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How Big is the Grand Canyon?

How Big is the Grand Canyon?

How Big is the Grand Canyon?

Visiting Grand Canyon can be a nearly overwhelming experience.  Standing on the rim a peering out over the vastness is a legitimately humbling experience.  Take it from those who have spent a lifetime here; this place is as awe-inspiring as it is mind-blowing.  Simply attempting to comprehend its scale is something that most of us struggle with every time we go, no matter how many times we’ve been.  Numbers are just numbers and provide no real context to the vastness to every dimension of Grand Canyon.  Oftentimes our guests find it helpful to put context on these numbers, which has been done here.  Keeping it simple can be slightly difficult, as even some contextual visualizations escape comprehension.  For instance, did you know that the Grand Canyon has a volume of 7,345,724,462,194 Olympic-sized swimming pools?

While that’s an interesting fact (I suppose), it’s nonsensical and uninformative.  How in the actual hell would you possibly be able to picture that many swimming pools?  A better way to put it might be that if we filled Grand Canyon to the brim with water, the volume contained within it would be enough to flood the entire European continent 1-foot high.  Hmmmmm….

Let’s Think About This for a Minute….

Stand on top of the tallest building in the United States, One World Trade Center in New York City.  Realize that at the top of this tower, 1,776 feet, you are standing roughly 1/3 of the way up the height of Grand Canyon’s walls of stone. Stack two more of those babies on top and you’ve got yourself a start.  Look out over the landscape from One World Trade.  On a clear day you can see all of Manhattan, into New Jersey, and well out into the Atlantic Ocean.  This view presents one with about 1/4 of the space you can view from Zoroaster Temple, a 5000ft mountain located INSIDE Grand Canyon.

In short, the Grand Canyon is big.  By every measure, it is big.  Just how big?  Well, that’s all relative my Dear Watson.  Perhaps the most iconic National Park in the world, Grand Canyon is statistically astounding in its size, overwhelming in its scale, and humbling in its grandeur.  I’ve picked out a few of the distinctions that make it big; time, space, the river the courses through it, its status as a National Park, its human history, and its future.

Really Rad, Huge Facts About Grand Canyon

Space

Width
  • The widest point of the Grand Canyon is 18 miles as the crow flies.  This is the same length as stretching from Lower Manhattan north 7 miles into New Jersey.  In contrast, Grand Canyon is just 4 miles wide at its narrowest.  To put that in perspective, some of Arizona and Utah’s most famous slot canyons are just 5 feet wide, such as Spooky Gulch or the Buckskin Gulch.  The best way to traverse the chasm is hiking rim-to-rim or to the river-and-back, but trust us, you still have more than a little to explore.  With over 400 miles of known trails in Grand Canyon, you could hike from Los Angeles to San Francisco in the same amount of mileage.
Length
  • Grand Canyon is 277 miles long from Marble Canyon to Pearce Ferry and the Grand Wash Cliffs just east of Las Vegas.  Hoover Dam is its official modern end, though that only came into existence in 1933, nearly 6 million years after the Grand Canyon began to be carved by the Colorado River!  If you wanted to jump in the car and drive, 277 miles will get you from Washington, D.C to north of New York City.
Depth
  • Size is measured in three dimensions, so in addition to its length and width, Grand Canyon also has depth.  One mile of depth to be exact.  That’s 5,280 feet, or 1,610 meters for you metrically-inclined folks.  For perspective, you could stack 4 Empire State Buildings, both Petronas Towers, 3 CN Buildings, 7 Eiffel Towers, or 22 Statues of Liberty on top of each other to reach this depth.  The Goat’s advice: try walking all the way up ONE of these; that should give you some appreciation.
  • There are approximately 5000 individual canyons that come together to make Grand Canyon.  Grand Canyon is not so much one giant canyon as it is a tapestry of chiseled dissections in the earth.

Time

  •  Rocks in Grand Canyon record 1.9 billion years of Earth’s history.
  • The Inner Gorge of Grand Canyon is composed of some of the oldest rocks in North America.   At 1.9 billion years old, the Vishnu Schist metamorphic complex are the remnants of the North American continent being formed and great mountain ranges being thrust into the sky, nearly 6,000 feet tall.
  • The oldest-recorded signs of life in Grand Canyon are 500 million years old
  • The canyons began to form 5-6 million years ago as the Upper and Lower Colorado Rivers became integrated after action along the San Andreas fault opened the Gulf of California

The Mighty Colorado

  • At the bottom of Grand Canyon lies the river responsible for cutting it, the mighty Colorado.  Though it seems like a lazy river and prime for a swim, The Goat advises against it.  The average current in the Colorado River flows at over 16,000 cfs (cubic feet per second).
  • This is the equivalent of being bombarded with 16,000 basketballs every second.  Try swimming against that current.  Some of the most challenging rapids found on the Colorado River lie within Grand Canyon, and many early pioneers were shipwrecked and marooned in the Grand, barely escaping with their lives.
  • Glen Canyon Dam was completed in 1964 and has tamed it somewhat, but the river is still a dangerous proposition.  The trade-off with the “taming” is that that water in the Colorado River stays between a brisk 45-50 degrees Fahrenheit, drawing water from the bottom of Lake Powell.  In waters of these temperatures, hypothermia can set in within 30 minutes.  Not cool.

Exploration

Ancient Exploration
  • The first peoples known to have explored Grand Canyon arrived about 12,000 years ago, after the most recent Ice Age.
  • Ancestral Puebloans – ancestors of the Paiute, Hopi, Zuni, and Anasazi – arrived roughly 5,000 years ago.
  • The Havasupai, descendants of the Puebloans, were first recorded in Grand Canyon roughly 800 years ago.
Modern Exploration
  • Spanish Explorers, with Hopi Guides, arrived in 1540 searching for the Lost City of Gold.
  • Joseph Christmas Ives, soldier and botanist, was the first known European to explore and document Grand Canyon.
  • The first person of European descent to successfully navigate the Colorado River through the entirety of Grand Canyon was Major John Wesley Powell in 1869.  The head of the United States Geological Survey at the time, Major Powell coined its name, referring to it as “The Grand Canyon of the Colorado River”.  He is also responsible for naming several other features along the length of the Colorado, including Glen Canyon, The Flaming Gorge, and the Gates of Lodore.

