We started off the day with a Denny’s greasy diner breakfast, it was fine nothing special, but it did the job of getting us set up for the Grand Canyon and providing some much needed wifi.
We had a good sing along on the drive through Kaibab national forest. On entering the Grand Canyon national park we pulled up at the visitors centre and walked to the canyon. It was phenomenal – it’s enormity did not sink in. I could not imagine how far away the other side was. The Colorado river runs through the canyon for 227 miles. The sheer vastness of the Canyon was overwhelming.
I strolled along the rim trail, tacking in the beautiful scene. The vertical steep cliffs looked so dramatic, the striated, red, sedimentary rocks were picturesque. I sat quietly on the canyon edge, while contemplating the geomorphic processes involved in creating this magnificent formation.
I reached the geological museum along the trail to find out more. I was just in time for an interesting talk called : ‘a glance at Grand Canyon’ s geology’. The speaker summarised the formation of the Canyon in four fascinating steps.
1. There had to be a lot of pretty rocks in the area. This was the case because Northern Arizona used to be periodically covered by the sea. Millions of years ago the sea advanced and retreated in the region eight times, causing sedimentary rocks to be washed into the area forming layers. Sea species fossils have been found suggesting this. Striations on the cliffs currently can be explained by the historic layering of sediment (salt, silt and clay) in the past.
2. Tectonic plates cover the surface of the earth and constantly move at about the same rate your finger nails grow. Over millions of years two plates collided and caused mass elevation in Northern Arizona. Instead of making the earth’s crust break and form mountain ranges the rise of the crust was flat. Hence the flat land surrounding the canyon.
3. The Colorado river runs through the elevated earth crust causing a down cutting and intense erosion. This aided the formation of the canyon and step Valley sides.
4. Further erosion around the river occurred through weathering. Northern Arizona is a dessert. Consequently, at night temperatures are very low and during the day they are very high. Water gets into the cracks in the rock and overnight freezes and expands, so rock is broken away. There are also not many plants which would stabilise the rock. These factors mean there is a high weathering rate which helped form the canyon.
The Grand Canyon is very unique, it formed due to processes happening at a specific time, place and area. If any factors were different the canyon would not have formed.
The drive home was beautiful too with a gorgeous sun set.
Top tips for visiting the Grand Canyon:
-Try to avoid peak season. We went in November which was great, still lots of people but way less than during the summer.
-Bring warm layers, it is at a high elevation and so fairly cold.
-Bring food and water bottles (which you can refill there at water fountains)
-There is no phone signal so decide on a meeting place for your buddies.
-Don’t get too near the edge.
-Make friends with someone who has just been so you can get their vehicle entry pass (they last 7 days)
-Leave nice and early so you have the full day there.
-Wear comfy shoes and clothes so you can go for a good walk.