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What Is the Grand Canyon?

By Ken Black
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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The Grand Canyon is one of the largest gorges in the world, carved over billions of years by the Colorado River in a picturesque part of Arizona. At 277 miles (466 km) long, and as much as 18 miles (29 km) wide, the Grand Canyon is one of the most impressive landforms found anywhere. In fact, it often makes the list as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

The Grand Canyon is a must-see attraction for many of those visiting the desert West of the United States. The canyon is easily accessible from tourist hotspots such as Las Vegas, Nevada and Phoenix, Arizona. Many organizations run day trip packages to the famous gorge. These packages may include trips to the Grand Canyon National Park or sightseeing flights over the area.

The canyon offers a variety of activities for the outdoors enthusiast. Various hikes, whitewater rafting and even tours on the backs of mules are available. The famous mule or burro rides down into the canyon have been well documented in popular culture and are perhaps the best known of all the tours in the area.

The Grand Canyon is one of the best places in the world to study geology as well. Created over millions, and perhaps billions of years, the Earth's history is carved in each layer of rock as the Colorado River has passed through over the eons. The layers of rock exposed rock, most scientists agree, go back at least 2 billion years. Interestingly enough, there is a gap in the geologic history of the canyon of approximately 1 billion years.

In addition to attracting human beings, the canyon has also attracted a diverse collection of wildlife. Due to the canyon's large size, range in elevations and large areas of unspoiled land, it is one of the most biologically diverse locations in the United States. Foxes, cougars, bobcats, black bears and various other mammals give plenty for visitors to be on the lookout for. Dozens of bird types and fish also add to the biological mix.

Those interested in visiting the Grand Canyon, especially those who are making their first visits, may be somewhat disappointed that the most popular places to visit in the canyon are not unspoiled wildernesses, but rather crowded tourist magnets. Those who can make visits in the fall or spring are encouraged to do so, as the summer is the busiest season. This offers the best chance to see the South Rim, the most popular point of the canyon, without having to deal with massive crowds.

Those who are planning multiple activities, such as a sightseeing flight, mule ride and rafting trip, may want to inquire about package deals. If staying at a resort near the canyon, the concierge may be able to save travelers some money. Often, when packaged together, these activities may come with significant discounts. In some cases, package deals will offer perks such as tours into areas of the canyon that are not normally offered to those who purchase activity options separately.

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Discussion Comments
By anon348092 — On Sep 13, 2013

I always loved the Grand Canyon since I saw the movie called Spirit and I always loved the nature like arches and stair type rocks.

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