Grand Canyon as a National Park

  • The geographical size of Grand Canyon National Park is 1,902 square miles.  The State of Rhode Island is 1,212 square miles, and the State of Delaware is 1,952 square miles.  So yeah, Grand Canyon is the size of a couple of our States.
  • President Benjamin Harrison designated it a forest reserve in 1893.
  • Grand Canyon became America’s 17th National Park in 1919, elevating it from a National Monument designated by Theodore Roosevelt as such in 1908 using the Antiquities Act of 1906.
  • The population of the State of Arizona is roughly 7 million, with roughly 6 million of those people residing in and around Phoenix.  2016 visitation to Grand Canyon topped 6 million for the first time in the Canyon’s history as a National Park.
  • Grand Canyon is located entirely within the boundaries of the State of Arizona.  Arizona is geographically the 6th-largest state in the Union, and was admitted on Valentine’s Day of 1912.  Love it!

What does the future hold for Grand Canyon as a Natural Feature?

Grand Canyon, like most landscapes on the Colorado Plateau, is extremely dynamic.  It is not done forming, and at only 5-6 million years old, perhaps has only just begun.  The Colorado River must still remove between 2000-3000 feet of rock before it levels itself with its outlet at the Sea of Cortez.  One final BIG fact can be found here; the amount of sediment already removed from Grand Canyon, thought to be between 12000-15000 feet (most of the rocks in the Grand Staircase once covered this area, too), would be enough to fill (get ready for it) 17 million olympic-sized swimming pools!

Perhaps now you have a better feel for just how big Grand Canyon really is.  The best part, though?  It’s getting bigger.  With every rainstorm, with every flood, with every second the river flows, with every rockfall, every single second of every single day that the forces of erosion act upon it, Grand Canyon gets bigger.  It gets wider, deeper, longer.  Every single grain of dirt, clay, mud, or dust removed by wind, water, and time continues daily to shape this magnificent place.

What Now?

Go impress your friends with your stupendous knowledge of Grand Canyon! Go now! If you don’t go now, the canyon will change!  You don’t need to run, I suppose, you may yet have a few years.  I can promise that during your lifetime, Grand Canyon will remain much the same as it does today,  However, wild places require constant vigilance.  The building of Glen Canyon dam forever changed the character of Grand Canyon, and so too do future projects threaten the canyon’s wilderness. Development, industrial tourism such as helicopters and jeeps, and even mining interests still today stand at the gates of Grand Canyon, waiting.  Learn more about preserving Grand Canyon and other wild landscapes here.

The best way to appreciate places like Grand Canyon is to get there and explore them.  Hiring a guide service or outfitter can significantly enhance your experience, as the depth of knowledge and appreciation contained within the collective of these services is astounding.

May your trails be winding and crooked, the breath in your lungs pure, the sights in your eyes unspoiled.  Go!

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How Long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon?

How Long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon?

How long Does it Take to Walk Down the Grand Canyon

Like many of the questions about Grand Canyon, this one has several different and nuanced answers.  Will you travel by foot, mule, or helicopter?  How much gear might you be carrying?  Are you a fit hiker, or is this your first time?  Are you approaching from North Rim or South Rim?  The Goat is here to break down all of these options!

Hiking

Let’s begin with the most popular, and easily the most rewarding style of travel in Grand Canyon; a good old-fashioned, one foot in front of the other journey into the depths of time and space.

Some Advice before you Begin

First and foremost, the National Park Service (and The Goat) advises that nobody, under any circumstances, should attempt the hike from rim-to-river and back in one day.  Attempting to hike rim-to-river and back in a day has resulted in many deaths over the years, along with countless cases of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and severe dehydration among other delightful afflictions.  Before we get into the fun, fabulous parts of hiking in Grand Canyon, we must first be clear about this practice.

Inverted Mountains Are Sneaky

Grand Canyon Hikers must remember one mantra; going down is optional, coming up is mandatory.  The NPS must execute hundreds of rescues each year on hikers that run into trouble.  Grand Canyon is a hostile, dry, and unforgiving place that yields no mercy.  Summertime temperatures can reach well over 100 degrees, there is little water on any trails, and even less shade.

Hiking in Grand Canyon is often referred to as “hiking a mountain in reverse”.  That is, your descent comes first, while your ascent is how you must finish.  This can fool hikers easily, as walking down is an easy, breezy, view-saturated adventure that can quickly get out of hand.  Many hikers that find trouble simply started walking down the trail, suddenly realizing that they are five miles down having barely broken a sweat.

Water

Perhaps the most potentially dangerous thing about undertaking any hike in Grand Canyon is the particular lack of water.  Many hikes the world over cross numerous streams, have shade, and/or easy access to clean, potable water.  This is not the case in Grand Canyon, as water sources are extremely limited.  Two South Rim hikes (Tanner, South Kaibab) have no accessible water source of any kind until the Colorado River.

Other South Rim trails (Hermit, Bright Angel) have access to water along the trail, but not for at least 3.5 miles.  Always carry plenty of water when hiking in Grand Canyon.  The Goat recommends a minimum of 3L/person, no matter the distance of the hike.

Spatial Perception

Much like the sneakiness of the inverted mountain, things in Grand Canyon tend to appear much closer than they actually are.  At times it feels as though you could literally reach out and touch the Colorado River, or even just a portion of trail beneath you.  Go to Desert Watchtower on the East Rim.  From the Tanner Trail, you are presented with an astonishing view of the mighty Colorado, a unique rim view in Grand Canyon.  Though the river is over 9 miles away by trail, an optical illusion is presented that makes the river feel close.

