As the second most visited park in the U.S., the Grand Canyon attracts about 6 million visitors every year. With that popularity, you may think this canyon doesn’t have much in the way of secrecy left. However, there are a few fun facts and misconceptions about one of the nation’s most beautiful natural locations that you may not know.
It’s Not the Deepest Canyon in the U.S.
With all the (justified) hype surrounding it, it’s a common misconception that the Grand Canyon is the deepest canyon in the United States. The Grand Canyon is 4,000 feet deep with the deepest point reaching 6,000 feet. This gives it an average depth of about a mile (5,280 feet). Hells Canyon, running along the border of Oregon and Idaho, exceeds the depth of the Grand Canyon by plunging nearly 8,000 feet in some places.
But It’s Still Pretty Big
The Grand Canyon extends for 277 miles and measures 18 miles wide. Totaling 1,904 square miles, this canyon is roughly the size of Rhode Island. The Grand Canyon National Park as a whole is much bigger, coming in at nearly double the size of the canyon at 4,873 square kilometers.
It’s the Gateway to the Afterlife
If you’re part of the Hopi Tribe, you may consider the Grand Canyon to be much more than a stunning feat of nature. This Native American tribe (just one of eleven that have deep ties to the canyon) believe that they emerged from the canyon and that they will pass through it once again on their way to the afterlife. A visit to the Hopi House is a must for those interested in learning more about this tribe and their ancient traditions.
We Don’t Know Its Age
The widely accepted age of the Grand Canyon was around 6 million years old — until recently. A scientific study conducted in 2012 revealed that the canyon could date back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the earth — 70 million years ago. These claims have been met with controversy, but some groups of scientists are willing to compromise for something in the middle. Some speculate that the canyon could have been formed in pieces, meaning it’s possible it could be both as young and as old as the two opposing sides suggest. The quest to pinpoint the Grand Canyon’s exact age continues.
There’s a Community Living in the Canyon
The Havasupai Indian Reservation is located 3,000 feet down at the base of the Grand Canyon on a large tributary of the Colorado River. There is no road access to this community and with a population of just 208, it’s one of the most remote villages in the U.S. It’s so far removed, in fact, that the residents’ mail is still delivered by pack mules.
It Takes Weather Into Its Own Hands
The Grand Canyon’s changes in elevation impact the weather of the gorge. Depending on where you are in the Grand Canyon, the temperature and precipitation can vary quite a bit. For example, the coldest and wettest weather station is less than eight miles from the hottest and one of the driest weather stations. In terms of temperature range, the coldest on record is -22 degrees Fahrenheit and the hottest is 120 degrees Fahrenheit. When trekking about the canyon, it’s crucial to remember to dress in layers — daily temperatures can see a swing of 30 degrees or more.