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Grand Canyon Becomes a National Monument

Grand Canyon Becomes a National Monument

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On January 11, 1908, U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declares the massive Grand Canyon in northwestern Arizona a national monument.

Though Native Americans lived in the area as early as the 13th century, the first European sighting of the canyon wasn’t until 1540, by members of an expedition headed by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Because of its remote and inaccessible location, several centuries passed before North American settlers really explored the canyon. In 1869, geologist John Wesley Powell led a group of 10 men in the first difficult journey down the rapids of the Colorado River and along the length of the 277-mile gorge in four rowboats.

By the end of the 19th century, the Grand Canyon was attracting thousands of tourists each year. One famous visitor was President Theodore Roosevelt, a New Yorker with a particular affection for the American West.After becoming president in1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley, Roosevelt made environmental conservation a major part of his presidency. After establishing the National Wildlife Refuge to protect the country’s animals, fish and birds, Roosevelt turned his attention to federal regulation of public lands. Though a region could be given national park status–indicating that all private development on that land was illegal–only by an act of Congress, Roosevelt cut down on red tape by beginning a new presidential practice of granting a similar “national monument” designation to some of the West’s greatest treasures.

READ MORE: 7 Little-Known Legacies of Teddy Roosevelt

In January 1908, Roosevelt exercised this right to make more than 800,000 acres of the Grand Canyon area into a national monument. “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he declared. “You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Congress did not officially outlaw private development in the Grand Canyon until 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act. Today, more than 5 million people visit the canyon each year. The canyon floor is accessible by foot, mule or boat, and whitewater rafting, hiking and running in the area are especially popular. Many choose to conserve their energies and simply take in the breathtaking view from the canyon’s South Rim–some 7,000 feet above sea level–and marvel at a vista virtually unchanged for over 400 years.

READ MORE: How Old Is the Grand Canyon?

History & Culture

Although the Grand Canyon is known around the world for its vast vistas, beautiful colors, and incredible geology, it's a lot more than just a big hole in the ground! People have been living in and exploring Grand Canyon for thousands of years, forging human connections to this incredible landscape.

As part of the mission of the National Park Service, Grand Canyon National Park also protects and preserves all of the human history and culture found within the park. From archeological sites which preserve ancient Native American structures and artifacts, to stories about exploration and the settlement of this region by European American explorers, miners, and pioneers, to more recent stories about conserving and protecting Grand Canyon as a national park.

This incredible place tells innumerable stories left by the many different people who have tread here in the past.

Interpretive Themes

Interpretive themes are the key stories or concepts that visitors should understand after visiting Grand Canyon.


Passing through or calling the canyon home, many people have influenced the development and protection of Grand Canyon.


Many places in Grand Canyon have been preserved because they tell the stories of Grand Canyon's past and present.


Museum Collection has over 900,000 objects that help tell Grand Canyon's unique cultural and natural history.


Grand Canyon National Park works to preserve, protect and interpret the human history of the region.

The "Nature, Culture and History at Grand Canyon" website is the park's primary source of historical and cultural information, Click on the photo above to visit site.


The Grand Canyon became well known to Americans in the 1880s after railroads were built and pioneers developed infrastructure and early tourism. [7] In 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt visited the site and said,

"The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description absolutely unparalleled through-out the wide world. Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children's children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see." [8]

Despite Roosevelt's enthusiasm and strong interest in preserving land for public use, the Grand Canyon was not immediately designated as a national park. The first bill to establish Grand Canyon National Park was introduced in 1882 by then-Senator Benjamin Harrison, which would have established Grand Canyon as the third national park in the United States, after Yellowstone and Mackinac. Harrison unsuccessfully reintroduced his bill in 1883 and 1886 after his election to the presidency, he established the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve in 1893. Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve by proclamation on 28 November 1906, [9] and the Grand Canyon National Monument on January 11, 1908. [10] Further Senate bills to establish the site as a national park were introduced and defeated in 1910 and 1911, before the Grand Canyon National Park Act was finally signed by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919. [11] The National Park Service, established in 1916, assumed administration of the park.

The creation of the park was an early success of the conservation movement. Its national park status may have helped thwart proposals to dam the Colorado River within its boundaries. (Later, the Glen Canyon Dam would be built upriver.) A second Grand Canyon National Monument to the west was proclaimed in 1932. [12] In 1975, that monument and Marble Canyon National Monument, which was established in 1969 and followed the Colorado River northeast from the Grand Canyon to Lees Ferry, were made part of Grand Canyon National Park. In 1979, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site. The 1987 the National Parks Overflights Act [13] found that "Noise associated with aircraft overflights at the Grand Canyon National Park is causing a significant adverse effect on the natural quiet and experience of the park and current aircraft operations at the Grand Canyon National Park have raised serious concerns regarding public safety, including concerns regarding the safety of park users." In 2010, Grand Canyon National Park was honored with its own coin under the America the Beautiful Quarters program. [14] On February 26th 2019, the Grand Canyon National Park commemorated 100 years since its designation as a national park. [15]

The Grand Canyon, including its extensive system of tributary canyons, is valued for its combination of size, depth, and exposed layers of colorful rocks dating back to Precambrian times. The canyon itself was created by the incision of the Colorado River and its tributaries after the Colorado Plateau was uplifted, causing the Colorado River system to develop along its present path.

The primary public areas of the park are the South and North Rims, and adjacent areas of the canyon itself. The rest of the park is extremely rugged and remote, although many places are accessible by pack trail and backcountry roads. The South Rim is more accessible than the North Rim and accounts for 90% of park visitation. [16]

The park headquarters are at Grand Canyon Village, not far from the South Entrance to the park, near one of the most popular viewpoints.

