Trivia buffs love learning Grand Canyon info, because it is as interesting and varied as the park itself. Grand Canyon National Park is America’s second most-visited national park, with only the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ranking higher. It is also considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Noting the impressive gaps between Grand Canyon elevation, width and depth is just one way statisticians enjoy documenting the marvels at the National Park. Its overall size of 1,904 square miles makes it larger than the Hawaiian islands of Oahu, Maui and Kauai combined. Additionally, the island of Manhattan could fit into Grand Canyon Park nearly 58 times! Keep reading to learn more fascinating facts about the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon’s massive size is hard to comprehend until you are standing right before it. Consider these impressive facts and figures:
- Grand Canyon National Park covers 1,217,403.32 acres, or 1,904 square miles.
- The Grand Canyon’s depth measures one mile. It is 277 river miles long and 190 air miles long.
- The average rim-to-rim width is 10 miles. The greatest rim-to-rim distance is 18 miles while the narrowest is 600 feet.
- If the Grand Canyon were a basin, it would take 5.45 trillion cubic yards of matter to fill it up.
- The Colorado River travels over 1,450 miles from its source in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to its mouth in the Gulf of California.
- Within Grand Canyon National Park, the river averages 40 feet deep and 300 feet wide. Its deepest point within the park is 85 feet.
- Grand Canyon elevation ranges from approximately 2,600 feet at the floor to over 8,000 feet at the North Rim.
Although no one knows the exact age of the Grand Canyon, scientists estimate that the Colorado River established its course about six million years ago. The Canyon walls were formed by the resulting erosion and by tectonic activity that continues to change it today. The following are Grand Canyon geological facts:
- Lava flows and cinder cones provide visual evidence of volcanic activity in the Canyon through the ages.
- You can see where seismic activity occurred, as the layers in that area will be tilted instead of horizontal.
- There are nearly 40 identified layers of rock forming the Canyon’s colorful walls, providing a cross section of the Earth’s crust.
- Magma crystallized into granite while marine incursions deposited limestone, sandstone and shale layers up to 5,000 feet thick.
- Marine fossils have been found in these marine sediment layers.
Ancestral Puebloans began populating the Grand Canyon area around 1200 BCE. The Cohonina inhabited the area between 500 and 1200 CE. They were the ancestors of the Yuman, Hualapai and Havasupai peoples who inhabit the area today. Other key dates in the park’s history include:
- 1882: First unsuccessful attempt to establish a Grand Canyon National Park.
- 1893: President Benjamin Harrison designated the area as a “forest reserve.”
- 1908: President Theodore Roosevelt established the Grand Canyon National Monument.
- 1919: Congress designates Grand Canyon National Park.
- 1975: Congress expands the park through the Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act.
- 1979: In October, the park is designated a World Heritage Site.
Facts About Canyon Conservation Efforts
President Roosevelt made the Canyon a national park to protect the area from exploitation and preserve it for generations to come. The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) and other organizations continue to preserve the Canyon’s ecosystem. Some of their efforts include:
- Encouraging “Leave No Trace” principals when hiking backcountry, including packing out all food scraps and trash instead of leaving them behind. This includes packing out used toilet paper.
- Preserving Grand Canyon National Park’s water resources by rejecting proposals to quadruple the size of the gateway town of Tusayan.
- Closing the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station to improve air quality at the park.
Grand Canyon National Park is the second-most visited national park in America. Grand Canyon visitor facts include:
- Over six million visitors per year contribute $900,000,000 to the regional economy.
- Ninety percent of the park’s visitors see the South Rim, while only ten percent visit the North Rim.
- In 2018, there were 1,275,555 overnight stays in the park. Of these, 337,790 were backcountry campers, 139,000 were tent campers and 68,000 were RV campers.
- Visitors board the park’s shuttle bus system nearly eight million times each year.
- In 2017, almost 200,000 north-bound boardings were recorded on the Grand Canyon Railway.
Plant and Animal Facts
Many Grand Canyon facts center on the abundant wildlife calling the National Park home. The unusual landscape houses some interesting plants and animals.
- The park boasts 373 bird species, 91 mammal species and 58 species of reptiles and amphibians.
- Eight species of fish are native to the Grand Canyon, but only five of them can be found today.
- 1,750 species of vascular plants live in the park, including the endangered Sentry milk-vetch which can only be found in Grand Canyon National Park.
- Grand Canyon mules are chosen from ranches as far away as Missouri and Tennessee.
Grand Canyon Deaths
Visitors often underestimate the difficulty of hiking in the Grand Canyon, even when one is healthy and fit. The consequences can be devastating. Grand Canyon fall deaths happen when visitors walk closer to the edge than is safe.
- In 2017, rangers recorded 290 search and rescue incidents.
- There were 1,135 emergency medical incidents in 2017.
- There were 20 Grand Canyon deaths recorded in 2017.
- Approximately 800 accidental deaths have occurred since the park opened in 1919.
Things You Didn’t Know About the Grand Canyon
You may have already known some of the Grand Canyon info shared above, but the ancient landmark still holds some surprises. Some unusual Grand Canyon facts include:
- Supai Village, the tribal home of the Havasupai people and home to famous Havasu Falls, is the only place in the United States where mail is still delivered by mule.
- The Grand Canyon makes its own weather due to how sudden changes in elevation impact temperature and precipitation. The North Rim’s Bright Angel Ranger Station records the coldest, wettest weather in the region while eight miles away, Phantom Ranch records the hottest and driest conditions.
- The Grand Canyon’s depth is not even close to being the world’s deepest canyon. That title goes to the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Tibet, which is a full two miles deeper than America’s Grand Canyon.
- While there are plenty of other fossils, no dinosaur bones have ever been found in the Grand Canyon.