Regardless of how you view the Grand Canyon - braving the river rapids, hiking from rim to rim, riding a mule or stopping your car at lookouts - you won't leave without experiencing the wonderment that this awe-inspiring gorge evokes in the millions of visitors who come to see it each year. The majestic canyon, an ever-changing display of colors, stretches nearly 280 miles from end to end, is ten miles wide on the average and descends 6,000 feet at its deepest point. Take the scenic East or West Rim drive or descend into the "Inner Canyon" by foot, mule or a raft down the Colorado River, where thrilling rapids are interspersed with calmer waters. Hike down to the Havasupai Falls, where shimmering turquoise water cascades into a crystal pool below. Hiking trails abound and, for the fittest of hikers, the 21-mile rim to rim hike, while grueling in parts, is a rewarding journey. Whether watching the incredible sunset from Lipan Point, trekking down the Bright Angel Trail, the backpackers favorite, or picnicking at the popular Vista Encantadora viewing area, you'll understand why President Theodore Roosevelt declared the canyon a National Monument in 1908, calling it "the one great site which every American...should see."
Grand Canyon National Park, a World Heritage Site, encompasses 1,218,375 acres and lies on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. The land is semi-arid and consists of raised plateaus and structural basins typical of the southwestern United States. Drainage systems have cut deeply through the rock, forming numerous steep-walled canyons. Forests are found at higher elevations while the lower elevations are comprised of a series of desert basins.
Well known for its geologic significance, the Grand Canyon is one of the most studied geologic landscapes in the world. It offers an excellent record of three of the four eras of geological time, a rich and diverse fossil record, a vast array of geologic features and rock types, and numerous caves containing extensive and significant geological, paleontological, archeological and biological resources. It is considered one of the finest examples of arid-land erosion in the world. The Canyon, incised by the Colorado River, is immense, averaging 4,000 feet deep for its entire 277 miles. It is 6,000 feet deep at its deepest point and 15 miles at its widest. However, the significance of Grand Canyon is not limited to its geology.
The Park contains several major ecosystems. Its great biological diversity can be attributed to the presence of five of the seven life zones and three of the four desert types in North America. The five life zones represented are the Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian. This is equivalent to traveling from Mexico to Canada. The Park also serves as an ecological refuge, with relatively undisturbed remnants of dwindling ecosystems (such as boreal forest and desert riparian communities). It is home to numerous rare, endemic (found only at Grand Canyon), and specially protected (threatened/endangered) plant and animal species. Over 1,500 plant, 355 bird, 89 mammalian, 47 reptile, 9 amphibian, and 17 fish species are found in the park.
Grand Canyon is heavily visited for most of the year and it is imperative to plan ahead for lodging, camping, backcountry permits, or mule trips.Details