South Rim Edit

Most visitors to the park come to the South Rim, arriving on Arizona State Route 64. The highway enters the park through the South Entrance, near Tusayan, Arizona, and heads eastward, leaving the park through the East Entrance. [17] Interstate 40 provides access to the area from the south. From the north, U.S. Route 89 connects Utah, Colorado, and the North Rim to the South Rim. [18] Overall, some 30 miles of the South Rim are accessible by road. [19] [ citation needed ]

North Rim Edit

The North Rim area of the park is located on the Kaibab Plateau and Walhalla Plateau, directly across the Grand Canyon from the principal visitor areas on the South Rim. The North Rim's principal visitor areas are centered around Bright Angel Point. The North Rim is higher in elevation than the South Rim, at over 8,000 feet (2,400 m) of elevation. Because it is so much higher than the South Rim, it is closed from December 1 through May 15 each year, due to the enhanced snowfall at elevation. Visitor services are closed or limited in scope after October 15. Driving time from the South Rim to the North Rim is about 4.5 hours, over 220 miles (350 km). [16]

Services Edit

Grand Canyon Village is the primary visitor services area in the park. It is a full-service community, including lodging, fuel, food, souvenirs, a hospital, churches, and access to trails and guided walks and talks. [20]

Lodging Edit

Several lodging facilities are available along the South Rim. Hotels and other lodging include El Tovar, Bright Angel Lodge, Kachina Lodge, Thunderbird Lodge, and Maswik Lodge, all of which are located in the village area, and Phantom Ranch, located on the canyon floor. There is also an RV Park named Trailer Village. All of these facilities are managed by Xanterra Parks & Resorts, while the Yavapai Lodge (also in the village area) is managed by Delaware North. [21]

On the North Rim there is the historic Grand Canyon Lodge [21] managed by Forever Resorts and a campground near the lodge, managed by the national park staff. [22]

According to the Köppen climate classification system, Grand Canyon National Park has five climate zones Cold Semi-Arid (BSk), Humid Continental Dry Cool Summer (Dsb), Humid Continental Dry Warm Summer (Dsa), Warm Summer Mediterranean (Csb), and Hot Summer Mediterranean (Csa). The plant hardiness zone at Grand Canyon Visitor Center is 7a with an average annual extreme minimum temperature of 3.3 °F (−15.9 °C). [23]

Climate data for Grand Canyon NP 2, Arizona, 1991-2020 normals, extremes 1976-2012
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 64
Average high °F (°C) 44.3
Daily mean °F (°C) 31.7
Average low °F (°C) 19.2
Record low °F (°C) −17
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.76
Average snowfall inches (cm) 12.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 6.4 6.1 5.9 3.5 2.6 1.7 7.0 10.1 5.7 5.1 4.0 6.0 64.1
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 4.0 3.3 2.9 1.2 0.1 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.7 1.3 3.5 17.0
Source: NOAA [24] [25]

North Rim Edit

There are few roads on the North Rim, but there are some notable vehicle-accessible lookout points, including Point Imperial, Roosevelt Point, and Cape Royal. Mule rides are also available to a variety of places, including several thousand feet down into the canyon.

Many visitors to the North Rim choose to make use of the variety of hiking trails including the Widforss Trail, Uncle Jim's Trail, the Transept Trail, and the North Kaibab Trail. The North Kaibab Trail can be followed all the way down to the Colorado River, connecting across the river to the South Kaibab Trail and the Bright Angel Trail, which continue up to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The Toroweap Overlook is located in the western part of the park on the North Rim. Access is via unpaved roads off Route 389 west of Fredonia, Arizona. The roads lead through Grand Canyon–Parashant National Monument and to the overlook.

South Rim Edit

A variety of activities at the South Rim cater to park visitors. A driving tour (35 miles (56 km)) along the South Rim is split into two segments. The western drive to Hermit's Point is eight miles (13 km) with several overlooks along the way, including Mohave Point, Hopi Point, and the Powell Memorial. [20] From March to December, access to Hermit's Rest is restricted to the free shuttle provided by the Park Service. The eastern portion to Desert View is 25 miles (40 km), and is open to private vehicles year round.

Walking tours include the Rim Trail, which runs west from the Pipe Creek viewpoint for about eight miles (13 km) of paved road, followed by seven miles (11 km) unpaved to Hermit's Rest. Hikes can begin almost anywhere along this trail, and a shuttle can return hikers to their point of origin. Mather Point, the first view most people reach when entering from the south entrance, is a popular place to begin.

Private canyon flyovers are provided by helicopters and small airplanes out of Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Grand Canyon National Park Airport. Due to a crash in the 1990s, scenic flights are no longer allowed to fly within 1,500 feet (460 m) of the rim within the Grand Canyon National Park. [26] Flights within the canyon are still available outside of park boundaries. [27]

The U.S. government halted development of a 1.6 million acre area including the national park from 1966 to 2009, known as the Bennett Freeze, because of an ownership dispute between Hopi and Navajo. [28]

The Grand Canyon Association (GCA) is the National Park Service's official nonprofit partner. It raises private funds to benefit Grand Canyon National Park by operating retail shops and visitor centers within the park, and providing educational opportunities about the natural and cultural history of the region.

Feb. 26, 1919: The Grand Canyon becomes a national park

On Tuesday, the Grand Canyon celebrates a major milestone: 100 years as a national park.

"The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. ” – Theodore Roosevelt

100 years ago, on February 26, 1919, @GrandCanyonNPS was designated as a national park.#FindYourPark #GrandCanyon100 pic.twitter.com/IJ945LKAcc

&mdash NationalParkService (@NatlParkService) February 26, 2019

On a visit to the canyon in 1903, Roosevelt had marveled at its grandeur and stressed the need to preserve it.