This is a difficult lesson for many hikers in Grand Canyon.  Our destination is just right over there!  It looks so close!  Believe us, it is not.  Between the necessarily winding trail, the relentless sun, the lack of water, and the absence of shade, something that optically appears close becomes seemingly further away in reality.  Remember that the scale presented to your senses in Grand Canyon is typically unlike anything you’ve ever experience.  Those of us that have spent years in this wondrous landscape are still blown away by its size and space.  In Grand Canyon, perception is often NOT reality.

Let’s Start Hiking!

At last, we can actually talk about hiking!  Hiking in Grand Canyon is a magical, perhaps even spiritual experience.  The colors, sights, sounds, smells, and ever-changing conditions create an intensely dramatic and memorable experience on even short hikes.  As you hike though 2 billion years of Earth’s history, the Canyon reveals itself step-by-step, both physically and philosophically.  In terms of trails and the time it takes to reach the bottom, here are your options:

South Rim

The South Rim presents most of the park’s developed trails, has the “shortest” routes to the river at the bottom, and is by a wide margin the more popular of the two rims.  There are 4 developed trails from the South Rim, and 1 trail that is undeveloped and unmaintained.

Bright Angel

The Bright Angel Trail is the most popular trail in Grand Canyon.  It traces the path of the Bright Angel Fault, through Indian Gardens, across the Tonto bench, and down to the river in 9.6 miles.  This highly trafficked corridor trail teems with other hikers and rangers aplenty, great for beginners introducing themselves to Grand Canyon hiking.  Hikers can reach the river and Bright Angel Campground in between 4-5 hours.

South Kaibab

The South Kaibab Trail is the steeper counterpart of the Bright Angel Trail, and plunges to the river in an abrupt 6.4 miles.  Holding the distinction as the only trail in the park developed completely by the NPS, it is a more direct route to the river for those looking for speed.  Connecting South Kaibab to Bright Angel via the Tonto Trail is a classic backpacking trip that many first-timers find welcoming.  Hiking to the river along the South Kaibab Trail typically takes between 3-4 hours.

Hermit Trail

The Hermit Trail follows a route forged by Canyon pioneer Louis Boucher, also known as “the Hermit of Grand Canyon”.  Mr. Boucher led a reclusive life at the bottom of the Canyon for roughly 20 years, guiding tourists, mining, and homesteading.  His pioneer route was improved by the Santa Fe Railroad company in the early 1900s, and today presents an excellent alternative to the more crowded corridor trails.  The Hermit Trail descends 8.9 miles to the river, and will take the average hiker between 4-5 hours to reach the bottom.

Tanner Trail

The Tanner Trail is perhaps the most exciting and more challenging of developed routes from the South Rim.  The trail presents sweeping views across eastern Grand Canyon, with views of Marble Canyon and the Vermillion Cliffs to the north.  The Grand Canyon Supergroup, a suite of tilted, faulted, 1 billion year-old sedimentary rocks that symbolize the Great Unconformity are revealed in splendor here, a perspective unique to this part of the canyon.  The Tanner trail is 9.3 miles long, and hikers may reach the river in 4-5 hours.

South Bass

The South Bass trail, set roughly 25 miles west of the South Rim Visitor’s Center, is easily the most rugged trail from the South Rim.  Reached by a 4WD trail, the drive here takes roughly 2.5 hours.  The trail itself was carved by William Wallace Bass, and early pioneer and promoter of tourism in Grand Canyon.  South Rim solitude is found in droves here, wildlife abundant, and views outstanding.  The trail is 12.2 miles long, and will take the average hiker 5-7 hours to reach the river.

North Rim

The less popular, more contemplative North Rim presents Grand Canyon hikers with opportunities for more challenges, more solitude, and a decidedly different perspective of Grand Canyon.  Set at over 8,500 feet above sea level, North Rim is a forested wonderland of rolling meadows, wildflower, and perhaps even a glimpse of one of the iconic symbols of the west, the American Bison.  Access requires longer drive times, and trails here retain a fairly rugged character.  Like the South Rim, do not even dream of attempting a rim-to-river-to-rim hike in one day.  North Rim trails are long, can be challenging, and are generally reserved for more-experienced Grand Canyon hikers.

Much of the Colorado River system that has carved Grand Canyon emanates from the north.  Consequently, in contrast to South Rim, North Rim is “set back” from the river, following long, meandering routes coursed by ancient tributaries.  South Rim’s dramatic and abrupt cliff faces and 4000-foot plunges are a product of the lack of water flowing into the river from the south, while North Rim landscapes are dominated by softer relief.

North Kaibab

Counterpart to the South Kaibab Trail, North Kaibab is North Rim’s most accessible and least rugged trail.  It is the only North Rim trail maintained by the NPS.  The trail is follows a 28 miles route to the river, and most hikers will find that it takes 2-3 days to reach the river.  Keep in mind that this is the least-challenging trail on North Rim.

Nankoweap Route

Notice the use of the word “route”, as opposed to the use of the word “trail” in the name.  This is for a reason, as Nankoweap is really not a trail in the traditional sense.  It is lightly trafficked, unmaintained, and follows an ambitiously-descending ridge along the East Kaibab Monocline.  Hikers descend 14.8 miles along the trail, and average hikers may reach the river in 1-2 days. Get ready.  Get set. Go!

North Bass

The North Bass Trail is, of course, the North Rim counterpart to South Rim’s Bass Trail.  William Wallace Bass, pioneer of Grand Canyon, carved this route as part of his efforts to promote tourism in Grand Canyon.  The trail follows faults, rock falls, and sublime canyon scenery 14.5 miles to the river.  Hikers may reach the river in 1-2 days.  This is perhaps the quintessential trail in Grand Canyon, as it contains just about everything hiking here has to offer.  Try an exciting Rim-to-Rim backpacking tour on the Bass Trail, complete with a pack rafting adventure!

