Posts Tagged ‘grand canyon’

A Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure

Monday, July 12th, 2010
A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

A rainbow at the Grand Canyon, Photo by Nancy Holland

It’s practically the American rite of passage. At some point in our lives, we are compelled to visit the Grand Canyon—and for good reason. There is no place on the planet as stunningly beautiful or shockingly vast. With more than five million visitors each year, the Grand Canyon has achieved American icon status. This is a stark difference to the 44,173 visitors in 1919, when the Grand Canyon was first declared a National Park.

While most people visit the Canyon for hiking, photography, and family vacations, it was originally home to many Native American tribes including the Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Zuni, Hopi, and Navajo (also known as the Diné). The oldest artifacts found date back more than 12,000 years, and are well preserved due to the hot and dry climate. It would be easy to think that with all of our technology we would know everything about the Grand Canyon, but the reality is that modern archeologists and other scientists have only surveyed 3% of the Canyon and surrounding parkland, leaving this part of the United States still full of mysteries.

What is your favorite family memory of the Grand Canyon?

The Hualapai Nation and the Grand Canyon

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon  Photograph by Steven King

Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon. Photo: Steven King

Have you ever tried to describe how big the Grand Canyon is to someone who has never seen it? It can’t be put into words how far, how deep or just the amazing colors that burst from the rocks at sunset. Now imagine being able to walk across the canyon and look down as if you were a bird.

The Hualapai (pronounced lə-pī‘) Nation of Arizona thought of that, and then decided to make it a reality. They created a Grand Canyon Skywalk, a U-shaped walkway that extends over the canyon with a clear glass bottom that allows visitors to view it from a different perspective. The walkway spans 70 feet over the Grand Canyon’s rim and sits 4,000 feet above the Colorado River. By the time it was completed in March of 2007, the walkway had received lots of positive press and is considered one of the best day trips from Las Vegas, Nevada. It has attracted over one million people from six continents and more than 50 countries.

You may have heard of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, but how much do you know about the Hualapai Nation? Hualapai means “people of the tall pine” and their ancestral land stretches about 100 miles along the pine-filled southern edge of the Grand Canyon and along the Colorado River. The elevation of the land varies widely—starting at 1,500 feet at the Colorado River and then escalating as high 7,300 feet at its highest point of Aubrey Cliffs, located on the eastern end of the reservation. Physical evidence of the group being in the area dates back to 600 A.D.

Today, there are approximately 1,400 Hualapai people, and the area has gone through revitalization, mostly because of the tourism efforts of the tribe. River-rafting, traditional and modern tribal arts, and hunting expeditions have all helped support the local economy. The results include 200 new homes, an improved community water supply and sewage system, and additional street lights—all valuable to create a solid infrastructure for the future.

How would you describe the Grand Canyon to someone who has never been there?  

You’ve never been to the Grand Canyon? Then check out our Grand Canyon Weekend Adventure and go see it for yourself!  Save $100 per child on this family tour.

World Heritage: Grand Canyon National Park

Monday, November 16th, 2009

In a country with such natural beauty and diversity it is no wonder that three U.S. National Parks have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Yellowstone, Yosemite and Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon National Park, one of the world’s earliest, was designated as such in 1919 and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979.

A 1938 poster advertising travel to the Grand Canyon. Image: Library of Congress.

A 1938 poster depicting the Grand Canyon. Image: Library of Congress.

The Grand Canyon National Park boasts stunning vistas that even the best photographs can’t adequately capture. About the size of Delaware, but located in Arizona, the park is big enough to contain exposed rock that as old as two billion years and has enough diverse microclimates that people can be hiking through snowdrifts and sunbathing on the river bank on the same day.

John Wesley Powell is credited with leading the first passage through the Grand Canyon in 1869 on the Powell Geographic Expedition. Powell, a U.S. soldier and trained geologist, explored the Colorado River and the surrounding areas, gathering information and providing recommendations to developers back east. The extremely rugged and remote landscape of the area prevented major agricultural development, but made it a top-notch destination for intrepid outdoor explorers and athletes. Even so, only 3.3 percent of the terrain has been surveyed by archeologists, who continue to look for more evidence from groups who once inhabited the area. Carbon dating indicates that some artifacts found there date from as far back as 2900 B.C. It is thought that people have lived in the area for at least 8,000 years.

The Havasupai, who are native to the area, continue to live there in Supai village and the surrounding lands; their rock art decorates the nearby cliffs. Today, the park hosts more than four million tourists each year, who walk the trails, climb the cliffs, photograph the scenery, row the river, explore by helicopter, and revel in the grandeur of the Canyon.

What’s your favorite National Park and why? Share below.

Take your family to the Grand Canyon this summer. Join us in June 2010 for an exploration of the park.

Smithsonian Journeys also travels to Yosemite, Yellowstone, Big Bend, and Glacier National Parks. Click  for details.

There is a new mini-series on PBS by Ken Burns about our National Parks. Click to learn more.