Grand Canyon - One of
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One of the oldest
Parks in the
Grand Canyon National Park’s great chasm, carved over millennia, is
one of the major natural wonders of the world. With its awe
inspiring views, turbulent Colorado River, numerous hiking trails, and recreational opportunities, the park is
visited by more than 5 million tourists each year.
An extensive system of
tributary canyons, the National Park covers more 1,900 square miles, with the canyon itself being 217
miles long, one mile deep, and its width varying from 4 to 18 miles.
history of people within the canyon stretches back 10,500 years when the
first evidence for human presence in the area has been documented.
Americans have been living at or near the Grand Canyon
for at least the last 4,000 of those years, the first of which were the
These ancient Indians inhabited the rim and inner canyon, surviving by hunting
and gathering along with some limited agriculture. Later the Cohonina tribe lived west of what is now the current site of
Grand Canyon Village. However by the late 13th century, both tribes had
moved on, most likely due to drought.
For approximately one
hundred years the canyon area was uninhabited by humans.
the east and Cerbat from the west were the first humans to reestablish
settlements in and around the Grand Canyon. The Paiute settled the plateaus north of the
River and the Cerbat built their communities south of the river, on
the Coconino Plateau. Sometime in the 15th century the
or the Dine, arrived in the area.
The first documented
case of Europeans viewing the Grand Canyon occurred in September of 1540. That year
led a group of 13 Spanish soldiers under Captain Garcia Lopez de
Cardenas to find the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola for his superior
officer, the conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado.
The group arrived at South Rim of the Grand Canyon between Desert View and Moran Point and saw a river below.
Pablo de Melgrossa, Juan Galeras and a third soldier descended one
third of the way into the Canyon until they were forced to return
because of lack of water. It is speculated that their
must have been reluctant to lead them to the river, as they surely
knew the route to the canyon floor.
Failing in their
attempts to find gold, the Spaniards soon left the area and it would
be more than two centuries before it was once again visited by
In 1776, Fathers Francisco Atanasio
Dominguez and Silvestre Velez de Escalante traveled with a group of
Spanish soldiers to explore southern
Utah. One their journey the group traveled along the North Rim of the Canyon
in Glen and Marble Canyons in search of a route from
The next Europeans to
reach the canyon were James Ohio Pattie and a group of American trappers
in 1826. However, there is little or no documentation of their travels.
The signing of the Treaty
of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 ceded the Grand Canyon
region to the United States. Jules Marcou of the Pacific Railroad Survey
made the first geologic observations of the canyon and surrounding area in
At about the same time Jacob Hamblin, a Mormon
missionary, was sent by Brigham Young to locate easy river crossing sites
in the canyon. Building good relations with local Native Americans and white settlers, he discovered the sites of what would
become Lee's Ferry and Pearce Ferry -- the only two sites suitable for
1857 a U.S. War Department expedition was led by Lieutenant Joseph Ives to
investigate the area's potential for natural resources, find railroad
routes to the west coast, and assess the feasibility of an up-river
navigation route from the Gulf of California. The group traveled in a
stern wheeler steamboat named the Explorer. After two months and 350 miles
of difficult navigation, his party reached Black Canyon. In the
process, the Explorer struck a rock and was abandoned. The group then
traveled eastwards along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
man of his time, Ives discounted his own impressions on the beauty of the
canyon and declared it and the surrounding area as "altogether valueless,"
remarking that his expedition would be "the last party of whites to visit
this profitless locality."
Attached to Ives' expedition was
geologist John Strong Newberry who had a very different impression of
the canyon. After returning, Newberry convinced fellow geologist John
Wesley Powell that a boat run through the Grand Canyon to complete the survey would be worth the risk. Powell was
a major in the United States Army and was a veteran of the American
Civil War, a conflict that cost him his right forearm in the Battle of
More than a decade
after the Ives Expedition and with help from the Smithsonian
Institution, Powell led the first of the Powell Expeditions to explore
the region and document its scientific offerings. On May 24, 1869, the
group of nine men set out from Green River Station in
down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. This first expedition was poorly-funded and consequently
no photographer or graphic artist was included. While in the Canyon of
Lodore one of the group's four boats capsized, spilling most of their
food and much of their scientific equipment into the river. This
shortened the expedition to 100 days. Tired of being constantly cold,
wet and hungry and not knowing they had already passed the worst
rapids, three of Powell's men climbed out of the great chasm in what
is now called Separation Canyon. Once out of the canyon, all three
were killed by a band of Paiutes who thought they were miners that had
recently molested one of their females. All those who stayed with
Powell survived, successfully running most of the canyon.