Seeing Grand Canyon on Muleback

The National Park Service maintains a mule farm on both North and South Rims.  Visitors to Grand Canyon may elect to have their gear carried to their campsite by pack mule, a decidedly easier alternative to carrying your own gear.  Please consider your choice carefully when selecting a mule outfitter.

Several private companies have been fined and banned from Grand Canyon for animal abuse and cruelty.  Check the Park Service’s website for more information about mule rides in Grand Canyon.  Contact us to learn more about mule-assisted backpacking tours.

Imbibing in a mule-assisted trip to the river certainly takes a load off, however it does not save time.  Hikers must still make their way on foot, or on the back of a mule whose goal is not speed.  Mule trips down to the river typically take between 4-5 hours.

See Grand Canyon by Helicopter

One of the fairly new enterprises in Grand Canyon is the proliferation of helicopter tours.  They are popular particularly in western Grand Canyon, where helicopters buzz through the air almost constantly.  The Goat’s opinion is this — get your butt off your couch and onto your feet.  Need more information?  Please look elsewhere :). Helicopters create several problems in Grand Canyon.  Helicopters create pollution, both noise and exhaust. They destroy any perceived wilderness experience.  They damage wildlife patterns, and best of all (sarcasm) they crash!  In the past 7 years, there have been 3 helicopter crashes that resulted in fatalities.  The most recent of these was near Peach Springs in 2017, when 5 passengers and the pilot died.  One woman was rescued, and is scarred for life both physically and mentally.  Take my advice — don’t contribute to the proliferation of industrial tourism in Grand Canyon.

Fitness

Surely you’ve heard this numerous times, but please be in reasonable physical condition.  Undertaking any hiking in Grand Canyon is a decidedly physical challenge, and it will increase your enjoyment as well as decrease your chances of trouble if you are in shape.  For more information, see our blog post regarding training for hiking in Grand Canyon.

Guided Grand Canyon Hiking Tours

Perhaps the very best way to see and experience Grand Canyon is by hiring a professional guide service.  Hiking with people who know the Grand Canyon intimately vastly improves your experience and understanding of this unreal place, and not having to deal with logistics, food, gear, and all that madness only enhances the trip.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides everything need; geologist/guides with actual geology degrees and professional certifications, backcountry meals inspired by professional chefs, top-of-the-line gear, and outstanding customer service.

The Goat’s Final Word

There you have it, folks.  You asked how long does it take walk down the Grand Canyon, and we have outlined virtually every possible eventuality!  Whether by foot (awesome), by mule (still awesome), helicopter (not cool), from North or South Rim, by land or bey sea, you now have some idea of how long it takes.  Happy Hiking!

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Is Havasupai Falls In The Grand Canyon?

Is Havasupai Falls In The Grand Canyon?

Where is Havasupai Falls?

Traveler in the American Southwest often think Havasu Falls are in Grand Canyon National Park.  They are not.  But don’t worry, The Goat will get you there! Technically speaking, Havasu Falls is, in fact, part of Grand Canyon.  Grand Canyon is a massive network or smaller canyons that combine to drain water into the Colorado River.  Havasu Falls are located in Havasu Canyon, a tributary of greater Grand Canyon.  So, the answer is actually yes and no.  Yes the falls are in greater Grand Canyon, but no, they are not in the National Park.  Let’s break this down!

Who are the Havasupai People?

Havasupai translated into English means “People of the Blue-Green Waters”.  An apt moniker indeed.  It is in concert with the sparkling turquoise waters that dance and plunge over the several falls in and around Havasu Canyon.  Anthropological evidence suggests that the Havasu ‘Baaja people arrived in Grand Canyon roughly 800 years ago.  They forged many of the footpaths in the Grand Canyon that today have become popular hiking trails.

Indian Gardens, found along the Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon, was an important natural spring for the tribe, yielding precious fresh drinking water and drawing animals for hunting.  As the Havasupai people grew in numbers, they constructed a village at the base of Havasu Canyon where they adopted agriculture and traded with other local tribes.

The Havasu people existed in this manner for hundreds of years until the arrival of Europeans in the 1800’s.  The land was claimed by the Spanish, then Mexican Governments, until it was given to the United States of America via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.  President Rutherford B. Hayes set about establishing reservations for the numerous Native American tribes that dotted the country, the Havasupai among them.  Their land was parceled as a 500-acre plot at the base of Havasu Creek on the South Rim of Grand Canyon.  This is a far cry from the hundreds of thousands of acres that they and their ancestors had roamed over the centuries.

Who were the first European explorers to Havasupai Falls?

Various Spanish explorers came through the area in the 1500’s during their search for the Seven Cities of Gold.  However, European exploration of Grand Canyon as a whole was very limited until the late 1800’s.

William Wallace Bass, an important figure in the history of Grand Canyon, settled in the area in 1880.  He befriended the tribe who showed him important food and water sources.  In return, he promoted tourism in the area by creating the Havasu Canyon Trail and leading groups of tourists into the canyon to marvel at its sheer beauty and revitalizing mineral-rich waters.

Despite his efforts, the tribe was stripped of their land shortly thereafter.  After appropriating the land for public use, the US Government leased various mining and homesteading claims, reducing the Havasupai to near ruin.

So who owns the Land?

Havasu Canyon and its surrounding area are the homeland of the Havasupai Native American Tribe.  This tribe and their ancestors have called this region home for generations, long before the first European settlers came into the area, and even longer before Grand Canyon became a National Park in 1919.

Prior to 1882, the Havasupai people claimed land roughly the size of Delaware, about 1.6 million acres.  President Chester A. Arthur appropriated the land as property of the United States Government in that year.  The Havasupai were relegated to a 518-acre parcel of land in Cataract (Havasu) Canyon.  Their numbers dwindled to under 200 through several misfortunes including famine and disease.

