With its awe-inspiring views, winding Colorado River and plethora of recreational opportunities, it’s easy to see why the Grand Canyon is one of the most visited natural wonders in the world. But how well do you really know this National Park? Here’s a look at some of the Grand Canyon’s interesting facts and the truths behind prevailing misconceptions:
The park was created with a government loophole.
FACT. Adventurer extraordinaire Teddy Roosevelt took just one glimpse of the Grand Canyon in 1903 and knew it was a marvel that needed to be protected for future generations. However, as president, he didn’t have the legal authority to designate an area as a National Park without the approval of Congress, which was just about as deadlocked then as it is today. So instead he jumped on predecessor President Benjamin Harrison’s established Forest Preserve Act and added huge swatches of the Grand Canyon to that protected area. In 1908, he declared the park a National Monument, but formal approval to create the Grand Canyon National Park didn’t pass until 1919.
It’s the deepest canyon in the United States.
FICTION. While it can claim superlatives like ‘most photographed’ and ‘crowd favorite,’ the Grand Canyon isn’t the deepest canyon in the States. That title goes to Hells Canyon. Curving along the border of Idaho and Oregon, Hells Canyon was carved out by the Snake River and drops an estimated half a mile deeper than its southern cousin.
It reveals 40 percent of the Earth’s history.
FACT. The Earth is estimated to be around 4.5 billion years old, while swatches of the Colorado River cut through a type of metamorphic rock dated back to 1.75 billion years old. While it might not have won the record for deepest, its miles of exposed canyon walls offer geologists an extensive and unparalleled record of geologic events. The Grand Canyon is a rocky goldmine that continues to excite and engage both amateur rock lovers and acclaimed scientists.
Archaeologists have found traces of ancient Tibetan or Egyptian civilizations inside Grand Canyon tunnels.
FICTION. At least, most likely. In April 1909, the Arizona Gazette reported two Smithsonian archaeologists had found traces of ancient artifacts – gold urns, painted copper and mummified bodies – believed to be from either an ancient Egyptian or Tibetan civilization. However, such proof of the findings was never brought forth and subsequent searches failed to discover the mysterious cavern. The Smithsonian also denied any affiliation with the two disgraced scientists. Of course, such an event is rich fodder for conspiracy theorists who continue to believe in a Smithsonian cover-up.