"The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison-beyond description absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world," he said. "Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness."

Feb. 26, 1919: The Grand Canyon becomes a national park

On Tuesday, the Grand Canyon celebrates a major milestone: 100 years as a national park.

"The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world. ” – Theodore Roosevelt

100 years ago, on February 26, 1919, @GrandCanyonNPS was designated as a national park.#FindYourPark #GrandCanyon100 pic.twitter.com/IJ945LKAcc

&mdash NationalParkService (@NatlParkService) February 26, 2019

On a visit to the canyon in 1903, Roosevelt had marveled at its grandeur and stressed the need to preserve it.

"The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison-beyond description absolutely unparalleled throughout the wide world," he said. "Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness."

Native History: Roosevelt Declares Grand Canyon a National Monument

This Date in Native History: On January 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument, placing under federal protection the 10-mile-wide, 277-mile-long and one-mile-deep canyon that for thousands of years had been held sacred by Indigenous Peoples.

Roosevelt, known as the 𠇌onservationist president,” arrived in the West at a time when industry and enterprise were destroying the natural beauty, said Janet Balsom, deputy chief of science and resource management at Grand Canyon National Park. Conservation quickly became one of Roosevelt’s concerns, and during his presidency he established four national game preserves, five national parks and 150 national forests in acts that protected about 230 million acres of public land.

President Theodore Roosevelt

Although he failed to make the Grand Canyon a national park, Roosevelt used the American Antiquities Act of 1906 to proclaim the canyon and 17 other sites as national monuments.

“When you think about things like Westward Expansion and exploration of the continent, it was really the Indian lands that were being discovered,” Balsom said. “The railroad came to the Grand Canyon in 1901 and there were several attempts to set it aside as protected land because it was already being overrun with enterprise—with hotels, shantytowns, that all were about expanding the opportunity.”

Roosevelt in 1903 recognized the Grand Canyon as something that needed protection from logging, mining and other damaging enterprises. In a statement he made during a visit to the canyon that year, Roosevelt called on Americans to help preserve the unique gorge that formed during six million years of erosion.

“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is,” he said. 𠇍o nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

By declaring it a national monument, Roosevelt took the first steps to remove the canyon from the public arena and protect it from development, Balsom said. He also cleared the way for it to become a national park in 1919—three years after the creation of the National Park Service𠅊nd for the federal government to help protect tribal lands located within and adjacent to the park.

𠇋ridal Veil falls Havasupai row 20” on an 𠇏.H. Maude, Los Angeles” label. �” is written on a round sticker in front left corner. Black mat with black taped borders. (Historic photo from Grand Canyon National Park’s Museum Collection)

“The Grand Canyon is protected for all time, so in a way the tribal land is protected,” Balsom said. “We have a responsibility to preserve this place, and tribes, in some ways, look to us to do our job. We have a job to protect the Grand Canyon in perpetuity.”

Eleven tribes, including the Havasupai, have geographic or cultural claims to the canyon. The Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, Paiute and Zuni tribes have cultural claims to the 1.2-million-acre national park, while the Havasupai tribe actually lives in the canyon system.

In a 2007 interview, Roland Manakaja, a resident of the Havasupai village of Supai, located in the bottom of Havasu Canyon, talked about growing up without a knowledge of the outside world. Although part of the Grand Canyon system, Havasu Canyon is outside the boundary and jurisdiction of the National Park Service.

In the 1950s and �s, Supai residents rarely saw visitors, Manakaja said. As a youth, he was unacquainted with outsiders or their ways. Even neighboring tribes had no idea there was a tribe living in the canyon, he said.

Quoting a Havasupai prophecy, Manakaja said his people𠅊nd the canyon—were destined to be “hidden from the public eye.”

The prophecy states that should the canyon be made public, “the water, the environment would be degraded, devastated, contaminated and polluted for one’s gain,” Manakaja said. “Whoever that one person was had a lot of power, had a lot of money. That isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. It’s supposed to work in a way where the gain goes to everyone—the children, elders, with respect to the past, the present and the future.”

Historic photo from Grand Canyon National Park’s Museum Collection

“Havasupai Indian house framework. Framework of hawe” and has a ‘Grand Canyon National Park’ stamp on a “Maude & Bartoo, Los Angeles, Cal.” label. �” is written on an oval sticker in lower left corner. Black mat with black taped borders.

Approximately 5 million people visit the Grand Canyon on a yearly basis, with more than 20,000 of them traversing the last eight miles to the canyon where the Havasupai live. Supai is accessible only by foot, horseback or helicopter.

The National Park Service tries to maintain cooperative relationships with all tribes and uphold Roosevelt’s plea that people do not “mar the … great loneliness and beauty of the canyon.”

Although the park service and the Havasupai tribe operate visitor’s centers, museums and other services for tourists, efforts are being made to preserve the canyon’s sacred cultural histories, Balsom said. A medallion on the floor of the visitor’s center includes the names of all tribes affiliated with the Grand Canyon, she said.

“The tribes helped design it, and everyone who comes to the visitor’s center has to walk over it to see the canyon,” she said. “The medallion represents the continuity of our relationship with tribes and it honors the fact that Indians are the present and the future of this country, not just the past.”

A National Park is an area that has been set aside for preservation and public use by an act of the President or Congress. Most importantly, it is closed to industry and private development. However, the story of the National Parks begins, as many stories in the development of the Western United States. Pioneers, prospectors, and the railroad were the driving force.