Landmark Decisions

After the establishment of a National Monument in 1906, the Havasupai were told that they must leave the Grand Canyon completely.  For decades the tribal leaders that remained fought vigorously to restore the tribe’s heritage lands.  In 1968 they won a landmark court decision, one that ruled that the land had been improperly taken from them by the US Government.

However, it was not until 1974 that the bill originating from the court case, S. 1296, was finally ratified into law.  This formally returned 185,000 acres to the Havasupai tribe, re-establishing their homeland and cultural heritage.  Today, the Havasupai Tribe has grown to over 800 members living within the returned lands.  They manage the land, farming, ranching, and promoting tourism to their famous blue-green waterfalls.

The Ultimate Outcome

The enlarging of the Havasupai Reservation to 185,000 acres included an additional 95,000 where the tribe is allowed to practice their ancestral rituals.  After the enlargement, tribal members decided it best to focus on tourism as the main economic engine.  They erected a visitor’s center, general store, cafe, and lodge.  The Village of Supai is today a bustling tourist destination, wherein tourists pour by the tens of thousands each year to enjoy the beautiful lands of the Havasupai.

Going Guided

The Havasupai tribe has radically changed their regulations.  Primarily, a moratorium has been placed on all commercial hiking permits.  Commercial guiding companies will not be allowed to apply for permits until this moratorium is lifted.  Also, all permit reservations must be made online at HavasupaiReservations.com.

For questions about this process and all inquiries regarding travel to Havasu Falls, please contact us any time!

 

The Goat’s Final Word

Havasu Falls is an extraordinarily beautiful and special place.  Thousands of people make the 10-mile trek to the group of turquoise waterfalls each year in awe.  However, many are still unsure regarding the status of Havasu Falls and its relation to Grand Canyon and the National Park.  To recap, Havasu Falls is not in Grand Canyon National Park.  The land is owned and managed by the Havasupai Tribe, and has been fully since 1975.

Havasu Canyon itself, however, is in Grand Canyon.  It is part of the intricate network of canyons that form Grand Canyon.  The waters of Havasu Creek outlet into the Colorado River, which is the main waterway though Grand Canyon.  The journey to this point in time has been an arduous and sometimes tragic one for the tribe, but the ultimate outcome has been very positive.

Havasu Falls and the four other impressive falls that dot the canyon (Mooney being the most famous) have become perhaps the most popular destination in the West.  This fact has resulted in some sense of financial stability and autonomy for the Havasupai People.  They inhabit an absolutely stunning landscape in which they are able to live freely to practice their customs and way of life, which is far more than can be said for past generations.

The Times are a-changin….

The popularity of the destination has been very positive for the tribe, but it has resulted in some unintended negative consequences.  Pack animals have born the brunt of many unfortunate fates, while helicopters proliferate and trash accumulates.  In 2019 the tribe has tried to gain more control over the tourism industry here by placing a moratorium on commercial hiking tours.

The changes to the guided hiking permits is a sticky issue.  The popularity of Havasu Falls has created some difficult issues for the tribe, and not every company operates responsibly.  In addition, guiding companies had begun to monopolize the already-limited number of permits, thereby making a trip to Havasupai nearly a strictly commercial enterprise.  The pack animal abuses combined with monopolization of permits has forced the tribe to make some some tough decisions.

At the same time, helicopters are still permitted in Havasu which continues to add people, pollution, and an overall degradation of the environment and so-called wilderness experience.  Perhaps the tribe feels that they can more easily regulate helicopter travel.  Recently singer Beyonce filmed a music video here, coming in of course by helicopter.  Permit holders were told to clear out to give space to the filming operation.  This caused an unnecessary controversy, and raises questions.

So What?

Go to Havasu Falls.  Forget about the controversies and the decision and just go.  It is gorgeous. It is awe-inspiring.  Simply, it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.  Don’t worry about the nonsense. Toss away your cares and just go.  Get your permit, and see this place.  Hike unto the outstanding canyon.  Swim and dive in the turquoise waters.  Catch some shade under a towering cottonwood.  Hang a hammock and chill.  Get there by foot, or get there by helicopter (?!).  It does not really matter how you choose to go.  Just go.  That’s the final word.

Read our Blog The Call of The Goat!

For epic adventures through geologic time contact Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism.  We offer guided hiking tours to Grand Canyon, Utah Canyon Country, and Arizona Red Rocks Country.  

Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time — Blue Marble Adventure Geotourism

 

How was the Grand Staircase Formed?

How was the Grand Staircase Formed?

How was the Grand Staircase formed?

Why is the Grand Staircase called the Grand Staircase?  Because it sounds cool?  Well, of course because it sounds cool, but the name actually represents a very unique and important geological phenomenon that has been built over hundreds of millions of years.  Starting from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon to the hoodoo wonderland that is Bryce Canyon National Park, the Grand Staircase represents progressively younger and higher cliffs that quite literally form a staircase, as though a giant was looking for an easy way to step up to the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  There are five stairs in this grandest of staircases, each a different color, a different piece of rock, and a different age from Permian to Cretaceous, a span of over 200 million years.

Grand_Staircase-big

Step Zero:  Kaibab Limestone, North Rim Grand Canyon National Park

gcp1

Before you being to climb any staircase, you must first stand below it and contemplate your climb.  This is step zero.  The best part about this step is that there it also serves as a foyer, with stairs above and below.  The stairs below?  2 billion years of Earth’s history and 5000 vertical feet down to the Colorado River and its Grand Canyon.  The top step of this staircase is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the Kaibab Limestone, a Permian formation packed with marine fossils that serves as the hard, protective layer of the Kaibab Plateau and the soft sandstones and shales that make up the red and orange walls you will see when hiking in Grand Canyon

Step One:  The Chocolate Cliffs:  Moenave and Chinle Formations

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The first official step in the Grand Staircase is the Chocolate Cliffs, located near the town of Fredonia, AZ and seen prominently on US hwy 89 near the Arizona/Utah Border.  The Chocolate Cliffs can also be seen below Glen Canyon Dam.  Aptly named, these velvet brown cliffs of the Moenave Formation, a variably sandy and silty sandstone/shale that represents a proximal marine fluvial (river) system of early Jurassic age, are part of the greater Glen Canyon Group that includes all the Jurassic-aged units of the Grand Staircase (Wingate, Moenave, Kayenta, Navajo).  The Chocolate Cliffs are home to thousands of dinosaur fossil fragments, though no full specimens have been recovered.

