Skip to Content

20 Fascinating Facts About the Grand Canyon

Disclaimer: Some posts on Tourism Teacher may contain affiliate links. If you appreciate this content, you can show your support by making a purchase through these links or by buying me a coffee. Thank you for your support!

There are so many interesting facts about the Grand Canyon that most people do not know about! Whether you are planning a trip to this incredible natural tourist attraction or you simply just want to learn more, I have you covered in this article. Read on to learn all about the magnificent Grand Canyon…

Facts About the Grand Canyon

The famous Grand Canyon located in Arizona, USA is one of Earth’s most magnificent sceneries created by natural phenomena. The great landscape has been carved by the Colorado River over millions of years as it cuts through the Colorado Plateau. 

In the past, the Grand Canyon was home to many Native American tribes like Paiute, Zuni, Navajo, Pueblo, and Hopi who consider the place sacred! Today, the Havasupai tribe still inhabits some areas of the place, as they claim to have done for over 800 years. 

If you find this fascinating, you might be interested in learning more about nature’s wonder. Read on to know the facts about the Grand Canyon!

1. Many Caves Are Hidden in the Grand Canyon

20 Fascinating Facts About the Grand Canyon

Let’s start with some geography-related facts about the Grand Canyon. 

The Grand Canyon has a rocky surface with craters hollowing its edges and many undiscovered caves that are yet to be mapped officially. There are an estimated amount of 1000 caves in this region, out of which only 335 have been registered by official records

The red colour of the canyon is caused by Redwall Limestone, which is soluble, hence causing the caves to form in various sizes. It also makes the canyon difficult to trek on, so the only cave that is open to the general public is the Cave of the Domes on Horseshoe Mesa. 

2. Millions of People Visit the Grand Canyon Every Year

These facts about the Grand Canyon are pretty astonishing!

The Grand Canyon is the second most visited park in the United States, right after the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. After the development of the Grand Canyon National Park, the place became an important tourist destination. 

Millions of people visit every year, an average of about 5.9 million, which is a huge rise from the 44,173 in the year 1919 when it was first established. 

3. Beware of the Rock Squirrels at the Grand Canyon

This may come as a surprise, but the most dangerous animals at the Grand Canyon are not snakes, mountain lions, or elks, but the infamous Rock Squirrels

Standing at a height of about 17 – 21 inches long, these grey and brown creatures love rocky terrains and feed on anything starting from plants to dead animals. 

Upon a visit to the canyon, you will notice various signs that try to warn tourists off these Rock Squirrels, who are a breed of rodents at the end of the day. 

Trust me, any contact with these unfortunately cuddly animals can cause problems, with many unsuspecting tourists being attacked by them in large groups!

So, if you’re visiting, keep these facts about the Grand Canyon in mind.  

4. The Grand Canyon Is Over 6 Million Years Old

Here are some geology-related facts about the Grand Canyon.

The age of the Grand Canyon is a debatable topic. 

Many geologists believe that the formation of the chasm started about 6 million years ago. However, some argue that there has been evidence of finding rocks and fossils that even date back to over 70 million years ago, which means it may have existed during the Paleolithic age. 

However, most recent studies suggest that it is both. Since the canyon has been formed due to the erosion of soil and the deposition of sedimentary rocks, one cannot put a certain number on how many years it took to form. 

5. The Grand Canyon Is Bigger Than an Entire US State 

This is one of the most surprising facts about the Grand Canyon!

At a size of about 277 miles in length, 18 miles in width, and 1829 metres deep, the Grand Canyon has a size of about 1904 square miles in total. This is shocking because the whole of Rhode Island, which is around 1212 square miles could fit in the Grand Canyon – a tourist destination

6. Fossils of Marine Life Reside in the Grand Canyon

If you love fossils, these facts about the Grand Canyon are for you. 

The Grand Canyon has also been referred to as an example of the Great Unconformity – a natural condition of the formation of a gorge by the processes of erosion whose formation has been left unrecorded over the years. 

Hence, it is a common assumption that the canyon was once a shallow sea. 

There have been common fossils of small sea creatures found in the sandstone. Many brachiopods, crinoids, coral, and bryozoans were discovered among other sediments. 

