Dark Secrets Of The Grand Canyon

By Jack Clark 10 months ago

1. It Isn't The Deepest Canyon In The World

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You might be surprised to learn that despite its name, the Grand Canyon isn't the deepest canyon on Earth. The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Tibet holds that title. However, don't let that diminish the Grand Canyon's magnificence. With its breathtaking layers of exposed rocks dating back nearly two billion years, it remains a testament to the forces of nature and geological time.

2. It Was Carved By The Colorado River

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The jaw-dropping beauty of the Grand Canyon didn't just happen by chance. Actually, it did. It's a result of millions of years of work by the Colorado River. The river's relentless flow gradually cut through layers of rock, revealing what we see today. The Grand Canyon looks like it was carved by God Himself, and it's truly amazing that the credit all goes to the Colorado River.

3. It Covers 1.2 Million Acres

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Spanning an astounding 1.2 million acres of the Arizona landscape, the Grand Canyon truly is a wonder that amazes tourists from all over the world. The sheer size of the Grand Canyon is a testament to Mother Nature - nothing mad-made could ever be this vast. It also has something for all kinds of explorers, from the desert environment at the South rim to the forests of the North rim.

4. It Has Ties To Native American Tribes

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There are plenty of geological secrets hidden within the Grand Canyon, but a lot of visitors don't know about its rich cultural history. The Grand Canyon was home to many Native American tribes across the centuries, including the Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo and Hopi. Upon visiting the Grand Canyon, explorers can learn about the various tribes that took up residence here.

5. The South Rim Is Higher Than The North Rim

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A lot of people don't actually realize just how large the Grand Canyon actually is. They also don't know that the Grand Canyon has a difference in elevation depending on what part of it you are on. For example, the South Rim sits significantly higher than the North Rim. The difference in elevation actually results in different climates and vegetation, and a difference in tourist popularity.

6. It Has A Wide Variety Of Ecosystems

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When you visit the Grand Canyon, it isn't just plain old (kidding, beautiful) landscapes that your eye will behold, you'll also get to experience the diverse and vast ecosystems. There are desert regions near the Colorado River, and lush forests and greenery towards the North Rim. There is an impressive amount of wildlife that can be observed at the Grand Canyon, making it a must-visit for nature enthusiasts.

7. It Has Some Of The Oldest Exposed Rocks On Earth

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We know that the Earth is pretty darn old - 4.5 billion years old to be a bit more precise. Amazingly, some of the rock layers can be traced back to nearly 2 billion years ago. The rock found in the Grand Canyon is literally older that the dinosaurs, and by a LONG way. In fact, there wasn't much life on Earth 2 billion years ago, apart from microorganisms. Yeah, it's pretty old.

8. The First European Explorer Came In 1540

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Natives had been living in the Grand Canyon for thousands of years. In fact, until the 1800's, natives still occupied the Grand Canyon, until settlers came around. The first European eyes to discover the Grand Canyon, however, was . He was a Spanish explorer whose expedition ventured deep into the Southwest, and it is believed that he 'discovered' the Grand Canyon.

9. It Has A Lot Of Plant Species

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A lot of the Grand Canyon is a desert landscape, and you wouldn't be a fool to think that not much could survive in those conditions. However, the Grand Canyon is home to nearly 1,500 plant species! Incredible. The desert landscape is home to a number of different cacti species, along with the alpines hosting numbers of trees and flowers - it truly is a botanical paradise.

10. A Sky Full Of Stars

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We've talked about the nature and the landscape of the Grand Canyon, but one of the truly special parts about visiting this natural marvel is its stargazing ability. There isn't much light pollution, if any at all, in the Grand Canyon, which makes it absolutely perfect for visitors who want to catch a glimpse of different planets, constellations and even the Milky Way itself.

11. The Phantom Ranch

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Oooo, this sounds spooky! Don't worry, it's not actually scary - Phantom Ranch is a place that tourists and stay at, and it has a number of great facilities. However, it's not easily accessible. You can only get to the Phantom Ranch via hiking, mule rides or rafting down the Colorado River. The ranch provides a respite for tired tourists, and it offers a unique experience.

12. It Has Its Own Rattlesnake

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'There's a snake in my boot' comes to mind here. Not only does the Grand Canyon have a lot of different types of wildlife, it has its very own rattlesnake - called the Grand Canyon rattlesnake (very imaginative) - and it adapted to the harsh environment of the canyon. It is also super rare, and only a few travellers have seen one in real life.

13. It Has 5,000 Archaeological Sites

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Yep, you read that right! 5,000 sites. This really shows the sheer vastness of the Grand Canyon. In fact, the Grand Canyon is an archaeologists dream. It has a huge number of ancient artefacts and evidence of early human inhabitation. The sites feature ancient Puebloan cliff dwellings which date back to well over 12,000 years ago, along with numerous pieces of cave art.