Step Two:  The Vermillion Cliffs:  Kayenta Formation and Navajo Sandstone, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument

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The Vermillion Cliffs, perhaps more famous geologically for their National Monument that contains such features as “The Wave“, White Pocket, and Buckskin Gulch, are the second step in the layercake of geologic time that forms the Grand Staircase.  Laid down during the mid Jurassic, Vermillion is composed of two distinct rock units that are married to one another across the Colorado Plateau.  The Kayenta Formation, which is sandwiched between the older Wingate and younger Navajo Sandstones, is a terrifically diverse and interesting unit that represents a wetter transition period with a howling and vast desert on each chronological side.

A veritable melange of lithology, Kayenta has just about everything from thin lenses of limestone and muddy shales to cross-bedded sandstones similar to its stratigraphic neighbors.  It records almost seasonal changes with its mud cracks, as well as large scale climatic changes indicated by sand dunes, river beds, and even the occasional shallow lake bed.  Kayenta and Navajo are almost always found together, and oftentimes form dramatic cliffs and canyons together as seen in the Vermillion Cliffs and Zion National Park.

Step Three: The White Cliffs:  Navajo Sandstone, Zion National Park

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The third step in the Grand Staircase are perhaps some of the most most famous and photographed cliffs in the world, creating Zion National Park in southwest Utah.  Soaring red and white Navajo Sandstone, formed by a massive windblown desert in the middle Jurassic, have made Zion National Park one of the most sought-after destinations in the Utah, the American Southwest, and even the world as people travel from thousands of miles and from every corner of the globe to behold the epic grandeur showcased by these rocks.

Step 4: The Gray Cliffs/Straight Cliffs, Straight Cliffs Formation/Mancos Shale, Grand Staircase National Monument 

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Though often overlooked for its wildly famous famous neighbors, the fourth step Gray Cliffs are nothing if not spectacular.  Though not as celebrated as the White and Pink Cliffs contained within the boundaries of Bryce and Zion Canyons and their National Parks, the Gray Cliffs contains some of the most wild, scenic, unspoiled, and lightly explored wilderness in North America.  Think that sounds ridiculous?  Consider this: the Kaiparowits Plateau, wherein the Gray Cliffs are most prominent, receives less visitors in one year than Zion does in one day, and that’s just the beginning.  The Gray Cliffs and the canyons below them contain some of the most complete and celebrated archaeological finds in the United States.  Want to see a T-Rex?  Want to walk in Apatosuar footprints?  The Gray Cliffs house all these wonders and more in their Cretaceous-era shales.

Step 5:  The Pink Cliffs, Claron Formation, Bryce Canyon National Park

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Our climb ends in some of the most famous scenery in the entire world, the pink and orange hoodoos of the Claron Formation and Bryce Canyon National Park.  Remnants of shallow, salty inland lakes of the late Cretaceous, the Pink Cliffs have eroded into outrageously spectacular natural amphitheaters, mesas, and wild canyons.  Cedar Breaks National Monument also displays the Pinks and receives far fewer visitors.

Visitors to the entire Grand Staircase area, from its namesake National Monument to the soaring cliffs of its three National Parks, will be treated to some of the most special, most spectacular, and most geologically important scenery in the entire world.  There is no better way to explore the Kaiparowits Plateau, The Grand Canyon, or the rest of the Grand Staircase than with our geologist/guides, who will take care of your every need while giving you an in-depth glimpse into the geologic secrets hidden in this outstanding place.

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante, or any of the National Parks, is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides.  Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore.  In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.

Follow us on Facebookand Instagram

Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time — Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism

What are the 5 National Parks in Utah?

What are the 5 National Parks in Utah?

What are the 5 National Parks in Utah?

Breathe in, breathe out.  Survey the scene.  Take it all in.  This is the most outrageous scenery anywhere in the world, and you are right in the middle of it.  Utah’s Canyon Country is a geological fantasy, and an adventure hikers dream.  In this wild land there are five National Parks, each of them holding distinction as some of the most iconic on the planet.  Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks hold some of the most world famous scenery, whimsical geology, and thrilling adventure that people from all over the world flock to, and The Goat is here to give you a first-hand glimpse of what to expect when spelunking Utah’s Canyon Country.

Arches National Park, Northeast Utah near Moab

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Arches National Park is perhaps the most famous place in the world.  Although that is an incredibly bold statement, there is nothing that represents the Colorado Plateau, the Southwest, and indeed, The United States, quite like an image from Arches.  Delicate Arch, pictured above, is without a doubt the most famous natural arch in the world, and is one of the most famous and photographed destinations in the southwest.  Quick, think of an image that represents America.  We dare you to conjure an image, or series of images, that does not include these iconic features and their namesake National Park.

Established in 1929 as a National Monument by Herbert Hoover then upgraded to a National Park by Richard Nixon in 1969, Arches National Park is home to the largest and densest concentration of sedimentary arches in the world.  The literally thousands of arches are among several geologic features that are unique and specific to Arches National Park, and it is markedly different from its neighbor Canyonlands National Park just to the southwest.  Arches is set atop a massive salt deposit laid down by an ancient sea roughly 300 million years ago, and this is the special ingredient that has allowed for the fabulous features for which it is most famous.

Set in Utah’s high desert climate, weather in Arches is punctuated by hot summers, mild winters, and seasonal monsoons that can dump most of its 10 inches of yearly precipitation in just a few events.  The weather is also one of the root causes for the park’s unique geology, as the unpredictable nature of precipitation, freezing, lake of competent soils, and other factors contribute daily to shape this wondrous piece of the Colorado Plateau.