The purchase of land by the US Government in the early 1800’s opened the land. In these wide-open spaces, places were discovered unlike any on Earth. Soaring mountains, deep canyons, active volcanoes, and extraordinary landscapes were the norm. The discovery of gold in California sparked a massive westward expansion in 1849, and flooded the wild lands with pioneers and opportunists. Many of those that didn’t strike it rich realized the potential for preservation of these beautiful places.

Political Movement and Conservation

In the 1870’s, a political movement known as “democratic liberalism” had washed over the nation. Americans were concerned with the perceived ravages of unchecked capitalism, and Congress responded. The Congress enacted the Forest Service Act, one of many new laws passed aimed at social reform. The new law allowed the Federal Government to set aside areas like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Sequoia National Forest for protection.

Yellowstone became the first National Park in 1872, and the party had just begun. Using the Forest Service Act, the Yellowstone National Park Act was cemented into law in March of that year, and kicked off a generation of conservation that created many of our most famous National Parks.

The First National Parks

Yellowstone was, of course, the first National Park created in 1872. However, many other parks came before Grand Canyon. Sequoia was set aside for protection in 1890, along with Yosemite. Grand Canyon National Park was created in 1919, but by then, Rocky Mountain, Crater Lake, and Hawaii Volcanoes among others had already been established.

The Antiquities Act

In 1906, Congress created the Antiquities Act. The act gave the President power to establish National Monuments, by using land already owned by the Federal Government. It paved the way for the creation of the National Park Service in 1916, and the NPS now manages 61 National Parks, and many more National Monuments.

TODAY IN HISTORY: The Grand Canyon becomes a National Park (Feb. 26, 1919)

Following the 1908 legislation President Theodore Roosevelt signed giving the Grand Canyon status as a National Monument, the United States Congress signed an act on February 26th, 1919, making Grand Canyon National Monument a National Park.

The Grand Canyon National Park hosts over 4 million visitors each year who explore sections of its 1.2 million acres. Today, the Grand Canyon National Park is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The size of the National Park is vast and equals the land mass of the state of Delaware. Its depth and width are inspiring–going over a mile deep and spreading from a quarter mile to 18 miles wide in certain places.

At Point Imperial the Grand Canyon’s elevation stretches 9,000 feet exposing rock layers that display over two billion years of geologic history. The different elevations offer a variety of temperatures. During the summer months the North Rim is generally 30 F degrees cooler than at river level. Although a handful of visitors walk to the river, even less make the journey from rim to rim.

However, each year Park rangers and visitors find novice hikers in distress along the canyon trails. Sometimes fatalities result from dehydration and other hiking maladies. The best way to experience the spendor of the Grand Canyon is with an organized river camping trek, a plane flight over the Canyon, official programs, interpretive talks, museums and Junior Ranger programs that the National Park Service offers.

This Day In History: The Grand Canyon becomes a national monument

On Jan. 11, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument.

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Current archaeological evidence suggests that humans inhabited the Grand Canyon area as far back as 4,000 years ago [1] and at least were passers-through for 6,500 years before that. [2] Radiocarbon dating of artifacts found in limestone caves in the inner canyon indicate ages of 3,000 to 4,000 years. [1] In the 1950s split-twig animal figurines were found in the Redwall Limestone cliffs of the Inner Gorge that were dated in this range. These animal figurines are a few inches (7 to 8 cm) in height and made primarily from twigs of willow or cottonwood. [1] This and other evidence suggests that these inner canyon dwellers were part of Desert Culture a group of semi-nomadic hunter-gatherer Native American. The Ancestral Pueblo of the Basketmaker III Era (also called the Histatsinom, meaning "people who lived long ago") evolved from the Desert Culture sometime around 500 BCE. [1] This group inhabited the rim and inner canyon and survived by hunting and gathering along with some limited agriculture. Noted for their basketmaking skills (hence their name), they lived in small communal bands inside caves and circular mud structures called pithouses. Further refinement of agriculture and technology led to a more sedentary and stable lifestyle for the Ancestral Pueblo starting around 500 CE. [1] Contemporary with the flourishing of Ancestral Pueblo culture, another group, called the Cohonina lived west of the current site of Grand Canyon Village. [1]

Ancestral Pueblo in the Grand Canyon area started to use stone in addition to mud and poles to erect above-ground houses sometime around 800 CE. [1] Thus the Pueblo period of Ancestral Pueblo culture was initiated. In summer, the Puebloans migrated from the hot inner canyon to the cooler high plateaus and reversed the journey for winter. [1] Large granaries and multi-room pueblos survive from this period. There are around 2,000 known Ancestral Pueblo archaeological sites in park boundaries. The most accessible site is Tusayan Pueblo, which was constructed sometime around 1185 and housed 30 or so people. [3]

Large numbers of dated archaeological sites indicate that the Ancestral Pueblo and the Cohonina flourished until about 1200 CE. [1] But something happened a hundred years later that forced both of these cultures to move away. Several lines of evidence led to a theory that climate change caused a severe drought in the region from 1276 to 1299, forcing these agriculture-dependent cultures to move on. [4] Many Ancestral Pueblo relocated to the Rio Grande and the Little Colorado River drainages, where their descendants, the Hopi and the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, now live. [3]

For approximately one hundred years the canyon area was uninhabited by humans. [1] Paiute from the east and Cerbat from the west were the first humans to reestablish settlements in and around the Grand Canyon. [1] The Paiute settled the plateaus north of the Colorado River and the Cerbat built their communities south of the river, on the Coconino Plateau. The Navajo, or the Diné, arrived in the area later.

All three cultures were stable until the United States Army moved them to Indian reservations in 1882 as part of the removal efforts that ended the Indian Wars. [1] The Havasupai and Hualapai are descended from the Cerbat and still live in the immediate area. The village of Supai in the western part of the current park has been occupied for centuries. Adjacent to the eastern part of the park is the Navajo Nation, the largest reservation in the United States.

