Who needs to describe the Grand Canyon? It’s one of the natural and scenic wonders of the world. Most people have a vision of it in the mind’s eye. Over four million people visited Grand Canyon National Park in 2012 from around the globe.
Grand Canyon is nine to 11 miles across, 277 river miles long, and one mile deep to the Colorado River that carved it over the millennia. The size defies the imagination, and even viewing it in person only offers a perspective that human vision can comprehend, not the sheer size of the vast and massive formations and side canyons.
The entrance to the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park is 75 miles from downtown Flagstaff, making it a perfect day trip.
Tourists arrive all day, every day, by car, bus and plane. Passengers ride helicopters over it, hikers hike it, and the adventurous ride mules to the bottom or raft the mighty river through it. In a lifetime one could never take in all of Grand Canyon. Some people see the Canyon once in a lifetime. From Flagstaff we can buzz up there for breakfast at sunrise (in the wintertime; . . . sunrise comes pretty early in the summer!).
The oldest human artifacts found in Grand Canyon are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period. There has been continuous use and occupation of the park since that time. In 1540, Spanish explorers under the command of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado were the first Europeans to approach Grand Canyon on an expedition from Mexico. The expansive canyon proved too daunting and they headed east, never descending to the Colorado River.
Major John Wesley Powell led an expedition of ten men by boat – the first to explore the length of the Canyon on the Colorado River – in 1869. They departed Green River, Wyoming in four boats, to first explore the Green. Early in the trip one boat was lost, and later, in the depths of Grand Canyon, three men decide to abandon the expedition citing the dangers and their better chances of making it out safely on foot. They were never seen again. Just days later, the remaining members of the party safely reached the end of the Grand Canyon portion of the Colorado.
A spectacular film depicting Powell’s expedition, and the natural and human history of Grand Canyon, is shown multiple times each day at the IMAX Theater in Tusayan, at the South Rim entrance. For most visitors, it’s the best way to see what they won’t see or experience from the rim.
Seeing the Grand Canyon in winter with a blanket of new fallen snow is also a treat, but the fresh snow is often fleeting.
Weather conditions at the Grand Canyon are similar to those in Flagstaff and can change rapidly. The South Rim (8000 feet) is one thousand feet in elevation higher than Flagstaff, and the North Rim is 9000 feet. The plateau out of which the Canyon is carved slopes slightly upward toward the north. Temperatures deep in the Canyon at the elevation of the Colorado River (one mile down) are much higher, similar to those in Phoenix on any given day.
During the summer rainy season, the clouds, sun and shadows are ever changing, offering the most interesting opportunities for pictures, as the scene can differ from minute to minute. Thunderstorms over the Canyon are an awesome sight, but lightening does pose a danger.
With Flagstaff as the hub, there are many day trip destinations for scenic beauty and historic and cultural enrichment to see and enjoy in all directions. Its a great place to visit or live.