Grand Canyon - History

The magnificent Grand Canyon ranks among the Seven Wonders of the Natural World for good reason. The sheer magnitude and fascinating geology of this incredible chasm combine to make it unlike anything else on the planet. In size alone – a staggering 277 miles in length, a depth of over one mile and 18 miles at its maximum rim to rim width – the Grand Canyon is the standard to which all others are compared.

For all its fame and prestige, the Grand Canyon is relatively young. New research indicates that the canyon began to open about 17 million years ago and was completely cut through by five or six million years ago. The region’s layers upon layers of limestone, sandstone and shale built up over the eons and were thrust upward with the collision of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates, which formed the Colorado Plateau. The canyon opened steadily, west to east, as the mighty Colorado River carved its way through the rock formations.

In 1869, John Wesley Powell became the first American explorer credited with traveling the Colorado River by boat and giving the canyon its name. However, evidence suggests that the region’s earliest inhabitants populated the canyon beginning about 12,000 years ago. Today, visitors to the Grand Canyon can see artifacts as old as 4,000 years, including pottery fragments and twig figurines, at the Tusayan Pueblo Ruin in the South Rim area.

The Grand Canyon was designated a forest reserve in 1893 and a national monument in 1908. Eight years later, it was named a national park and in 1979 became a World Heritage Site. The Grand Canyon Village Historic District, declared a National Historic Site in 1987, features many buildings dating to the 1920s.