One of the seven natural wonders of the world and what has become an American symbol of the great outdoors, recently celebrated 100 years since its designation as a national park. Grand Canyon National Park, located in northwest Arizona, was established by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919 and now attracts more than six million domestic and international visitors every year. The park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a landmark or area selected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization as having cultural, historical, scientific, or other forms of significance.
Stretching 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and over one mile deep, the entire canyon and adjacent rim all fall within the boundaries of the national park. Although there has been some geological debate about the inception of the canyon, recent studies support the hypothesis that the Colorado River established its course through the park around five to six million years ago. Furthermore, rocks found at the bottom of the canyon can date back nearly two billion years!
The Grand Canyon is often known for its remarkable size and colorful landscape, but the area is also filled with the culture of America’s first people including collections of rare geological and historical records. For thousands of years, the Grand Canyon has been home to Native American tribes such as the Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, and Navajo who built settlements within the canyon and its caves. The Pueblo people considered the area a holy site and would make pilgrimages there. Human artifacts have even been discovered dating back nearly 12,000 years to the Paleo-Indian period.
Drawn to its extraordinary beauty, adventurers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts alike seek out trips to the Grand Canyon to experience the natural wonder by exploring the river rapids, hiking the trails, and absorbing the cultural history. Peter McBride, a photographer, writer, and adventure filmmaker, hiked the entire Grand Canyon a few years ago where he learned many valuable lessons through living in raw nature. After his experience, he believes the best way to experience Grand Canyon National Park is being away from the vehicles and other loud human noises. McBride stated, “Most visitors spend only a few minutes at the South Rim, experiencing just that famous view of Grand Canyon National Park, unaware of the canyon’s role as home to ancient peoples, animals, and plant life or the threats and economic pressures placed on it.”
Visitors are allowed and encouraged to hike into the canyon. And for those more experienced, some hikes go two-thirds of the way into the canyon carrying your own gear and then camping overnight at the Indian Garden Campground that is equipped with water. Riding a bicycle is an option as well with paths suited for cycling located at both the South Rim and North Rim. Even if you’re someone with limited physical mobility, there are wheelchair-accessible trails. Throughout their centennial year, Grand Canyon National Park will be encouraging all to connect with a park that has inspired 100 years of stewardship. They will be commemorating the past and inspiring future generations to experience, connect, and protect the park’s unique natural, cultural, and historic resources.
“Come. Be Inspired. Go Grand.”