Check out our Guided Geology Tours of Arches National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park, Southwest Utah near St. George

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Fun Fact #1 about Bryce Canyon: It’s not a canyon (bet you didn’t see that coming).  Geologically speaking, Bryce Canyon and Bryce Canyon National Park is a natural amphitheater, carved out by millions of years of the erosion of the soft lacustrine (lake) sediments.  The most famous feature of the park, its “hoodoos”, are carved out of the Claron Formation, otherwise known as the beautiful pink and orange sandy limestone that caps the entire park.  Want to make a few new friends?  Hug a hoodoo!

Southwestern Utah, wherein Bryce Canyon National Park is located, is a fundamentally unique and spectacular geologic marvel.  Here you will stand in awe as you see the underpinnings of the meetings of two geologic provinces and the forces that shape them both.  The Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range provinces come together in this general region, making Utah’s High Plateau Country what it is; high plateaus that are former mountains that have been acted upon by millions of years of erosion by wind and water.

Faults to the west and east, remnants of the forces that built the Rocky Mountains, have thrust southwestern Utah skyward creating unique topography that is of nearly ridiculous proportions.  Bryce Canyon sits at an average elevation of over 8,000 feet, which is quite astonishing considering that it is over 1,000 feet higher than its neighbor Zion National Park.  When you think of Bryce Canyon, do you think of elevations higher than average elevations in the Appalachian Mountains?  Most don’t, so you’re not alone!

Summer is a great time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park, although that is when the park sees most of its nearly 2.5 million yearly visitors.  Winter brings snow and cooler temperatures, though it can lend fantastic solitude to the masterful scenery.  Spring and fall can bring unpredictable weather events including snow and rain, but don’t let that stop you, the shoulder seasons are likely the ideal time to visit, as you will avoid winter chill and summer crowds, a rare duel threat.

For more information about Bryce Canyon National Park, give us a call or reserve a spot on one of our fantastic guided Utah geology hiking tours!

Canyonlands National Park, Northeast Utah near Moab

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The name of this spectacular National Park says it all; it is truly a land of canyons.  Set aside as a National Monument in 1964, Canyonlands National Park contains some of the most awe-inspiring and remote Colorado Plateau scenery that one can find.  Telling a geologic story nearly 350 million years old, Canyonlands retains all the features that make it a master class in Colorado Plateau geology and all of Utah’s Mighty 5 National Parks.  Here you will find numerous sandstone arches, hoodoos, remote slot canyons, towering cliffs and mesas, faults, folds, salt domes, meteorite impacts, and a collection of some of the most important rock layers of the Paradox Basin, a fundamentally important piece of the geologic puzzle on the Colorado Plateau.

More remote and less-visited than its across-the-highway neighbor Arches National Park, Canyonlands is a place where you feel truly connected to nature, the past, present, and even the future; it’s a place where one can truly ponder the beauty, grace, complexity and its diametric simplicity of the Colorado Plateau in all of its unabashed glory.  It holds the confluence of perhaps the West’s two most important rivers; the Colorado and the Green, each of which, along with their tributaries has intricately carved this vast land of seemingly endless gashes in the Earth, each more spectacular and foreboding than the last.  Time here has painted, carved, woven, and stitched together the very fabric of what makes Utah and the southwest such an alluring place, and Canyonlands National Park is an absolute forget-about-it must for any outdoor adventurer.

Capitol Reef National Park, Central Utah near Boulder

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Perhaps the most underrated National Park in the entire system, and certainly in Utah, is Capitol Reef National Park.  Capitol Reef is akin to the forgotten middle child who is class valedictorian, goes to an Ivy League school, becomes a cutting-edge neurosurgeon, and nobody notices.  Anyone who knows this middle child would tell you of its brilliance, its beauty, its allure, and its potential.  However, not enough people have paid attention because all of its other siblings happen to be smart, beautiful, famous, and in-demand as well.

Born into National Park designation in 1970, Capitol Reef National Park is a veritable outdoor geology laboratory.  The wilderness protects a 100-mile long monocline known as The Waterpocket Fold, so names due to the many erosional pockets which house water after rain events.  The structure is a towering reminder of the tectonic forces that built the Rocky Moutains, and is one of the most well-exposed, spectacular, largest, and well-preserved (not eroded) such structures on Earth.  Along its rugged spine are towering cliffs and mesas that take the form of domes that are reminiscent of capitol buildings found in Washington DC among other big cities, giving their moniker to this wonderful place.  The reef portion of the park’s name comes from the foreboding cliffs that seem to guard its secrets, as reefs are commonly known as barriers to travel.

Capitol Reef has many advantages that its sibling parks lack; the best of all being solitude and proximity to large metropolitan areas.  Capitol Reef National Park is, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere.  Whereas Zion and Bryce are but 2-3 hours from Las Vegas and large highways, and Arches/Canyonlands are just outside of the world-renowned tourist mecca of Moab, Capitol Reef’s largest, nearest city is Boulder; population: 3,500.

No major highways allow easy access, and just getting to Capitol Reef is half the fun, as an approach from any direction takes you into the heart of Utah’s Canyon Country.  In addition, it shares its southern border with Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, making access from that direction even more adventurous.  Some of the most unspoiled wilderness, star-gazing, hiking, and outdoor recreation opportunities are contained within this utterly spectacular and outstanding slice of outdoor heaven.  Consider yourself warned.

For more information about Capitol Reef National Park, give us a call or reserve a spot on one of our fantastic guided Utah geology hiking tours!

Zion National Park, Southwest Utah near St. George

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Considered by many to be one of the premier National Parks not just in the United States but in the world, Zion National Park ranks as the 6th-most visited National Park in the system.  Within its borders are contained some of the most iconic and famous trails and landmarks in the southwest, including Angel’s Landing, The Subway, and The Watchtower to name a few.  Despite its visitation numbers, the crowds typically flock to the most well-known parts of the park, and there is plenty of solitude to be found in Zion’s remote and beautiful backcountry.