Spanish Edit

The first Europeans reached the Grand Canyon in September 1540. [1] It was a group of about 13 Spanish soldiers led by García López de Cárdenas, dispatched from the army of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado on its quest to find the fabulous Seven Cities of Gold. [2] [5] [6] The group was led by Hopi guides and, assuming they took the most likely route, must have reached the canyon at the South Rim, probably between today's Desert View and Moran Point. According to Castañeda, he and his company came to a point "from whose brink it looked as if the opposite side must be more than three or four leagues by air line.” [7]

The report indicates that they greatly misjudged the proportions of the gorge. On the one hand, they estimated that the canyon was about three to four leagues wide (13–16 km, 8–10 mi), which is quite accurate. [5] At the same time, however, they believed that the river, which they could see from above, was only 2 m (6 ft) wide (in reality it is about a hundred times wider). [5] Being in dire need of water, and wanting to cross the giant obstacle, the soldiers started searching for a way down to the canyon floor that would be passable for them along with their horses. After three full days, they still had not been successful, and it is speculated that the Hopi, who probably knew a way down to the canyon floor, were reluctant to lead them there. [5]

As a last resort, Cárdenas finally commanded the three lightest and most agile men of his group to climb down by themselves (their names are given as Pablo de Melgosa, Juan Galeras, and an unknown, third soldier). [5] After several hours, the men returned, reporting that they had only made one third of the distance down to the river, and that "what seemed easy from above was not so". [5] Furthermore, they claimed that some of the boulders which they had seen from the rim, and estimated to be about as tall as a man, were in fact bigger than the Great Tower of Seville, at 104.1 m (342 ft). Cárdenas finally had to give up and returned to the main army. His report of an impassable barrier forestalled further visitation to the area for two hundred years.

Only in 1776 did two Spanish Priests, Fathers Francisco Atanasio Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante travel along the North Rim again, together with a group of Spanish soldiers, exploring southern Utah in search of a route from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Monterey, California. [1] Also in 1776, Fray Francisco Garces, a Franciscan missionary, spent a week near Havasupai, unsuccessfully attempting to convert a band of Native Americans. He described the canyon as "profound". [8]

Americans Edit

James Ohio Pattie and a group of American trappers and mountain men were probably the next Europeans to reach the canyon in 1826, [9] although there is little supporting documentation.

The signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 ceded the Grand Canyon region to the United States. Jules Marcou of the Pacific Railroad Survey made the first geologic observations of the canyon and surrounding area in 1856. [2]

Jacob Hamblin (a Mormon missionary) was sent by Brigham Young in the 1850s to locate easy river crossing sites in the canyon. [10] Building good relations with local Native Americans and white settlers, he discovered Lee's Ferry in 1858 and Pierce Ferry (later operated by, and named for, Harrison Pierce)—the only two sites suitable for ferry operation. [11]

In 1857 Edward Fitzgerald Beale led an expedition to survey a wagon road from Fort Defiance, Arizona to the Colorado River. [12] On September 19 near present-day National Canyon they came upon what May Humphreys Stacey described in his journal as "a wonderful canyon four thousand feet deep. Everyone (in the party) admitted that he never before saw anything to match or equal this astonishing natural curiosity." [13]

A U.S. War Department expedition led by Lt. Joseph Ives was launched in 1857 to investigate the area's potential for natural resources, to find railroad routes to the west coast, and assess the feasibility of an up-river navigation route from the Gulf of California. [2] The group traveled in a stern wheeler steamboat named Explorer. After two months and 350 miles (560 km) of difficult navigation, his party reached Black Canyon some two months after George Johnson. [14] In the process, the Explorer struck a rock and was abandoned. The group later traveled eastwards along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

A man of his time, Ives discounted his own impressions on the beauty of the canyon and declared it and the surrounding area as "altogether valueless", remarking that his expedition would be "the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality". [15] Attached to Ives' expedition was geologist John Strong Newberry who had a very different impression of the canyon. [2] After returning, Newberry convinced fellow geologist John Wesley Powell that a boat run through the Grand Canyon to complete the survey would be worth the risk. [16] [a] Powell was a major in the United States Army and was a veteran of the American Civil War, a conflict that cost him his right forearm in the Battle of Shiloh. [2]

More than a decade after the Ives Expedition and with help from the Smithsonian Institution, Powell led the first of the Powell Expeditions to explore the region and document its scientific offerings. [6] On May 24, 1869, the group of nine men set out from Green River Station in Wyoming down the Colorado River and through the Grand Canyon. [2] This first expedition was poorly funded and consequently no photographer or graphic artist was included. While in the Canyon of Lodore one of the group's four boats capsized, spilling most of their food and much of their scientific equipment into the river. This shortened the expedition to one hundred days. Tired of being constantly cold, wet and hungry and not knowing they had already passed the worst rapids, three of Powell's men climbed out of the canyon in what is now called Separation Canyon. [18] Once out of the canyon, all three were reportedly killed by Shivwits band Paiutes who thought they were miners that recently molested and killed a female Shivwit. [18] All those who stayed with Powell survived and that group successfully ran most of the canyon.

