Did Nik Wallenda Cross the Grand Canyon?

October 11, 2013


3walenda3canyon3Photographer: Thomas McGuire
Summary Author: Thomas McGuire

Nik Wallenda’s June 2013 tightrope (steel cable) crossing of the Grand Canyon brings up the question: just what is the Grand Canyon? How consistently do we define geographic features? Because it is the only vehicular access to the Colorado River for the next 400 mi (640 km), people braving the rapids of the Canyon start at Lees Ferry. Therefore, Lees Ferry is considered mile 0 of a canyon adventure. But the first 61 mi (98 km) is through Marble Canyon with its nearly vertical walls. Some people define the true Grand Canyon as the deeper part of the canyon that opens up after Marble Canyon.

However, Wallenda crossed a different canyon altogether. He crossed the canyon of the Little Colorado River about 10 mi (16 km) southeast of the Grand Canyon (at left). In fact, it’s currently impossible for a steel cable to stretch the 10 mi between the South Rim and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

If Wallenda has chosen to walk across Marble Canyon at Navajo (highway) Bridge (bottom left), his walk would have been about half as long. According to one definition, this actually would have crossed the Grand Canyon. But apparently Wallenda found it more exciting to cross at a remote location rather that a place that actually is the Grand Canyon. After all, his stunt was about publicity and not about geography.

Photo details: Top - Camera Maker: OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP.; Camera Model: E-510; Focal Length: 42.0mm; Aperture: f/8.0; Exposure Time: 0.0050 s (1/200); ISO equiv: 100; Software: Adobe Photoshop Elements 9.0 Macintosh. Bridge - Camera Model: Canon PowerShot SX50 HS; Focal Length: 5.4mm; Aperture: f/5.6; Exposure Time: 0.0010 s (1/1000); ISO equiv: 160.