Located south of Bryce Canyon in Utah’s High Plateau Country, Zion is a wonderful melange of geologic layercake that makes the Colorado Plateau famous.  At almost 7,000 feet average elevation, Zion is a land of deeply-eroded canyons, towering cliffs, and is often referred to as “Yosemite Dressed in Red” by it many adoring fans. The Virgin River, which is ultimately the forming body in Lake Mead east of Las Vegas, is also the primary erosional force at work in Zion National Park, and it along with is tributaries have cut into the sunset-red rocks to sculpt Zion’s outrageous and almost daunting scenery.

When to Visit

Summer serves as the park’s busy visitation season with consistent temperatures, stable weather, and ample vacation time for families.  However, Zion can be enjoyed year-round, and the hearty outdoor adventure traveler will enjoy the relative solitude offered in the cooler months between October and May.

With so many great adventures to be had, choosing the right one for you can be the hardest part!  Give us a call for information about any of these wonderful places, or reserve a spot on one of our fabulous tours and let our expert geologist/guides take you on an epic journey!

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring Utah and its National Parks, is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides.  Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore.  In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.

Follow us on Facebookand Instagram

Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time — Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism

 

How Was the Petrified Forest Formed?

How Was the Petrified Forest Formed?

Dinosaurs, Soaring Forests, and  Giant Rivers

The Painted Desert is a beautiful and mysterious place.  Perhaps its crown jewel is the Petrified Forest National Park, where one may encounter the largest known concentration of petrified wood on the planet, a pretty special distinction.  From small shards to large trunks that are several feet in diameter, this natural phenomena dominates the stark, hauntingly beautiful landscape in northeastern Arizona.

The most fun part about being a geologist, or learning about geology, is the creativity and imagination in picturing how a landscape like the Petrified Forest came to be.  Why is it here?  The story told by the rocks and fossils in this wondrous place is one that winds through the sands of time, beginning nearly 225 million years ago in an era known as the Triassic……

The clock keeps on ticking…

As the years fly by, transporting us to this very place, we find ourselves standing in a towering deciduous forest.  These trees, some perhaps 100m tall, dominate the skyline and provide a lush canopy of greenery for the local flora and fauna.  We are close to the equator, inland on the supercontinent known as Pangea, formed when all the continents were sutured together by plate tectonics.

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Artist’s rendering of a Late Triassic scence (courtesy geolhistory.com)

A giant dragonfly, one roughly the size of an adult males’ hand, swoops by, landing nearby on a fern in the swampy landscape.  The vegetation is dense, the air is humid, and the smell in the air is a pungent mix of decaying organic matter and still water.  We are in a sub-tropical jungle, similar to one you might find in modern day Central America, and it is quite hot.  As we stomp though the brush swinging our machetes, we come to a clearing where a wide, shallow, lazy river is coursing its way through the forest, bound on each side by floodplains.

Wild Dinosaurs

Following the river we find tracks.  What are they?  Large Phytosaurs are fishing and sunning themselves on the bank of this warm river, while the other titan of the Triassic, Rauisuchian, steers clear.  Many other smaller dinosaur-like reptiles and crocodilian vertebrates roam around the brushy banks and Pterosaurs circle in the air, looking for fish and small mammals.

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The Phytosaur, top predator of the Triassic

The scene is serene, peaceful.  A warm, wet wind blows through the river valley, rustling fern leaves and wafting tree seeds.  Though you may not want to go, time steps forward.  Over the next 150 million years, this scene is buried by larger rivers, deserts, and lakes.  Trees fall and muds and sands carried by the ever-coursing rivers of change bury the trees and dinosaurs, entombing them to one day rise again.  Pangea rifts apart near the end of the Cretaceous and massive volcanic outputs combine with extra-terrestrial impacts to wipe the planet clean, giving rise the mammals that heretofore existed only underground.

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The Supercontinent Pangea.  The PFNP was located near the southwestern edge of the North American continent

The Mountains….

Then, as the Rocky Mountains are built to the northeast, the land is thrust upward, exposing it to the surficial winds and waters that carve the most epic of landscapes.  The Petrified Forest member of the widespread Chinle Formation, the colorful and unique formation that creates the brush stroke appearance of the Painted Desert, peeks its head out from its long slumber under the layers of sediment that buried it long ago.  The trees have undergone a fossilization process known as silicification, wherein silica (SiO2) replaces organic material over long periods of time, while the rest of the landscape has undergone a process called diagenisis, or the combination of processes that renders sediment into rock.

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The modern-day Petrified Forest near Blue Mesa

As modern life took hold over the thousands of years of human evolution and exploration, this area was noted as special and unique, and preserved for the generations when it was designated as a National Monument in 1906, then as a National Park in 1962.  Today it stands as one of the most fascinating and unique places on the face of the Earth.

Going Guided

Hiking and exploring any of the National Parks, is a special experience.  Although it is possible to see these places yourself, hiring a guide is a great idea.  For instance, guiding services provide logistical support, and plan everything for your best possible trip.  They provide a great safety net on the trail, and are trained in backcountry medicine. Above all, they provide a depth of knowledge of the region that turns a walk into a true adventure.

Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism provides all of the support you need, and pairs that with expert geologist/guides.  Our backcountry meals use fresh ingredients, and are planned by a professional chef.  Furthermore, we provide top-of-the-line gear and passion for the places we explore.  In conclusion, you can visit National Parks, but going with a guide can create and even more memorable experience.  Don’t be shy, and call us!

Read our blog!

For adventure hiking vacations in a geologic time machine, see our epic tours in Grand Canyon, Utah, and Arizona!

For geological musings read The Goat’s geology blog.

Follow us on Facebookand Instagram

Explore Further, Be Wild, See Through Time — Blue Marble Adventure GeoTourism