Two years later a much better-funded Powell-led party returned with redesigned boats and a chain of several supply stations along their route. This time, photographer E.O. Beaman and 17-year-old artist Frederick Dellenbaugh were included. [18] Beaman left the group in January 1872 over a dispute with Powell and his replacement, James Fennemore, quit August that same year due to poor health, leaving boatman John K. Hillers as the official photographer (nearly one ton of photographic equipment was needed on site to process each shot). [19] Famed painter Thomas Moran joined the expedition in the summer of 1873, after the river voyage and thus only viewed the canyon from the rim. His 1873 painting "Chasm of the Colorado" was bought by the United States Congress in 1874 and hung in the lobby of the Senate. [20]

The Powell expeditions systematically cataloged rock formations, plants, animals, and archaeological sites. Photographs and illustrations from the Powell expeditions greatly popularized the canyonland region of the southwest United States, especially the Grand Canyon (appreciating this, Powell added increasing resources to that aspect of his expeditions). Powell later used these photographs and illustrations in his lecture tours, making him a national figure. Rights to reproduce 650 of the expeditions' 1,400 stereographs were sold to help fund future Powell projects. [21] In 1881 he became the second director of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Geologist Clarence Dutton followed up on Powell's work in 1880–1881 with the first in-depth geological survey of the newly formed U.S. Geological Survey. [22] Painters Thomas Moran and William Henry Holmes accompanied Dutton, who was busy drafting detailed descriptions of the area's geology. The report that resulted from the team's effort was titled A Tertiary History of The Grand Canyon District, with Atlas and was published in 1882. [22] This and later study by geologists uncovered the geology of the Grand Canyon area and helped to advance that science. Both the Powell and Dutton expeditions helped to increase interest in the canyon and surrounding region.

The Brown-Stanton expedition was started in 1889 to survey the route for a "water-level" railroad line through the canyons of the Colorado River to the Gulf of California. [23] The proposed Denver, Colorado Canyon, and Pacific Railway was to carry coal from mines in Colorado. Expedition leader Frank M. Brown, his chief engineer Robert Brewster Stanton, and 14 other men set out in six boats from Green River, Utah, on May 25, 1889. [23] Brown and two others drowned near the head of Marble Canyon. The expedition was restarted by Stanton from Dirty Devil River (a tributary of Glen Canyon) on November 25 and traveled through the Grand Canyon. [23] The expedition reached the Gulf of California on April 26, 1890 but the railroad was never built.

Prospectors in the 1870s and 1880s staked mining claims in the canyon. [22] They hoped that previously discovered deposits of asbestos, copper, lead, and zinc would be profitable to mine. Access to and from this remote region and problems getting ore out of the canyon and its rock made the whole exercise not worth the effort. Most moved on, but some stayed to seek profit in the tourist trade. Their activities did improve pre-existing Indian trails, such as Bright Angel Trail. [3]

Transportation Edit

A rail line to the largest city in the area, Flagstaff, was completed in 1882 by the Santa Fe Railroad. [24] Stage coaches started to bring tourists from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon the next year—an eleven-hour greatly increased in 1901 when a spur of the Santa Fe Railroad to Grand Canyon Village was completed. [22] The first scheduled train with paying passengers of the Grand Canyon Railway arrived from Williams, Arizona, on September 17 that year. [24] The 64-mile (103 km) long trip cost $3.95 ($105.93 as of 2021), and naturalist John Muir later commended the railroad for its limited environmental impact. [24]

The first automobile was driven to the Grand Canyon in January 1902. Oliver Lippincott from Los Angeles, drove his American Bicycle Company built Toledo steam car to the South Rim from Flagstaff. Lippincott, Al Doyle a guide from Flagstaff and two writers set out on the afternoon of January 2, anticipating a seven-hour journey. Two days later, the hungry and dehydrated party arrived at their destination the countryside was just too rough for the ten-horsepower (7 kW) auto. Winfield Hoggaboon, one of the writers on the trip, wrote an amusing and detailed three page article in the Los Angeles Herald Illustrated Magazine on February 2, 1902, "To the Grand Canyon by Automobile". A three-day drive from Utah in 1907 was required to reach the North Rim for the first time. [24]

Competition with the automobile forced the Santa Fe Railroad to cease operation of the Grand Canyon Railway in 1968 (only three passengers were on the last run). The railway was restored and service reintroduced in 1989, and it has since carried hundreds of passengers a day. Trains remained the preferred way to travel to the canyon until they were surpassed by the auto in the 1930s. By the early 1990s more than a million automobiles per year visited the park.

West Rim Drive was completed in 1912. In the late 1920s the first rim-to-rim access was established by the North Kaibab suspension bridge over the Colorado River. [22] Paved roads did not reach the less popular and more remote North Rim until 1926, and that area, being higher in elevation, is closed due to winter weather from November to April. Construction of a road along part of the South Rim was completed in 1935. [22]

Air pollution Edit

The primary mobile source of Grand Canyon haze, the automobile, is currently regulated under a series of federal, state and local initiatives. The Grand Canyon Visibility Transport Commission cites U.S. government laws regulating automobile emissions and gasoline standards, often slow to change because of the automobile industry's planning schedule, as a primary contributor to air quality issues in the area. [25] They advocate policies leaning toward stricter emission standards via cleaner burning fuel and improved automobile emissions technology.

Air pollution from those vehicles and wind-blown pollution from Las Vegas, Nevada area has reduced visibility in the Grand Canyon and vicinity. During the past decade, various regional coal-fired electric utilities having little or no pollution control equipment were targeted as the primary stationary sources of Grand Canyon air pollution. [26] In the 1980s the Navajo Generating Station at Page, Arizona, (15 miles away) was identified as the primary source for anywhere from fifty percent to ninety percent of the Grand Canyon's air quality problems. [25] In 1999, the Mohave Generating Station in Laughlin, Nevada, (75) miles away settled a long-standing lawsuit and agreed to install end-of-point sulfur scrubbers on its smoke stacks.

