The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic of the National Parks. People from all over the world flock to gaze at the magnificent hole in the Earth. And this place is not only HUGE, there are some other big facts about the canyon you must know – if you don’t already. Whether you know all of this or not, now you have some butt kickin’ facts to share with your friends over a game of beer pong.
- Grand Canyon is located in Arizona, the 6th biggest state by land area in the United States. And yes, it is ALL in Arizona. While the Colorado River runs through the Canyon and helped carve the canyon, that does not mean it is actually in the state of Colorado. Just sayin’.
- At its widest, the canyon stretches 18 miles across as the crow flies. Conversely, its narrowest point is 4 miles wide, which in comparison seems narrow but there are canyons in Arizona like Buckskin Gulch in Paria Canyon that are only 5 feet wide – yah, crazy. So those of you who think hiking Rim to Rim in Grand Canyon is the best and only way to see all of the canyon, trust me, you are seeing very little. The trails connecting the North and South Rim through the inner canyon (crossing the Colorado River via the Silver or Black bridge) are only 23.5 miles of the vast number of trails that meander throughout the canyon – around 400 miles depending on who you ask. That’s about the same number of miles if you were to travel from LA to San Francisco.
- But the width is nothing. The Grand Canyon starts at Lees Ferry and winds 277 miles to Hoover Dam, bordering Arizona and Nevada. The last time you drove 277 miles was when you drove from Washington DC to Raleigh, NC. If you never have done that, it is a long drive! And within that 277 miles, the Tonto Trail travels the length of Grand Canyon on the South side of the canyon for 99 miles. So if you want to really see the canyon, put aside the popular Rim to Rim and give this trail a whirl (it is not an easy feat by the way).
- And what about the overall area of this massive ditch? Grand Canyon is 1,902 square miles. The state of Delaware is 1,953 square miles. BOOM!! That was the sound of your brain exploding!
- Then there’s the depth. It is discussed so often but it is quite evident by the numbers of people that attempt to hike Grand Canyon with the thought in mind that is must be easy is beyond comprehension. So the fact that this place is a mile deep – 5,280 ft – doesn’t detract people from attempting and failing to hike the canyon. These failures are not pretty by the way and result in over 300 rescues from the canyon per year. So wrap your head around this…the depth of the canyon is like hiking almost 4 Empire State Buildings, over 2 CN Towers, or 3 Willis Towers. When was the last time you walked up the stairs even just once in any of these buildings, let alone walked the stairs even just 3 flights instead of taking the elevator?
- Speaking of the depth, the rock at the bottom of the canyon is known as schist rock and is around 2 billion years old – older than the internet. Rock found at the upper rim of the canyon is composed of limestone and is around 230 million years old. Each year, the Colorado River cuts away another few inches into the Canyon. Now say SCHIST 10 times fast! First person that says SH** has to drink or better, run a mile.
- While we’re at the bottom, let’s discuss the Colorado River. Often, we are asked if swimming is possible in the river. The answer truthfully is YES, it is possible, but not at all advised as your swim will turn into a float then sink very quickly. There are so many places that the river looks nice and calm, but looks are deceiving. That water that looks so enticing and is begging for you to jump in is running at 16,000-21,000 cfs (cubic feet per second). So what the heck does that mean? Well, imagine having 16,000 per second basketballs thrown at you. How do you think that would feel and could you move through that? How about chilling those balls to about 50 degrees F. May not seem cold, but hypothermia in water at that temperature can set in rather quickly and result in unconsciousness in 30 minutes – if you can even keep your head above water that long.
- John Wesley Powell led the first expedition down the Grand Canyon in 1869 and was the first person to use the name Grand Canyon. It was 50 years later, in 1919, that the Grand Canyon finally became America’s 17th National Park. It was also the last unexplored area on the United States map.
- Each year, 5 million people visit Grand Canyon. The state of Arizona has a population of over 6 million people. And even more astounding, 10 times more people visit Grand Canyon per year than live in the state of Wyoming and over 5 times more than living in Delaware.
So there you go! Have fun sharing these tidbits of information.