We know it’s massive and we know it’s deep, but most of us don’t know much else about the Grand Canyon. The national treasure is an important and famous United States landmark, but many will never see it in person. Can’t plan a field trip? Share these stunning Grand Canyon facts with your students.
Grand Canyon Facts for the Classroom
The Grand Canyon is a national park.
In 1893, the Grand Canyon was first protected as a reserve and then as a national monument, before becoming a national park in 1919.
The Grand Canyon is in Arizona.
It’s actually a river valley in the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona.
The Grand Canyon is bigger than Rhode Island.
The entire state is about 1,212 square miles while the Grand Canyon is a massive 1,904 square miles.
The Hopi tribe considers the Grand Canyon a gateway to the afterlife.
The Hopi are one of the oldest living cultures in documented history. They believe that upon death, the journey to the afterlife takes us westward through a “place of emergence,” which is located upstream from the confluence of the Little Colorado and Colorado Rivers in the Grand Canyon.
Temperatures can vary by more than 25 degrees in the Grand Canyon at any given time.
It depends on where you are in the canyon! Also, in the summer, the deepest parts of the gorge can get incredibly hot, while it can drop to below freezing in the winter.
The Grand Canyon has a LOT of hidden caves.
While only 335 caves have been recorded (and just one is open to the public), there are an estimated 1,000 caves within the Grand Canyon!
The Grand Canyon was the site of a huge hoax.
In 1909, the Arizona Gazette reported that archaeologists had found remnants of an ancient Egyptian or Tibetan civilization in one of the Grand Canyon’s underground tunnels. While the Smithsonian Institute denied this entire story, conspiracy theorists continue to believe it was a government cover-up.
The historic Kolb Brothers Studio in the Grand Canyon was once a booming photography business.
The brothers came up with a great way to make money: They’d take photographs of tourists taking mule-back tours and then sell them to the tourists when they returned. Maybe this was the inspiration for ride photos at amusement parks!
It’s a long drive from the North Rim Visitor Center to the South Rim Visitor Center in the Grand Canyon.
They are about 200 miles (320 km) apart and the drive takes about 4 hours.
The Grand Canyon is not the world’s deepest canyon.
The Grand Canyon is more famous, but the deepest gorges are actually Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru and the Kali Gandaki Gorge in Nepal.
The scariest animal in the Grand Canyon is the rock squirrel.
You’re more likely to be bitten by a rock squirrel than come face-to-face with a bighorn sheep.
The Grand Canyon has pink snakes.
To blend in with the rock, the pink rattlesnake’s skin is similar in color to the environment. It’s one of six rattlesnake species that call the Grand Canyon home.
How old is the Grand Canyon? No one knows for sure.
A long-standing theory is that the canyon began being carved out of the Colorado River 6 million years ago, but it may be much older than that! Research shows that it may have begun 70 million years ago.
More people have walked on the moon than have hiked through the Grand Canyon.
While 24 astronauts have walked on the moon, only 12 people have successfully completed a continuous hike through the length of the Grand Canyon.
The air is clean at the Grand Canyon.
The South Rim is perched at an elevation of around 7,000 feet above sea level and has some of the cleanest air in the United States.
The Grand Canyon is full of fossils.
While no dinosaur bones have been found at the Grand Canyon, the fossils of ancient marine animals date back 1.2 billion years.
There’s a town inside the Grand Canyon.
The Supai Village has a population of 208 and is the most remote community in the continental United States.
The shape of the Grand Canyon is still changing.
Wind and rain, along with the Colorado River flowing through the canyon, are slowly changing its shape.
The Grand Canyon displays a geological phenomenon that’s a huge mystery.
Inside the Grand Canyon, 250-million-year-old rock layers lie directly against 1.2-billion-year-old rocks. This phenomenon is called Great Unconformity and no one knows what happened to all the missing hundreds of millions of years of layers.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) exists because of the Grand Canyon.
In the early days of commercial air travel, pilots would often detour so passengers could see the view as they flew over the Grand Canyon. Tragically, in 1956, two planes collided. There were no survivors. After this incident, the federal government created the FAA.
Anthropologists have found hundreds of split-twig figurines in the Grand Canyon’s walls.
Often shaped like bighorn sheep or deer, it’s believed that they were used in religious rituals by prehistoric people.
The Grand Canyon is home to multiple ecosystems.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, “The great variation in elevation, and the movement of the river, foster a diversity of organisms in five major ecosystems, with different species thriving under particular conditions in each: The mixed conifer forest, the ponderosa pine forest, the pinyon juniper woodland, the desert scrub, and the riparian (river-edge), from highest to lowest elevation.”
The Grand Canyon can influence the weather.
Its elevation spans from around 2,000 to over 8,000 feet. As such, it sees a wide range of weather conditions. For example, for every 1,000 feet of elevation, the temperature can increase by 5.5 degrees!
The Grand Canyon’s sunrise and sunset are famous.
With its incredible wide vistas and stunning view of the Colorado River, people flock to Hopi Point at dawn and dusk.
The Grand Canyon can be filled with clouds.
It’s rare, but it’s possible to see a total cloud inversion where the canyon fills with a sea of clouds, leaving only the tops of the rocks exposed. This is one of the most fascinating Grand Canyon facts on this list!
Controlled fires are good for the Grand Canyon.
To protect the landscape, controlled fires are used to thin the forest, stimulate plant growth, and recycle nutrients into the soil.
You don’t need to leave the ground to get an aerial view of the Grand Canyon.
Managed by the Hualapai tribe, the Skywalk is a horseshoe-shaped steel frame with a spectacular glass floor. The sides protrude about 70 feet from the canyon rim, providing a breathtaking view of the landmark.
There are many things to do at the Grand Canyon.
Hike the trails, raft on the Colorado River, embark on a mule trip, or just enjoy some stargazing. Whatever you do at the Grand Canyon, it will be memorable.
It’s illegal to take rocks from the Grand Canyon.
As you can imagine, there’s a gift shop where you can take home a piece of the Grand Canyon. For the sake of this cherished World Heritage Site, please don’t take home any rocks, wood, plants, or artifacts. Leave everything where you found it!
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular national parks in the United States.
Every year, an estimated 5.9 million people visit the Grand Canyon, which is so much more than the 44,000 visitors it saw back in 1919 when the park was first created!