Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona’s most visited park and the second largest in the United States. This park is located in northwestern Arizona. The park covers an area of 4,931 sq km, and includes the most spectacular part of the canyon carved by the Colorado River. The area became a national park in 1919.
The Grand Canyon, declared by UNESCO in 1979, a world heritage site, represents the most spectacular example in the world of river erosion. The Colorado River has carved into the rocks of the Arizona plateau, an incision 1,600 meters deep, up to 29 km wide and 446 km long (from Lees Ferry to Grand Wash Cliffs). The river over millions of years has dramatically shaped the surrounding landscape.
The origin of the Grand Canyon dates back to around 5-6 million years ago. Probably the phenomenon was accentuated by a rise in the Colorado plateau, which caused an increase in the height difference of the course of the Colorado River and its tributaries, causing a faster erosion by the rivers that flowed into the Gulf of California.
The result of this erosive phenomenon is one of the most complete geological sections of the planet. A real page of a great history book. It ranges from 230 million year old rocks from the Kaibab Limestone on the edge of the canyon to 2 billion year old rocks from the Vishnu Schist at the base of the Inner Gorge. The Grand Canyon crosses a plateau between 1,525 and 2,745 meters high, the surface of the plateau is slightly inclined in a south-west direction.
A SPECTACULAR PARK
The park is divided into two sections, the South Rim and the North Rim. The two parts are separated by the Colorado River canyon, the river is located at a depth of 1.6 km. Between the North Rim, the northern rim of the canyon, and the South Rim, the southern one, there is a difference in height of about 365 meters. Dense forests grow along the North Rim, formed by the Kaibab Plateau. Also along the South Rim, the southern edge of the canyon, lower and formed by the Coconino Plateau, there are forests of evergreen plants, although less dense than those present on the northern slope. Other types of vegetation are those found inside the canyon, here the vegetation is mainly formed by plants typical of the desert climate, such as agave, cactus and yucca.
The straight line distance between the two edges of the canyon is only 10 miles (16 km). But the road distance between the South Rim Village and the North Rim Village is 215 miles (346 km), which takes about 5 hours to drive. Remarkable is the difference in climate and vegetation between the two parts of the park due to the different height between the two edges. The South Rim (2,134 meters), easier to reach, is the most visited of the two; less visited is the North Rim (2,438 meters), wild, secluded and more difficult to reach.
DISCOVERED BY THE SPANIARDS IN THE 16TH CENTURY
The Grand Canyon area was inhabited by Native American tribes who built some settlements along the canyon walls. The first Europeans to see the Grand Canyon were, in 1540, members of a small Spanish exploratory expedition sent by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado. The expedition led by Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas was made up of a small group of Spanish soldiers and some Indian Hopi guides. They explored the South Rim between present-day Desert View and Moran Point. Pablo de Melgrossa, Juan Galeras, and a third soldier descended into the canyon for a third of the way to the river, but were later forced to go back due to lack of water. After this expedition no other European visited the Grand Canyon for the next 230 years.
Hours: The South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The North Rim is open from mid-May to mid-October.
Tickets: The entrance ticket costs $ 25.00 per vehicle and also includes all vehicle passengers. The entrance ticket for those arriving without a vehicle (on foot, by bicycle, by motorbike) is $ 12.00 per person. The ticket is valid for 7 days (entry under 16 is free) and includes entrance to the South Rim and North Rim.
South Rim services available: campsites, accommodation and restaurants are open all year round (it is recommended to book well in advance). A free shuttle bus service operates in the Grand Canyon Village area. Visitor Center: The park’s main Visitor Center, Canyon View Information Plaza (open every day of the year from 8 am to 17 pm), is located in Mather Point (reachable only via the free bus). At the east entrance of the South Rim park is the Desert View Information Center, open from 9 am to 17 pm, excluding the winter months.
North Rim services available: campsites and accommodation are open from mid-May to mid-October (it is always recommended to book well in advance). Visitor Center: The North Rim Visitor Center, located near the parking lot of the Bright Angel Peninsula, is open from mid-May to mid-October, from 8 am to 18 pm.