In honor of the Grand Canyon’s centennial as a National Park, Musement takes a look at ten things you might not have known about the Grand Canyon.
February 26, 2019, marks the centennial of the Grand Canyon’s designation as a National Park, but visitors to the park can see billions of years of geological history representing the four major eras of the earth’s evolution along the valley walls. The canyon is a result of erosion from millions of years of the mighty Colorado River forging its path through layers of rock. The natural beauty of these multi-colored layers attracts millions of visitors to the park annually, and if you haven’t been there yet, make 2019 the year you visit.
Here are ten interesting things you might not know about the Grand Canyon:
1. If every single person on Earth visited the Grand Canyon at the same time, we still wouldn’t fill it up! Youtuber Michael Stevens talks about this in his popular video “How Many Things Are There?”
2. The park was named a World Heritage Site in 1979 by UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), who called the canyon “the most spectacular gorge in the world.”
3. The first visitors to the Grand Canyon were Spaniards, who explored the site in 1540. They were either not very impressed with what they saw or not very good at describing it because no one else was compelled to check it out until Spanish missionary Francisco Garcés traveled to the Grand Canyon on more of a “business trip” to try and convert the Havasupai Indians to Christianity. The first U.S.-led expedition didn’t happen until 1869. The leader of that expedition, Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell, received Congressional backing for his second trip. This expedition, in 1871, led to the mapping of the Colorado River which seemed to spark more interest in the area.
4. It took six attempts before the Senate finally agreed to designate the site as a national park. President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act thirty-six years after the first bill was introduced by Benjamin Harrison.
5. Frequent near misses and mid-air collisions over the Grand Canyon led to the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration. After a particularly deadly crash in 1956, the public demanded action and congressional hearings were held which resulted in the modernization of air traffic control procedures and the passage of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958, which gave the FAA authority over U.S. airspace.
6. The most remote community in the continental United States is located within the park. Supai, Arizona can only be reached on foot, by helicopter, or by pack animals that are used to bring in food supplies and deliver the mail.
7. Some Native American tribes consider the Grand Canyon a holy land and make annual pilgrimages to the site, offering up prayers for their future.
8. Many movies have been filmed in the Grand Canyon including Thelma and Louise, National Lampoon’s Vacation, Transformers, Fools Rush In, Due Date, and, of course, Grand Canyon.
9. The park is the only place in the world where you’ll find pink rattlesnakes. The Grand Canyon Pink Rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganus abyssus) may be Instagrammable, but they are still poisonous predators, so keep your distance if you come across one.
10. Visitors can reserve the underground suite at the Grand Canyon Caverns Motel for an overnight stay in what was once a former fallout shelter. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy ordered the caves to be stocked with enough food and supplies to support over 2,000 people for more than a month. Spending a night in the underground suite will set you back $900, but you should sleep well since the room is billed as the darkest and quietest motel room in the world.
It’s amazing that the Spanish were able to find the grand canyon all the way back in 1540 and it’s been a popular destination ever since then. My family and I want to see a lot of national parks next summer and the grand canyon is certainly on our list. I’m trying to make a plan right now so that we can maximize our time there and have a lot of fun.