Two years later a much better-funded
Powell-led party returned with redesigned boats and a chain of several
supply stations along their route. This time, photographer E.O. Beaman
and 17-year-old artist Frederick Dellenbaugh were included. Beaman
left the group in January 1872 over a dispute with Powell. Beaman’s replacement, James Fennemore, quit in August that same year
due to poor health, leaving boatman Jack Hillers as the official
photographer (nearly one ton of photographic equipment was needed on
site to process each shot.) Famed painter Thomas Moran joined the
expedition in the summer of 1873, after the river voyage and thus only
viewed the canyon from the rim. His 1873 painting "Chasm of the
was bought by the United States Congress in 1874 and hung in the lobby
of the Senate.
John D. Lee (of Mountain Meadows
Massacre fame) was the first person who catered to travelers to the canyon.
In 1872 he established a ferry service at the confluence of the Colorado
and Paria rivers. Lee was in hiding, having been accused of leading the Mountain
Meadows Massacre in 1857. He was tried and executed for this crime in
1877. During his trial he played host to members of the Powell Expedition
who were waiting for their photographer, Major James Fennemore, to arrive
(Fennemore took the last photo of Lee sitting on his own coffin). Emma,
one of Lee's nineteen wives, continued the ferry business after her
husband's death. In 1876 a man named Harrison Pearce established another
ferry service at the western end of the canyon.
The Powell expeditions
systematically cataloged rock formations, plants, animals, and
archaeological sites. Photographs and illustrations from the Powell
expeditions greatly popularized the canyon land region of the southwest
United States, especially the Grand Canyon. Powell later used these photographs and illustrations in his lecture
tours, making him a national figure. Rights to reproduce 650 of the
expeditions' 1,400 stereographs were sold to help fund future Powell
projects. In 1881 he became the second director of the U.S. Geological
John Wesley Powell's boat with chair attached,
on the banks of the Colorado River, 1872.
This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
Geologist Clarence Dutton
followed up on Powell's work in 1880–1881 with the newly-formed U.S.
Geological Survey. Painters Thomas Moran and William Henry Holmes
accompanied Dutton, who was busy drafting detailed descriptions of the
area's geology. The report that resulted from the team's effort was titled
A Tertiary History of The Grand Canyon
District, with Atlas and was published in 1882. This and later studies by
geologists uncovered the geology of the Grand Canyon
area and helped to advance that science. Both the Powell and Dutton
expeditions helped to increase interest in the canyon and surrounding
In the 1870s and 1880s, miners began to stake
claims in the canyon, hoping that previously discovered deposits of
asbestos, copper, lead, and zinc would be profitable. However,
access to the canyon and problems removing the ore made exercise not worth
the effort. However, the mining activities did much to improve on the
already existing Indian
trails within the canyon.
During these early years
of the canyon’s exploration, the Indians
continued to live in and near the great chasm up until 1882. It was
at this time that the United States Army began to move them onto
reservations, bringing an end to the
Indian Wars. The Havasupai and Hualapai are descended from the Cerbat and still live in
the immediate area. Havasu Village, in the western part of the current
park, is likely one of the oldest continuously-occupied settlements in the
contiguous United States. Adjacent to the eastern part of the park is the
Nation, the largest reservation in the United States.
A rail line to the largest city in the area,
was completed in 1882 by the Santa Fe Railroad. The following year,
stage coaches began bringing tourists to the canyon from Flagstaff
-- an eleven-hour journey.
Three donkeys at the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon, Standing Tall. Photo by
David Fisk, available for photo prints
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Legends of America
- The Canyon State -
Arizona's storied past reaches back
thousands of years and you will enjoy it's tall mountain ranges, swift
rivers, grasslands, sand dunes, and cactus forests. Experience the many tales
Ghost Towns, Old West Forts,
and Route 66,
to interesting people including
Native Americans, and More.