The National Park System was created when Yellowstone National Park was established by Congress as the nation’s – and world’s – first national park on March 1, 1872.  Today the National Park System covers more than 85 million acres in 418 sites. 

Just last week the Grand Canyon celebrated being a part of the NPS for 100 years. The site was the 15th location achieving National Park status on February 26, 1919.  We thought we would take a moment to look at the Grand Canyon and its history.

How old is the Grand Canyon?

In a study during 2012 scientists discovered that the Canyon could have begun forming as long ago as 70 million years.  In 2014 another study determined that parts of the  Canyon formed at different times.  Karl Karlstrom, one of the researchers, told Nature Geoscience, "Different segments of the canyon have different histories and different ages, but they didn't get linked together to form the Grand Canyon with the Colorado River running through it until 5 to 6 million years ago."

Fossils in the area

Not surprisingly, the area has lots of fossils - from 1.2 billion years ago in Precambrian, which is the earliest geological time. Scorpions, crinoids, and dragonfly-wing impressions are common fossils in the area.

But if you're looking for dinosaur fossils, you won't find them at the Grand Canyon — the rocks are older than dinosaurs.

The Canyon Shows a 1.2 billion year gap in the rock record

The Great Unconformity is the 1.2 billion-year gap in the rock record between the Cambrian period (485 million to 540 million years ago) and Precambrian, and the Grand Canyon is one of the best places to see it.


Native Tribes living in the Canyon

The Havasupai, Hualapai, and Hopi tribes, among others, have lived in and around the Grand Canyon for hundreds of years and now live on US government-designated reservations that are much smaller than their original lands. Many support their reservations through tourism. The influx of non-indigenous recreationists in recent decades has raised issues around respect to the land, which many Native Americans view as sacred.

Europeans first saw the Canyon in 1540 and navigated it in 1857
Spanish conquistador García López de Cárdenas saw the Canyon in 1540.  Lt. Joseph Ives went part way up the Colorado River on a steamboat in 1857 and 1858.  John Wesley Powell navigated the Canyon for 3 months with a team and 4 boats in 1869.  In 1871 he returned to map the river.

Dean and Draper

The Grand Canyon is a breath-taking place.  We hope that you can find the time to visit or re-visit the location soon.  When you need information about insurance, we’re the people to call.

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Sources: National Park Service, Wikipedia, Business Insider