Grand Canyon Significance
The sheer scale, immensity, and uniqueness leaves you breathless. Plus the fact, that you are standing more than mile above sea level where the air is a bit thin. But take a seat, breathe in the pine and sagebrush scented air, and try to absorb the spectacle before you. Here is a magnificent hole in the ground some 5,000-feet deep, 277 miles long (measured by the route of the Colorado River), and upwards of 18 miles in width.
Many other canyons drop sheer or steeply to their bottoms, but the Grand Canyon's profile is stair-stepped. Each horizontal layer of rock, whether it be sandstone, limestone, shale, or some metamorphic type, is of a different hardness and therefore erodes at a different rate, giving us a canyon of unusual breadth and appearance. Additionally, these incredible geologic layers reveal the earth's long history like pages in a book. The oldest stories, which are more than 1.8 billion years old, are at the bottom of the canyon with succeeding layers recording younger and younger environments and events. And although the rim rocks, the Kaibab Limestone, are 230 million years old, much of the rest of the story can be found in the younger rocks exposed east and north of the Grand Canyon.
Not only is the Grand Canyon a geologic marvel, it is also home to more than 1400 species of flowering plants and hundreds of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians arranged in a variety of habitats that mirror ones found from the boreal forests of southern Canada to the sun-baked deserts of northern Mexico. And then there is the human aspect. For more than 12,000 years, people have lived in the Grand Canyon region. The earliest known are the Paleo Indians, who hunted strange, huge mammals left over from the last ice age. These hunters crafted distinctive stone points for their spears. Then came the Archaic hunters, who used the atlatl or spear throwing device to go after smaller game. These folks were followed by prehistoric farming people -- the Anasazi, the Cohonina, the Sinagua, and other cultural groups. Today, native people still inhabit the area. The Havasupai live within one of the great side canyons to the Grand, and the Hualapai, Southern Paiute, and Navajo live near its rims. Other Southwest tribes are also tied spiritually and historically with the canyon.
So join me in exploring this magnificent place...the Grand Canyon.
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