Free «Geology of the Grand Canyon» Essay Sample

In North Arizona lies one of the most beautiful places. This place is the Grand Canyon National Park.  This park houses one of the world’s top wonders, the Grand Canyon. The area is one of the most visited places on earth. It offers one of the best destinations for hiking, expeditions and camping. It is a prime tourist feature with credit beyond the Americas. The park provides beautiful scenery and geographical imagery that qualifies as a paradise for all relaxation and leisurely adventures (Fitzpatrick 2004).

Besides its beautiful scenery and beaming imagery, The Grand Canyon, which exists along the Colorado River, has an international outlook as one of the most sought-after geological areas. Research experts have conducted successful geologic studies in the Grand Canyon National Park. This began in 1858 with the toil of Newberry and is a remarkable exercise even today. The Grand Canyon has a magnificent display of layered rock. This makes it particularly invaluable in the quest to unravel the geologic history of that entire region (Hutchinson 1995).



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History of the Grand Canyon area that is transparent to the current man dates about 10,500 years back. This is the time when the first evidence of human existence in that region emerged. Native Americans have been in the Grand Canyon region for not less than 4000 years up to this date. The area is famous for Desert culture, Cohomia culture and the Basket maker Culture of the Ancestral Pueblo people. Presently, there are different cultures and people in the region due to immigration and emigration.

Captain Lopez de Cardenas led a crew of Spanish nationals into the Grand Canyon in September, 1540. They went there in search of the Seven Seas of gold under the direction of Francisco de Coronado, with Hopi guides. About 200 years later, two Spanish priests joined the soldiers as the only non-native Americans to have seen the Grand Canyon.

People from other regions around the globe continued pouring in to see the magnificent feature. Consequently, interest and desire to learn the region’s geologic history grew strongly. This led to studies in the area to unravel its actual geologic position and forces behind its image.


There are two pertinent assumptions about the geology of the Grand Canyon. One is that the canyon could have resulted from the process of head-ward erosion. In this line of thought, many research works seek to explain the mystery behind the existence of the Colorado River in its present location. Research experts who take this approach want to establish the actual erosion processes that could have from the forces of the Colorado River. Powerful water currents of the giant river could be responsible for curving out such a magnificent geographical feature through the marvelous process of erosion. However, this theory does not command significant attention. Research works following this proposition do not have much support.

Another most probable cause for the formation of the Grand Canyon is basin spillover. This approach holds onto the proposition that water spills from the Colorado could have been the real force behind the formation of this prominent geological feature.

Studies of the Grand Canyon region suggest that uplift of the area began about 75 million years ago. This occurred during a mountain-formation process (Laramide Orogeny) that is responsible for the emergence of the Rocky Mountains. The Plateau rose about 2 miles through that process. The adjacent ranges and basin formed about 18 million years ago as a result of crustal stretching. There was a drainage system through the eastern Grand Canyon flowed into the Range Province and the lower basin. As a result of the opening of the Californian Gulf, a large river cut through northeast from the gulf forming the Colorado River which started the formation of the Grand Canyon (“The Geology of the Grand Canyon”).

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Types and Age of Rocks

Rocks in the Grand Canyon region have three main categories, according to geologic studies. They include Vishnu Basement Rocks (1840 – 1680 m.y.), Grand Canyon Supergroup Rocks (1200 – 740 m.y.) and layered Paleozoic Rocks (525 – 270 m.y.).

Vishnu Basement Rocks

This group of rocks comprises of the Precambrian metamorphic and igneous rocks that appeared on the surface within “Granite Gorge”. They form the land’s foundation.  Researchers believe that no other rocks exist beneath this layer. They include granite, schist and marble.

Grand Canyon Super-group Rocks

This layer consists of two rock groups namely, Chuar and Unkar groups. The group appeared during the continental drift that led to separation of land into the present day continents. The former and the latter have an age difference of about 300 million years. Chuar is younger than Unkar. The rock types include sandstones, silt stones, Cardenas basalt and limestone.

Layered Paleozoic Rocks

This group of rocks is mainly the top layers of rocks more easily visible to visitors than the other two groups. Tapeats Sandstones are at the bottom of this rock group. An example of rocks in this category is Coconino Sandstone (“Geological History of Grand Canyon”).

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Environmental Challenges

There are various environmental challenges facing the entire region of the Grand Canyon region. Some of them include the following:

  • Climate change

Human activities all around the world have a serious impact on the atmosphere. As a result, climate patterns keep changing. In the region around the Grand Canyon, this is also the case. It, therefore, means that the natural life and features cannot maintain their form and image as before. Dealing with climate change is an issue that cannot rest solely in the hands of Grand Canyon National park management. It is a real challenge to everybody.

  • Pressure due masses of visitors

The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the most regularly visited touristic places in the United States. This exerts a lot of pressure on staff officials managing the area.

  • Failed Legislation

There is a problem of unsuccessful legislation in to correct resource degradation and guarantee improvement in visitor experience. It has been an issue for a long time, making the area less profitable than it ought to be.

  • Backcountry management

Backcountry refers to the area within the Grand Canyon National Park. There are people living in the area. However, it still requires the management of the Grand Canyon National Park. This is an additional responsibility which adds to other direct matters that the officials need to handle.

  • Colorado River Management

Colorado River management is also monumental challenge to the Grand Canyon National Park management. There is a need to curb its erosive activity and deal with neighboring communities whose activities result in the pollution of the river system. This may not be a small task to the relevant management team.

  • Air Pollution

Industries and factories around the Grand Canyon Region produce smoke, dust and other harmful substances into the atmosphere. These are air pollutants that make people’s experience utterly uncomfortable.

  • Mining Activities

The region’s attraction of many tourists is because of its beautiful scenery and natural terrain. Mining activities inevitably destroys that, changing the natural beauty of the area (“Grand Canyon facing Environmental Challenges”).

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Energy and Mineral Resources

There are mineral resources in the Grand Canyon region. As a result of tectonic movements and mountain-building processes, many minerals formed. The minerals are essential commodities of trade and manufacture not only in the local region, but also across borders. Energy resources found in the region include coal, natural gas, oil and hydroelectricity from the Colorado River. Additionally, there are a number of mineral resources which include limestone, uranium and marble, among other valuable minerals.

Sources of Electric Power

 There are a number of electric power sources. They include Hydroelectricity, coal, wind and solar. The presence of the Colorado River serves many people around that area and even other parts of North Arizona. Coal energy constitutes most of the area’s electricity production, followed by hydroelectric power. Recently, there are efforts to utilize renewable sources of energy. This is in order to minimize air pollution from coal burning, and to curb incidents of power shortages as a result of water shortages and mechanical problems in hydroelectric power plants.

Table 1

Coal 38.7
Natural Gas 31.5
Nuclear 23.0
Hydroelectric Power 6.5
Others 0.3


The Grand Canyon is a national treasure of North Arizona and the United States. It is a representation of the powerful forces nature. Its history is a concern not only to Native Americans but also other people from all over the world. It is a touristic attraction with immense economic benefits. In spite of the many challenges all stakeholders ought to work tirelessly towards preserving and conserving such a historically magnificent geographical feature.


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