ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How The Grand Canyon Was Formed

Updated on July 15, 2011

The Grand Canyon

John Wesley Powell, a famous explorer and one-armed Civil War veteran, was the first to aptly use the name, "Grand Canyon" in describing one of the world’s natural wonders. In 1869, Powell, and nine companions became the first to mount an expedition through the 1,000 miles of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon.

The expedition was equipped with four wooden boats. However most of their supplies were lost when two of the boats capsized in the dangerous rapids. The party experienced unbearable heat, low morale and loss of three men before completing their historic journey. A second trip was made in 1871—1872, which provided important additional data about one of the last unexplored parts of the United States.

Land Of Abundant Resources

In the late 1800s, the U.S. government show cased the West as a land of abundant resources. The discovery of zinc, copper, lead and other resources in the Grand Canyon attracted a large number of miners during the 1870s-1880s. However, extraction and transportation of ore from the canyon was extremely difficult, and many abandoned their claims to engage in the more profitable tourism trade.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt, changed Grand Canyon from a game reserve to an official national monument. Grand Canyon was named a World Heritage Site in 1979 for its exceptional natural resources.

Santa Fe Trail

When the Santa Fe Trail opened in 1821, enterprising fur trappers, traders and fortune seekers began passing through the region on their way to California. This was followed by the war with Mexico after which much of the Southwest became part of the United States. The government then sent army surveyors to chart the unknown territory. In1857, a U.S. Army survey party commanded by Lieutenant Joseph Ives was dispatched to explore the Grand Canyon. His report was less than promising. Ives wrote “The region is of course altogether valueless. Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality." Apparently he was wrong.

Eons Of Time

The Grand Canyon was formed over eons of time by the Colorado River cutting through it. Millennia of history can be seen at a glance, from the Precambrian bedrock at the river's edge to fossilized sand dunes at the rim.Some of the earth's most ancient rock is found here. Research has revealed about 300 million years after being formed; geologic forces pushed the rock up into a great range of mountains which might have been up to six miles high.Over time, those mountains eroded into a plain and about a billion years ago, it was raised into a second mountain range.

The Colorado River has cut through the accumulated layers of the earth's surface revealing a billion years of history which can be seen at a single glance. Thousands of feet thick, the rock is made up of sediments. 

During later ages, the region sank beneath an inland sea. Primitive shellfish fossilized the sea bottom and eventually became shale. Eons later, the region rose once again as a high plateau and the former sea bottom was now on top and the ancient rocks below.

It’s at this point in time, about six million years ago, the Colorado River began cutting into the upper layers. Tediously carving inch by inch over millennia, it finally uncovered the oldest rocks nearly a mile below the surface.

By the 1880s, John Hance, a hapless prospector known for his witty repartee and engaging tall tales, began leading sightseeing parties into the canyon. His legacy lives on today. The Grand Canyon’s rich geological history and awe inspiring scenic beauty, is one of the world's most popular sightseeing destinations. It is visited annually by over five million sight seers.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)