7. The Temperatures Vary Within the Canyon Itself

20 Fascinating Facts About the Grand Canyon

These are some temperature-related facts about the Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon has elevated lands, deep craters, and a river running right through it, carving its shape. The landscape ranges from 2000 feet to 8000 feet, which causes changes in airflow and sudden changes in weather conditions. 

With every loss of a 1000 feet elevation, the temperature rises by 5.5 degrees. Sometimes, you can even see cloud inversions along the upper terrain, so if you are planning on exploring the abyss for yourself, you will experience numerous weather changes. 

8. A Small Town Lives in the Grand Canyon

Here’s one of the interesting facts about the Grand Canyon.

The rocky terrain of the Grand Canyon looks inhabitable at first glance, and it is, to a certain extent. 

The gorge is home to Supai, the most remote village in the lower 48 states of the USA. It is hidden in the abyss at 3000 feet in depth. The only way to reach there is by helicopter, on a mule, or an 8-mile hike. 

This village is home to the ancient Native American tribe of Havasupai and has been situated in this natural wonder for over 1000 years now. No roads or cards lead here, and even mail is delivered by rows of mules every day. 

If you are truly looking for a place to escape, Supai might just be your next perfect travel destination!

9. A Rare Snake Species Is Found in the Grand Canyon 

Let’s get into some fauna facts about the Grand Canyon. 

Due to the Colorado River, which is the main reason behind the existence of the Grand Canyon, there are also 41 species of reptiles that live in the edges and the pine forests that surround the river

Among these are 9 species of rattlesnakes that you will find in its caves, from short-horned lizards to the Gila Monster. 

One unique animal you may encounter there is the rare Pink Rattlesnake that can only be found in this region. This rattlesnake (croatulus oreganus abyssus) is a creature that easily camouflages with the reddish terrain of the Grand Canyon, which is why it is distinct to its region. 

10. The Grand Canyon National Park Was Established in 1919

Let’s discuss some facts about the Grand Canyon National Park.

As we already know, the Grand Canyon has a mysterious age with all its alleviations and base rocks that have been there for different periods. 

The first expedition that saw the site was in 1540 and later discovered in 1776 by two priests. During this age, it was mostly considered inhabitable and mostly useless. 

However, the first descent of a river happened in 1869 done by ethnographer John Wesley Powell marked the land useful for its extensive geography

Finally, in the year 1919, under Theodore Roosevelt and the US Congress, the Grand Canyon National Park was developed in 1919 and declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. 

Today, it is a very famous tourist attraction, getting millions of visitors every year for trekking and rafting. 

11. There Is a Big Conspiracy Theory About the Grand Canyon

20 Fascinating Facts About the Grand Canyon

Do you love conspiracy theories? These facts about the Grand Canyon are perfect for you!

The Grand Canyon probably holds histories of myths and legends, but it also has a famous conspiracy theory. 

At one time in 1909, the Arizona Gazette had recorded that traces of ancient Tibetan and Egyptian civilisation were found underground in a tunnel in the canyon. 

This myth was debunked by the Smithsonian, who claimed that there were no archaeologists who could back up this statement. However, conspiracy theorists like to believe that this was a deception by the government, leaving the legend open to interpretation. 

12. The Grand Canyon Is Home to Magnificent Wildlife

These facts about the Grand Canyon are for wildlife enthusiasts!

In a place that supports three different kinds of ecosystems, you might expect a lot of varying wildlife. Around 91 species of mammals and 447 species of birds inhabit the Grand Canyon. You can spot animals like cougars, ringtail cats, mule deer, and elk in its forests, and also rare birds like peregrine falcons and condors. 

Along the river banks of Colorado live 48 reptile species, 10 amphibian species, and many unique breeds of insects. 

Within its rapid rivers, you may even find some endangered species, like the Humpback Chub which can only be found in the Colorado River basin. 

There is also the Sentry milk-vetch, an endemic herb that can only be found in the shallow cracks where you find the Kaibab limestone. 

13. Some Believe the Grand Canyon Is the Gate to the Afterlife

20 Fascinating Facts About the Grand Canyon

I was shocked to learn these facts about the Grand Canyon. 

Among the many tribes that first inhabited the Grand Canyon were the Hopi people, a Native American tribe that considered the gorge to be a spiritual spot. Or, even a gateway to heaven! 

The people of the Hopi tribe believe that once a person dies, they go westward through the sipapuni (literally translating to ‘a place of emergence’). 

