority of the canyon began to take shape about 6 million years ago. The Grand Canyon is contained within the Grand Canyon National Park and is a major natural tourist attraction in the US.
Geography of the Grand Canyon
The canyon is a valley in the Colorado Plateau and is among the six distinct physiographic portions of the Colorado Plateau Province. Although it is not the world’s deepest canyon, the Grand Canyon is popular for its size and beautiful landscape. The well-preserved rocks on the wall of the canyon bear the history of the early geological activities of North America. The area that is drained by the Colorado River experiences higher precipitation, but not enough to transform the desert-like condition of the Grand Canyon area. The North Rim experiences lower temperatures compared to the South Rim due to its greater elevation. However, rains are frequent on both rims, especially during summer months.
Geology of the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon forms a portion of the Colorado River Basin, which has existed for millions of years. Earlier estimates placed the origin of the Grand Canyon at 6 million years ago. However, a 2012 study published in Science suggests that the canyon may be 70 million years old, though the study has been considered inaccurate by the proponents of “6 million years” theory. The Grand Canyon was formed by erosion, depositing some of the formations in shallow seas. The great depth of the canyon can be attributed to the uplift of the Colorado Plateau. The gradient of the Colorado River has been steepened by the uplift, increasing the speed of water and its ability to cut through the rocks. Weather conditions also raised the volume of water within the river drainage system, with the river responding by cutting its channel faster and deeper.
Biodiversity of the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the most biodiverse areas in the US. There are over 1,700 known vascular plant species, 160 fungi species, and over 195 lichen species within Grand Canyon National Park. The rich variety of plant species is attributed to the higher change of the elevation of the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon has dozens of endemic plants that are only known within the park’s boundaries, with 63 plant species given special status in the US. There are about 90 species of mammals inhabiting the Colorado River Corridor, 18 of which are rodents, and 22 species of bats.
Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most popular natural attractions in the world. The canyon attracts over five million tourists every year, with the majority of tourists (83%) drawn from the US. Popular activities within the park include sightseeing, skydiving, rafting, and helicopter tours.