Closer to home, there is little disagreement that the most visible of the park's visibility problems stems from the park's popularity. On any given summer day the park is filled to capacity, or over-capacity. Basically the problem boils down to too many private automobiles vying for too few parking spaces. Emissions from all those automobiles and tour buses contributes greatly to air pollution problems.

Accommodations Edit

John D. Lee was the first person who catered to travelers to the canyon. In 1872 he established a ferry service at the confluence of the Colorado and Paria rivers. Lee was in hiding, having been accused of leading the Mountain Meadows massacre in 1857. He was tried and executed for this crime in 1877. During his trial he played host to members of the Powell Expedition who were waiting for their photographer, Major James Fennemore, to arrive (Fennemore took the last photo of Lee sitting on his own coffin). Emma, one of Lee's nineteen wives, continued the ferry business after her husband's death. In 1876 a man named Harrison Pierce established another ferry service at the western end of the canyon. [24]

The two-room Farlee Hotel opened in 1884 near Diamond Creek and was in operation until 1889. That year Louis Boucher opened a larger hotel at Dripping Springs. John Hance opened his ranch near Grandview to tourists in 1886 only to sell it nine years later in order to start a long career as a Grand Canyon guide (in 1896 he also became local postmaster).

William Wallace Bass opened a tent house campground in 1890. Bass Camp had a small central building with common facilities such as a kitchen, dining room, and sitting room inside. Rates were $2.50 a day ($72.01 as of 2021), and the complex was 20 miles (30 km) west of the Grand Canyon Railway's Bass Station (Ash Fort). Bass also built the stage coach road that he used to carry his patrons from the train station to his hotel. A second Bass Camp was built along the Shinumo Creek drainage. [24]

The Grand Canyon Hotel Company was incorporated in 1892 and charged with building services along the stage route to the canyon. [27] In 1896 the same man who bought Hance's Grandview ranch opened Bright Angel Hotel in Grand Canyon Village. [27] The Cameron Hotel opened in 1903, and its owner started to charge a toll to use the Bright Angel Trail. [27]

Things changed in 1905 when the luxury El Tovar Hotel opened within steps of the Grand Canyon Railway's terminus. [22] El Tovar was named for Don Pedro de Tovar who tradition says is the Spaniard who learned about the canyon from Hopis and told Coronado. Charles Whittlesey designed the arts and crafts-styled rustic hotel complex, which was built with logs from Oregon and local stone at a cost of $250,000 for the hotel ($7,200,000 as of 2021) and another $50,000 for the stables ($1,440,000 as of 2021). [27] El Tovar was owned by Santa Fe Railroad and operated by its chief concessionaire, the Fred Harvey Company.

Fred Harvey hired Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter in 1902 as company architect. She was responsible for five buildings at the Grand Canyon: Hopi House (1905), Lookout Studio (1914), Hermit's Rest (1914), Desert View Watchtower (1932), and Bright Angel Lodge (1935). [3] She stayed with the company until her retirement in 1948.

A cable car system spanning the Colorado went into operation at Rust's Camp, located near the mouth of Bright Angel Creek, in 1907. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the camp in 1913. That, along with the fact that while president he declared Grand Canyon a U.S. National Monument in 1908, led to the camp being renamed Roosevelt's Camp. In 1922 the National Park Service gave the facility its current name, Phantom Ranch. [27]

In 1917 on the North Rim, W.W. Wylie built accommodations at Bright Angel Point. [22] The Grand Canyon Lodge opened on the North Rim in 1928. Built by a subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad called the Utah Parks Company, the lodge was designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood who was also the architect for the Ahwahnee Hotel in California's Yosemite Valley. Much of the lodge was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1932, and a rebuilt lodge did not open until 1937. The facility is managed by TW Recreation Services. [24] Bright Angel Lodge and the Auto Camp Lodge opened in 1935 on the South Rim.

Activities Edit

New hiking trails, along old Indian trails, were established during this time as well. The world-famous mule rides down Bright Angel Trail were mass-marketed by the El Tovar Hotel. By the early 1990s, 20,000 people per year made the journey into the canyon by mule, 800,000 by hiking, 22,000 passed through the canyon by raft, and another 700,000 tourists fly over it in air tours (fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter). Overflights were limited to a narrow corridor in 1956 after two planes crashed, killing all on board. In 1991 nearly 400 search and rescues were performed, mostly for unprepared hikers who suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration while ascending from the canyon (normal exhaustion and injured ankles are also common in rescuees). [28] An IMAX theater just outside the park shows a reenactment of the Powell Expedition.

The Kolb Brothers, Emery and Ellsworth, built a photographic studio on the South Rim at the trailhead of Bright Angel Trail in 1904. Hikers and mule caravans intent on descending down the canyon would stop at the Kolb Studio to have their photos taken. The Kolb Brothers processed the prints before their customers returned to the rim. Using the newly invented Pathé Bray camera in 1911–12, they became the first to make a motion picture of a river trip through the canyon that itself was only the eighth such successful journey. From 1915 to 1975 the film they produced was shown twice a day to tourists with Emery Kolb at first narrating in person and later through tape (a feud with Fred Harvey prevented pre-1915 showings). [29]

By the late 19th century, the conservation movement was increasing national interest in preserving natural wonders like the Grand Canyon. National Parks in Yellowstone and around Yosemite Valley were established by the early 1890s. U.S. Senator Benjamin Harrison introduced a bill in 1887 to establish a national park at the Grand Canyon. [18] The bill died in committee, but on February 20, 1893, Harrison (then President of the United States) declared the Grand Canyon to be a National Forest Preserve. [30] Mining and logging were allowed, but the designation did offer some protection. [18]

President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903. [22] An avid outdoorsman and staunch conservationist, he established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve on November 28, 1906. [30] Livestock grazing was reduced, but predators such as mountain lions, eagles, and wolves were eradicated. Roosevelt added adjacent national forest lands and re-designated the preserve a U.S. National Monument on January 11, 1908. [30] Opponents, such as holders of land and mining claims, blocked efforts to reclassify the monument as a National Park for 11 years. Grand Canyon National Park was finally established as the 17th U.S. National Park by an Act of Congress signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson on February 26, 1919. [30] The National Park Service declared the Fred Harvey Company to the official park concessionaire in 1920 and bought William Wallace Bass out of business.