In their culture, the sipapuni referred to the craters of the canyon, a dome in particular that has a lot of mineral deposits and goes upstream where the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers combine. 

14. The Grand Canyon Is Continuously Changing Shape

One of the most fascinating facts about the Grand Canyon is that it is continuously getting deeper, even in 2023. 

The Colorado River runs downwards, carving its way as it goes, causing more erosion which makes the canyon widen. Smaller rivers also cut the side of the canyons, making it the unending chasm that it is today. 

The rate at which the Grand Canyon is expanding is set at the rate of 0.3 meters (1ft) every 200 years. Hence, geologists expect that the Canyon is bound to get deeper as long as the Colorado River keeps flowing. 

15. You Can Breathe Some of the Cleanest Air at the Grand Canyon

This is one of my favourite facts about the Grand Canyon. 

You can breathe some of the cleanest air in the United States if you visit the Grand Canyon. 

Due to the Colorado River that runs through it rapidly, the air quality is some of the freshest, despite the surrounding urban areas like Arizona, Nevada, and California that threaten its natural soils and streams. 

16. The Grand Canyon Is Home to Different Ecosystems

At first glance, the Grand Canyon looks like a long stretch of red sand, craters, and caves.

However, the gorge is extremely wide and deep, and with a river running through it, the canyon has ecosystems of all forms – aquatic, desert, and forest. 

Most of the forests are full of coniferous and evergreen trees, so the common animals you might catch there are voles, squirrels, and deer. 

On the other hand, the desert area which has a very low elevation and is away from the water, is the driest of all ecosystems found here. 

17. Federal Aviation Administration Was Established Because of the Grand Canyon

Here’s one of the other surprising facts about the Grand Canyon!

The Federal Aviation Administration is the USA’s regulator of nationwide civil aviation activities. They also manage the air traffic in the airspace of the country. 

A lesser-known fact is that the organization was established due to the Grand Canyon. 

In 1956, there was a collision between a Trans World Airlines Super Constellation and a United Air Lines DC-7 over the Grand Canyon, Arizona. Although there had been many accidents caused in the US skies, this incident encouraged the government to expand its aviation regulations.

The mishap that was caused while the aircraft was flying in uncongested airspace killed all the 128 occupants, throwing light over the face that little was done about the US air traffic even years after the end of World War II. 

18. The Grand Canyon Is an Example of the Great Unconformity

20 Fascinating Facts About the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is an example of the Great Unconformity. This is a condition caused in nature when glaciers move and erode some sediments from the base rocks that are as old as 1.3 billion years. 

It signifies a gap of time that was missed in the geological records between 100 million – 1 billion years. 

Though it is not determined how old the Grand Canyon is, recent studies have discovered that some rocks may be as old as 270 million years. 

The Great Unconformity in the Grand Canyon is what separates the Tapeats Sandstone and the Proterozoic rocks through erosion and non-deposition. 

19. You Can Go Rafting Down the Colorado River Through the Canyon

Here are some fun facts about the Grand Canyon. 

Despite its size, the Grand Canyon is still a sizeable river, which you can cover using a water raft. 

There are many river adventure sites that allow you to go on rafting trips through the Colorado River. These are usually covered in a one to two weeks trip that lets you experience the white water rapids of the river in a safe way. 

Depending on the kind of motorized raft or boat you take, covering the Grand Canyon can take anything from 15 – 21 days. 

Most rafting services have a permit to raft on the Grand Canyon which is only allowed by the National Park Service. Hence, if you are planning on going privately, you will have to obtain the license yourself. 

20. It’s Not Actually the World’s Largest Canyon

Lastly, to end with one of the most unbelievable facts about the Grand Canyon, it is actually not the world’s largest canyon! 

Even with its 4,926 square kilometres stretch, when it comes to size, it does not even rank second, beaten by the Kali Gandaki Gorge / Andha Galchi located in the Himalayas and the Fish River Canyon in the African continent

However, its spiritual connection and mystical nature established by the beliefs of the Native American tribes have made it a popular canyon destination. It is also significant for starting the excitement in studying such natural formations. 

Further Reading – Facts About the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon stands as an awe-inspiring testament to the power of nature and the passage of time! Its majestic beauty and sheer scale have left me speechless, and I’m hoping you are too!

If you enjoyed reading facts about the Grand Canyon, you can also check out these articles too:

Liked this article? Click to share!