So, you're planning a trip to the Grand Canyon. You're probably excited to see this natural wonder in all of its beauty. However, the more you know about the canyon going into your adventure, the more you will be able to admire it and enjoy the experience. To that end, here are five cool facts about the Grand Canyon.
It's 18 miles across at its widest point.
When you see pictures of the Grand Canyon, you don't always appreciate just how wide it is. At its widest point, it stretches more than 18 miles across. It would take you about 5 hours to briskly walk that far—and that's if the surface were entirely flat! Of course, the Canyon is even longer than it is wide—277 miles long, that is. It stretches through the northwest corner of Arizona and just misses extending into the neighboring states of Utah and Nevada. There's a reason it's called the "Grand" Canyon: it's really, really monstrous.
More than 1,700 species of plants live in the canyon.
Before they visit the canyon, most people tend to focus on the natural geography of the area. However, the biological life in and around the canyon is just as interesting. There are about 1,737 species of vascular plants—and also hundreds of species of mosses and lichens—living in the canyon. The type of plants you see varied based on elevation. Below 6,200 feet, you see mostly pines and junipers. Between 6,500 and 8,200 feet, there are a lot of Ponderosa pines, locusts, oaks, and elderberries. At the North Rim, there are meadows and grasslands, which contain species like Indian ricegrass and three-awns. One of the most interesting aspects of touring the Grand Canyon is seeing how the plants change as you go deeper and deeper.
The Grand Canyon was federally protected in 1893.
Although the Grand Canyon was not named a National Park until 1919, it was designated as federally protected Forest Reserve in 1893. The National Park Service was created in 1916, and the Grand Canyon was one of the first parks designated as such. It took many years for the park to become widely popular, however. Millions of people now visit the park each year—only about 44,000 visitors per year entered Grand Canyon National Park in its early years.
Archaeologists have found interesting human artifacts in the canyon.
Native Americans lived in and around the Grand Canyon for years before Europeans settled in America. This is known thanks to archaeological artifacts that have been discovered in the area. Some of the more interesting things that have been found include clay storage pots from thousands of years ago, ancient fire pits, and storage pits that were once used to house food reserves. Sometimes, artifacts are discovered by tourists and casual visitors to the canyon. The park requests that anyone who discovers something that may be valuable or historic turns it in to a park ranger.
The canyon includes some caverns and caves.
The canyon is not just a smooth indent in the ground. There are many caverns and caves in the sides of the Grand Canyon. It is never advised to explore these caverns alone, since some are unmapped and may not be safe. There are various tour groups that offer guided walks through some of the more interesting caverns. Damp and cold, the caverns are very different from the surface around the canyon!
Now that you know a bit more about the Grand Canyon, you're ready to have a grand adventure. Do as much as you can on your trip—this could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Contact a company that offers Grand Canyon tours for more information.