An area of almost 310 square miles (800 km²) adjacent to the park was designated as a second Grand Canyon National Monument on December 22, 1932. [31] Marble Canyon National Monument was established on January 20, 1969, and covered about 41 square miles (105 km²). [31] An act signed by President Gerald Ford on January 3, 1975, doubled the size of Grand Canyon National Park by merging these adjacent national monuments and other federal land into it. That same act gave Havasu Canyon back to the Havasupai tribe. [22] From that point, the park stretched along a 278-mile (447 km) segment of the Colorado River from the southern border of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area to the eastern boundary of Lake Mead National Recreation Area. [31] Grand Canyon National Park was designated a World Heritage Site on October 24, 1979. [32]

In 1935, Hoover Dam started to impound Lake Mead south of the canyon. [16] Conservationists lost a battle to save upstream Glen Canyon from becoming a reservoir. The Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1966 to control flooding and to provide water and hydroelectric power. [33] Seasonal variations of high flow and flooding in the spring and low flow in summer have been replaced by a much more regulated system. The much more controlled Colorado has a dramatically reduced sediment load, which starves beaches and sand bars. In addition, clearer water allows significant algae growth to occur on the riverbed, giving the river a green color.

With the advent of commercial flights, the Grand Canyon has been a popular site for aircraft overflights. However, a series of accidents resulted in the Overflights Act of 1987 by the United States Congress, which banned flights below the rim and created flight-free zones. [34] The tourist flights over the canyon have also created a noise problem, so the number of flights over the park has been restricted.

In 2008, the Grand Canyon Railway [35] and their parent company, Xanterra, decided to use only EMD f40ph diesel locomotives as their main motive power for their trackage, since they felt that their steam locomotives, as well as their Alco fa units, gave the environment more visible smoke. Not only that, but the steamers burn more oil than an average diesel unit, hence they can also be more pricey to operate and maintain. However, after a variety of formers protested to the GCR to bring back steam operations, [36] the GCR decided to bring back steam operations, as they converted both of their operational steamers, 29 and 4960, to burn recycled waste vegetable oil collected from nearby restaurants by third-party suppliers. [37]

Pipe Spring National Monument

Photo by: Ken Lund

Pipe Spring National Monument documents a storied human history of the Arizona Strip, including conflicts between the Kaibab Paiutes, Mormon settlers, and the U.S. government.

The 40-acre national monument on the Arizona/Utah border revolves around Pipe Spring, an invaluable perennial water source in the arid Arizona Strip. Kaibab Paiutes lived in the area and used the water until Mormon pioneers displaced them. The Mormons built a rock fort called Winsor Castle and two cabins, and had a ranching operation in the mid 1800s. Visitors can tour the fort and surrounding orchards, corral, and spring, and visit the Pipe Spring National Monument-Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians Visitor Center and Museum with historical and cultural exhibits.

Getting there

From Fredonia, Arizona, turn west onto AZ 389 and continue for 14 miles. The monument is on your right. From the junction of UT 9 and UT 59 in Hurricane, UT, drive south on UT 59 for 22 miles. Continue onto AZ 389 as you cross into Arizona Pipe Spring National Monument is on your left in another 20 miles.

Visiting the monument

The Arizona Strip, isolated from the rest of the state by the geologic barrier of the Grand Canyon, has come to represent the Wild West with its dry, rugged lands. Pipe Spring National Monument sits amid this big empty country as a commemoration of the people who lived there and an embodiment of the American Frontier. Today, stories of conflict lie in the sagebrush badlands, open range, and precious springs. This little-visited monument tells a complex history of cultural, political, and religious tensions over the past few centuries.

Long before Anglos came to the Arizona Strip, Ancestral Puebloans, followed by the Kaibab Paiutes, settled here around one of the few perennial water sources in the area (Matungwa’vu to the Kaibab Paiute, now called Pipe Spring). The Kaibab Band of Paiutes, whose reservation now surrounds the monument, have partnered with the National Park Service to create a visitor center and museum with interpretive exhibits detailing their traditions and ways of life.

In the mid 1800s, Mormon explorers pushed down through southern Utah across the state border to escape escalating hostility by the U.S. government towards their polygamist practices. The Church built a settlement and cattle ranch around Pipe Spring, which marginalized the Kaibab Paiutes by cutting off their water use. Overgrazing, along with increased drought, destroyed the grasslands. Now, sagebrush grows in its place creating a landscape of sandy badlands.

At the monument, you can explore remnants of the late 19th century fortified Mormon ranch. The park service offers guided tours of Winsor Castle (the Fort), and a short trail goes to the West and East Cabins which house cowboy displays. Other trails highlight the enclosed spring, historic orchards, and corrals.

When the park service acquired Pipe Spring in 1923, they granted the Kaibab Paiute water rights. Today, the tribe shares their culture with tourists through tours, hikes, and cultural events. They also operate a campground a ¼ mile from the monument. If you’re roadtripping to nearby national parks like Zion, Bryce Canyon, or the Grand Canyon, be sure to leave time in your itinerary to stop at Pipe Spring National Monument—a small place rich in history.


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