Grand Canyon National Park Facts
Covering more than 1.2 million acres of land, and visited by more than 5 million people a year, the Grand Canyon is one of the world’s most famous and breathtaking natural wonders.
The canyon itself is about 70 million years old and exposes a geologic history that dates back 1.2 billion years in the canyon wall bands. The mile deep rocks along the Colorado River are home to a rich Native American and United States history. You can experience multiple regions, from the South Rim to the North Rim to the remote community of Phantom Ranch located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, within the national park and also national monuments near the Grand Canyon.
The center of action for the section of the Colorado Plateau is Grand Canyon National Park, which is the hub for Grand Canyon Tours, which opened to the public in 1919. The entire massive, colorful, and deeply carved canyon is entirely located in Arizona, also known as the Grand Canyon State.
In this article, like our Grand Canyon visitors guide, we cover some canyon facts to prepare you for your visit and offer suggestions for tours and destinations to see the most interesting and remarkable part of the Grand Canyon.
Fun Facts About the Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is a perfect place to learn about geological time. It contains ancient, billion year old layers of stones. The youngest rock layer, the Kaibab Formation, is 270 million years old.
Overall, it contains some of the oldest exposed rock on Earth. The oldest known rocks in the canyon, called the Vishnu Basement Rocks, can be found near the bottom of the Inner Gorge. The Vishnu rocks formed about 1.7 billion years ago. Between 5 and 6 million years ago the Colorado River began steady erosion through the miles high walls that contain rocks that are up to 2 billion years old.
The Grand Canyon has one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth, ranging from lush desert oases to cold mountain streams. Its colorful landscape consists of five different life zones; it is home to numerous wildlife species including mountain lions, bighorn sheep, condors, elk and more; it contains a large amount of exposed fossils from over 500 million years ago.
Here are some examples of biodiversity found in the Grand Canyon:
- More than 80 species of mammals can be found within its boundaries, including bighorn sheep, cougars, elk and coyotes.
- More than 355 species of birds have been identified in the park - eagle, condor & swallowtail hawk are just some of them!
- There are 89 plants classified as rare at the Grand Canyon that cannot be found anywhere else on Earth!
With Papillon Helicopters, you can fly over unique landscapes at the West Rim, South Rim, and North Rim. Check out our Offers and Promotions to find a trip to the part of the canyon you are most interested in!
Grand Canyon Facts and History
The Grand Canyon is not only a stunning natural landscape, but also rich in history. Grand Canyon’s geological history is measured in millions of years and human history in the canyon dates back thousands of years. It has evidence of human occupation for thousands of years, with the earliest sites dating back 12,000 years. Native Americans have lived along its banks for centuries, with the earliest known tribe being the Anasazi.
The two most prevalent tribes that reside on reservations at the Grand Canyon today are the Havasupai and the Hualapai.
The Hualapai reservation encompasses about 1 million acres along 108 miles of the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. The “People of the Tall Pines,” the Hualapai run two main tourist attractions: Grand Canyon West and the Grand Canyon Skywalk, a glass-bottomed walkway that extends 70 feet out past the rim of the canyon. These two attractions draw close to a million visitors a year.
The Havasupai, also known as the “People of the Blue-Green Water,” live on 3 million acres near the South Rim. The arrival of the Havasupai is set at around A.D. 1300, and they are known to be the only permanent, continuous inhabitants of the Grand Canyon.
The canyon is also described as the place of emergence for the Navajo, Hopi, Paiute and Zuni. Navajo, Havasupai and Hualapai reservations border the Grand Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon National Park recognizes 11 affiliated American Indian tribes from Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah.
Spanish explorers first reached the Grand Canyon in the 1540s and explorers such as John Wesley Powell and Lieutenant Joseph Ives documented their exploration and discovery of the Grand Canyon during their travels in the 1800s. The Grand Canyon region opened to pioneer settlements in the 1880s. Lured by the abundant copper in the area, the area's remoteness made turning a profit with the metal difficult. Although rich deposits existed, the ore had to be carted all the way to Williams, Arizona, 60 miles away, to be smelted. These early settlers soon realized that tourism was more profitable than mining.
The Grand Canyon was first given its status as federally protected land as a forest reserve. This took place in 1883. The region was relatively quiet until a spur of the Santa Fe Railroad arrived at Grand Canyon Village from Flagstaff in 1901.
Top 10 Grand Canyon Facts
Here are 10 amazing facts about this unique destination.
- The Grand Canyon covers an area of 1,218,375 acres and has depths reaching over a mile deep at certain points.
- The Grand Canyon is full of hidden caves. Believe it or not there are nearly 1,000 caves in the Grand Canyon. Only about one third of them have even been explored or detailed. What if the canyon is full of ancient archaeological treasures?
- This iconic landmark spans 277 miles long, up to 18 miles wide and is one mile deep at its deepest point!
- Geological surveys have found evidence that the Colorado River established its course through the canyon at least 17 million years ago. It was created by millions of years of erosion from the Colorado River, which carved out its spectacular rock formations and incredibly deep canyons.
- There are more than 1,737 species of vascular plants and more than 800 different types of flowering plants found within the canyon walls – with many specifically adapted to survive in this environment! The canyon also contains a vast variety of wildlife including bighorn sheep, bobcats, bald eagles and dozens more species living in this unique environment! In addition, many fossils have been discovered throughout this area including dinosaur remains!
- The North Rim is at a higher elevation (8,000 feet) than the South Rim (7,000 feet) which leads to colder weather conditions and different types of vegetation at each location!
- The Grand Canyon is located entirely in Arizona and is one of the seven wonders of the natural world. It is so big that it has several climate zones: you can find everything from desert to temperate forests inside its walls!
- More than 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon each year – making it one of America’s top tourist destinations.
- There are two Native American communities still actively living within the canyon - Havasupai Tribe & Hualapai Tribe who take visitors on tours through their traditional lands within the park boundaries!
- Archaeologists have discovered ruins and artifacts from inhabitants dating back nearly 12,000 years.
Grand Canyon Facts FAQs
How old is the Grand Canyon?
The Grand is estimated to be around 70 million years old. It was formed over millions of years the Colorado River eroding away at the rocks and layers of sediment present in the area. The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic landmarks in the United States, and its beauty has been enjoyed by millions over generations.
What is unique about the Grand Canyon?
Grand Canyon National Park is among the most visited parks in the United States and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.
Why is it called the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon was given its name in the early 1800s by a cartographer exploring the area. He called it 'Grand Canyon' to describe its immense size and impressive views.
How deep is the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon is over a mile deep and reaches a maximum depth of 6,093 feet at its deepest point. The canyon stretches 277 miles in length, and 18 miles across at its widest point. It is located in northern Arizona and it is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.