Happy Centennial, Grand Canyon!

February 26, 2019

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Photographer: Ray Boren 
Summary Author: Ray Boren 

February 2019 Viewer's ChoiceIt may seem a bit preposterous to be celebrating the 100th anniversary of a landscape featuring geologic wonders 1.8 BILLION years in the making. But in merely human terms it isn’t, for a century ago — on February 26, 1919 — the United States finally saw fit to establish northern Arizona’s vast Colorado River-carved gorge as Grand Canyon National Park.

During a visit in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon “beyond comparison; unparalleled throughout the wide world,” well worth preserving — as is — for your children’s children. Every American, he said, should see it if able. But in fact, the colorful spectacle is often described as one of the natural wonders of the world, and therefore attracts more than 6 million visitors every year from all around the globe, not just the United States.

I’m usually one of those visitors — every year, in at least one of the four seasons, to the North Rim and/or the South Rim. I’ve hiked down to the Colorado and visited Phantom Ranch, and also ridden rafts on the river’s white-water rapids. The two wintry photographs here were taken from the South Rim’s Grand Canyon Village on January 24, 2010, following a significant snowstorm. The picturesque snow looks a lot like birthday-cake icing on the canyon’s frigid upper slopes and layered terraces.

These layers begin far below with metamorphic basement rocks more than a billion and some almost 2 billion years old, including the Brahma, Rama and Vishnu schists. Stacked upon these primordial rocks are sedimentary sandstones and limestones, as well as basalts, that make up the Grand Canyon Supergroup, middle Paleozoic rocks, and finally, younger Permian layers topped by the rim’s Kaibab Formation.

Grand Canyon could have been one of the very first national parks, but that wasn't its destiny. Instead, it became the 15th in the United States. Senator Benjamin Harrison of Indiana had gotten the boulder rolling back in 1882 when he submitted to Congress the first bill to establish the park. His proposal failed to pass … again and again. However, after Harrison became U.S. president in 1889, he created the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve. After his 1903 visit, Theodore Roosevelt, as a succeeding president almost 20 years later, set aside the Grand Canyon Game Preserve in 1906 and then proclaimed Grand Canyon National Monument in 1908. The national park upgrade came only when Congress finally passed the establishing bill, and President Woodrow Wilson signed the measure, in 1919 — making 2019 a centennial year of celebration.

Photo Details: Both images - Camera: NIKON D60; Exposure Time: 0.010s (1/100): Aperture: ƒ/13.0; ISO equivalent: 100; Focal Length: 52.0mm.