I used to hate the Grand Canyon. Yep, that’s how I’m opening this. Granted this sentiment took place during my most precious teen years when I was full of pomp and at the prime of sarcastic circumstance but I hated it none-the-less. I didn’t get it. At sixteen, I was told that I was going to be accompanying my parents to the Grand Canyon, during one of the hottest summers I had ever experienced. I was confined to the back seat of my mother’s car for the entire trip. I could often be found lounging in the back, Doc Martens dangerously dangling outside my window, an old flannel shirt clinging to my waist (despite the heat), listening to a variety of glam-rock ballads from my sony headphones. I was the epitome of cool and was only on this trip for the free food, occasional souvenir, and constant need for attention… oh and I didn’t have a choice in the matter, though I believed I did.
My parents made twenty-two different stops on the Southern Rim of the Canyon during that trip, in an attempt to capture a variety of park-provided “Kodak Moments.” And I made sure to make fun of them each and every time they did- “It’s a good thing you’re capturing this vantage point cause it looks so completely different from the last,” I said with a roll of the eyes. As they ventured out, I sat in the car, arms crossed, pouting the entire time… What a waste.
Today, I love the Grand Canyon. So much so that I recently hiked it with my husband (more to come on this in later posts). We camped below for four days and shot the hell out of it. I’m a photographer now, I like to shoot things. Obviously, my feelings towards the Grand Canyon have completely changed but I also do believe that a trip to the Canyon needs to be one of your own volition, inspired by your thoughts, questions and adrenaline because, due to the Canyon’s size and annual number of visitors, it can also be completely overwhelming.
To help with that, we’ve listed a few quirky facts on the Grand Canyon below. Facts that you don’t often get to hear about, upon first inquiry. Many of these made up the backstory for why Joe and I decided to hike down- I’ve always adored history and we’re both easily inspired by the unexplored and unknown. In fact, as we hiked down, often in solitude, surrounded only by the thick red walls of the Canyon’s crater-like exterior, we would let our minds marinate on these quirky fun facts for hours.
Quirky Facts About the Grand Canyon:
- The Canyon can hold all of the river water on earth and still only be less than half full. Yep, it’s big. 18 miles across, 277 miles long and more than a mile deep. It can also be viewed from space. According to the Daily Mail: “If you took all the world’s population and dumped them into the Grand Canyon, they wouldn’t fill a fraction of it. In fact, the 7.2 billion people would only form a comparatively tiny pile.” That’s ridiculously big!
- How it was formed is still highly debated. The Colorado River has brought heavy erosion to its steep sides for millions of years. Ocean fossils have been found at the bottom and rock layers are visible all around, showing the different ages and environments that the Canyon has experienced. Approximately twenty layers of rock can be found with some dating back to a billion years. That’s ridiculously old!
- The Grand Canyon became a national park in 1919. Congress passed the act that established the National Park in the state of Arizona and Woodrow Wilson signed it. At that time the annual visitation rate was listed at 44,173.
- Hiking, Rafting or Mule! These are the only options for trekking into the deepest and most central parts of the Canyon. Phantom Ranch is a popular camping destination that lies between the Southern and Northern rim. For camping, the National Park receives approximately 30,000 requests per year for backcountry permits but the park can only issue 13,000. The earliest a permit application is accepted is the first of the month, four months before the proposed start month.
- People die, and often. Roughly 4.5 million people visit the Grand Canyon per year. Of those people, it is estimated that an average of 12 die. Some of these deaths are due to medical issues, some to suicide and some are from natural causes. The danger that is present within the Canyon, clearly excites people. There’s even a 3D map called “Over the Edge 3D: Death in The Grand Canyon” if you’re curious. Yes, it’s all a bit macabre but it get’s the point across- be aware and be careful. It’s rough down there.
- Traveling down, You can discover a variety of ecosystems. Every plant and animal that lives in the Grand Canyon has a specialized adaptation that allows them to survive within the different ecosystems. There are more than 1,700 plant species throughout. 17 different types of fish, 91 different mammals, and 47 different reptiles.
- People still live there. The Canyon still holds a population, of 2,000. American Indians have been living in and around the canyon for thousands of years. Specifically, the Havasupai have a reservation that borders the National Park. The Navajo Nation, Hopi, and The Hualapai have also resided within the park for hundreds of years.
- Much of the Grand Canyon remains unexplored. Though it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world, most view it’s landscape from above, leaving much of its canyons, creeks, and crevices completely untouched by man. In 1869, John Wesley Powell referred to the Canyon as The Great Unknown and much of it remains that way, to this day.
Let’s face it, the Grand Canyon is a quirky place. It’s been around for seventeen million years! How it was created is still largely debated, much of it still wildly unexplored, and at night, it’s pitch black spooky, unless there’s a full moon, then it’s just pitch black. Standing there, before the Canyon, one of one of the seven great wonders of the world, you quickly realize how grand it truly is. So what’s your inspiration to go?
“You cannot see the Grand Canyon in one view, as if it were a changeless spectacle… To see it, you have to toil from month to month through its labyrinths.” -John Wesley Powell, 1869