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Grand Canyon, USA
Grand Canyon – Arizona, USA
The Grand Canyon is one of the best-known natural landmarks in the world, and is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Technically speaking, it is a steep-sided gorge caused by the carving effects of the Colorado River in northern Arizona. Due to rich deposits of minerals that are susceptible to rusting, the sands and rocks are brightly colored in reds, browns, and oranges.
The canyon is part of the larger Grand Canyon National Park, which was one of the first national parks designated by Theodore Roosevelt. Of course, the biggest feature of the park (quite literally) is the canyon. It stretches 277 miles and varies between 4 to 18 miles in width. The deepest portions of the canyon are a mile from ground level.
As a natural geographic feature, the Grand Canyon is the result of the strong currents of the Colorado River. For some hundreds of millions of years, the river has slowly cut its way downward. It’s so far down, in fact, that the rapids down below appear to be stationary. Geologists love the Grand Canyon since its sides expose a large portion of the Earth’s history through sedimentary layers. The combined action of the river cutting downward and the gradual rise of the adjacent plateaus have created one of the most breathtaking visuals you can experience in America.
The first recorded discovery of the Grand Canyon by European explorers was by Garcia Lopez de Cardenas of Spain in 1540. It wasn’t until 1870 that the first scientific expedition led by US Major John Powell unveiled the rich geological history of the canyon.
Though the Grand Canyon existed well before the first human inhabitants, it has repeatedly been the site for some for human settlement dating back 3,000 years. A primitive desert culture has left behind numerous animal sketches and other artifacts. The next known inhabitants of the region were the Ancestral Puebloans who were expert basket makers and occupied a small portion of the region. Numerous other peoples have lived, worked, and played here throughout the ages.
Visiting the Grand Canyon is easy enough. The Interstate system in Northern Arizona leads inevitably to this massive natural landmark. Casual observers can peer over the ledges at an average height of 7,000 feet above sea level. Below, there is a popular hiking and whitewater rafting culture. While it’s possible to work your way down by hiking and mule backing from the top, most people get there by floating downriver and descending into the canyon. For the more upscale experience, you can hire a helicopter pilot to take you through the canyon!