For many people around the world, the Grand Canyon is a top destination on their bucket list. But while this incredible natural landmark is one of the most recognizable in the U.S., many visitors don’t know much about the history or rich culture of the canyon.
Whether you have a visit planned or are still dreaming about seeing the Grand Canyon, keep reading to learn 7 things you might not know about this natural wonder.
1. The Grand Canyon Has Been Used and Occupied Continuously for 12,000 Years
The formation of the Grand Canyon began more than 2 billion years ago when the rocks of the inner gorge first formed. Over the last couple of billion years, layer upon layer of sedimentary rock has added to that first layer. This has created the multi-colored, layered walls we see today.
Then, between 5 and 6 million years ago, the Colorado River came into the picture. This powerful river began carving into the rock, forcing the canyon deeper and deeper, and exposing those layers. The Colorado River continues to do so today.
Humans came into the picture about 12,000 years ago. The oldest human artifacts found in the Grand Canyon date back to the Paleo-Indian period. The canyon has actually been continuously used and occupied since that time.
2. The North Rim Welcomes a Fraction of the Visitors the South Rim Sees
Most visitors to the Grand Canyon visit its South Rim. Located about 5 hours from both Phoenix and Las Vegas, this rim is more easily accessible to tourists, which has led to more development in the area and a sharp increase in the number of visitors.
Of the more than 5 million annual visitors to the Grand Canyon, just 10 to 15 percent of people visit the North Rim. While the two rims are located just 20 miles from one another as the crow flies, with no bridges or direct routes, it would take more than 5 hours to drive between the two.
While crowds often plague viewing areas on the South Rim, the North Rim offers incredible views with far fewer people. On our Wonder of the West Tour, we visit the pristine and incredible North Rim. This also makes for an easy drive to Lake Powell to continue your adventure and to visit the famous Antelope Canyon.
3. The Hopi People Consider it a Gateway to the Afterlife
Today, 11 Native American tribes claim historical or geographical connections to the Grand Canyon. One is the Hopi Tribe, who considers the canyon to be a Gateway to the Afterlife.
Other tribes that inhabit the area or celebrate a cultural connection to it include the Navajo Nation, The Pueblo of Zuni, and the Havasupai Tribe.
4. Mail is Still Carried By Mules to a Remote Canyon Village
Few visitors to the Grand Canyon realize that the canyon is actually home to the most remote community found in the lower 48 states. Called Supai, the village is inhabited by a small population of the Havasupai Tribe, who have lived in the area since AD 1300.
The village is not accessible by car or plane. Instead, visitors and locals arrive by foot, helicopter, or by pack animal. This also means that mail has to be carried in — by mule. Once a common method of carrying letters, the village is the last in the nation to receive mail in this way.
5. The Air Here is Some of the Cleanest in the U.S.
Located more than 8,000 feet above sea level and far from any major cities, the air at the Grand Canyon, and particularly the North Rim, is some of the cleanest in the United States.
6. It’s Home to a Diverse Ecosystem of Animals
Despite the often harsh and unforgiving landscapes found in the Grand Canyon, it’s actually home to a very diverse ecosystem of plant and animal life.
Bighorn sheep, elk, mule deer, mountain lions, and javelinas are just a few of the mammals found in the canyon. The North Rim is even home to a population of bison.
7. The North Rim Closes During the Winter Months Due to Snow
If you’ve ever seen images of the Grand Canyon, you might assume that the rocky landscape is a hot desert all year long. However, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon is forced to close to visitors each winter because of the heavy snowfall that it receives.
The North Rim receives the heaviest snowfall in all of the Grand Canyon. It averages 142 inches of snow each year. The record is nearly 23 feet of snow that fell in 1978. By comparison, the South Rim receives about 58 inches of snow annually.
Visiting the Grand Canyon on the Wonder of the West Tour
The Grand Canyon is a bucket-list destination for many travelers around the world. Whether you’ve visited the canyon in the past or not, a visit to the North Rim is a great way to experience an entirely different side of this unique national park.
If you’re ready to check the North Rim of the Grand Canyon off your bucket list, alongside several more of the Western United States’ most iconic natural landmarks, our Wonders of the West Tour is a great choice. On this 10 day tour, you’ll visit not only the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, but also Zion National Park, Monument Valley, Arches National Park, and more. Spots are still available for our 2022, but are filling up fast!
Don’t want to wait until 2022 for your next national park adventure? Spots are filling up fast for our fall 2021 tours. Book your spot today by reaching out directly at (435) 940-4212 or through your local travel agent. Start planning your 2022 vacation to guarantee your choice of trips and dates.