14. It Has A Rare Species Of Fish

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You don't really think of the Grand Canyon being home to fish, but the Colorado River is full of different species. In fact, the Colorado River (that runs through the Grand Canyon), is home to an endangered species of fish called the Humpback Chub. Aside from its funny name, the Humpback Chub has adapted to the swift currents and fluctuating water levels found in the Colorado River.

15. It's Used In Hollywood

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That's right, the Grand Canyon has played a number of roles on the silver screen, and has featured in a number of different films. Classics like "Thelma & Louise" and episodes of "The Brady Bunch" have filmed scenes at the Grand Canyon, and it continues to be an exclusive location of choice for various film sets. The Grand Canyon truly is iconic!

16. The Rocks Aren't The Same Color

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If you look upon the Grand Canyon from afar, the colors all blend into one. However, upon closer inspection, a tourist can view a whole host of beautiful colors across the rocks. There are varying hues of red, orange, yellow and brown, and these are a result of the different type of minerals found within the rock layers. The sunlight also plays a part in shifting the perception of color throughout the canyon.

17. The Tallest Point Is The Desert View Watchtower

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If you want a truly breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon, then make your way over to the Desert View Watchtower, which offers a great vantage point to view the the canyon from a unique perspective. It was designed by Mary Colter, and stands as a tribute to Native American craftsmanship. It was completed in 1932 and remains an integral part of the tourist experience.

18. People Don't Really Fall Off The Edge

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Whilst there are still a small number of people who tragically lost their lives over the edge of the Grand Canyon, it is actually far more common for people to die in the Colorado River. It has a deceptively strong current, and unaware swimmers can easily find themselves in a tricky spot if they're not careful. We still don't recommend standing right on the edge of the canyon though.

19. It Has An Optical Illusion

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The deepest point of the Grand Canyon is around 1900 meters, but it suffers from an optical illusion that alters the perceived depth. If you stare into the Grand Canyon, it can appear flat from certain angles, creating an optical illusion that the canyon is really shallow. This illusion is called the 'Inner Gorge Effect' and it has tricked many travellers and tourists.

20. The Havasupai Tribe Reservation

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If you venture far enough in the Grand Canyon, you'll eventually stumble across the sacred land of the Havasupai tribe. Within the sacred land, you can find the Havasu Falls - a wonderful waterfall that falls into turquoise-colored pools. It literally sounds like heaven! The high calcium carbonate content creates the vivid colors found at the waterfall and adds a touch of magic to the trip.

21. Some Of The Artefacts Are 12,000 Years Old

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Beneath the layers of rocks lie plenty of evidence of human presence that dates back over 12,000 years. The Grand Canyon has been really important for archaeological discoveries over the years, and they have uncovered tools, pottery and various other objects that give an insight into the lives of the indigenous communities that lived in the Grand Canyon.

22. You Can Ride A Mule

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It can be pretty hard to get around in the Grand Canyon, mainly because of its rough and unforgiving terrain and unpredictable weather. However, since the late 19th century, visitors have been able to catch a ride around the Grand Canyon on the back of a mule, and it truly is a fun and thrilling way to get around. Even visitors of today can experience a Grand Canyon mule ride.

23. It Has Sudden Thunderstorms

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During the summer months, the Grand Canyon is known for its sudden and quite often random thunderstorms. This is due to the conditions within the canyon, and the intense heat can give rise to even more intense thunderstorms. These storms can often result in flash floods, lightning strikes and all round bad weather, and visitors need to be careful if they find themselves in the canyon.

24. The North Rim Is Closed In Winter

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Talking about the weather, the North Rim is actually closed during the winter months and is completely inaccessible to visitors and tourists. This is for their own safety, as the North Rim experiences incredibly heavy snowfall and makes the roads really dangerous. Once the snow melts however, it's open season for visitors who can marvel at the North Rims beauty.

25. It Even Has A Railway

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Back in the early 20th century, the Grand Canyon had a railway that played a crucial role in transporting ore from the mines near the canyon. The railway no longer has any commercial responsibilities, but it remains functioning and acts as a great tourist attraction for those interested in the canyons history. You can take a ride on the train and take in the beauty of the canyon from a different perspective.

26. There Are Some Endangered Species Here

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There are plenty of different species that live in and around the Grand Canyon, but there are some pretty special creatures that find their home here. The California condor soars through the canyon skies, and is quite the sight to see with its huge 3m wingspan. It is also home to the rare Mexican spotted owl, that hides away in secluded areas of the park.

27. It Had A Tragic Mid-Air Collision

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in 1956, the Grand Canyon bore witness to a truly tragic sight. Two commercial planes collided mid-air, killing all 128 passengers and crew. The event, that involved a United Airlines flight and a TWA flight, did lead to a number of important and significant changes in air traffic control regulations, which in turn ended up with a much safer way to fly.

28. There Is A Population Of Bighorn Sheep

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Most people don't know about the amazing mountain goat and sheep species around the world. These creatures are adept at scaling rocky terrain and cliff faces with relative ease, and it's truly an amazing sight to behold. The Grand Canyon has its own species of bighorn sheep, that are well adapted to the steep cliff faces of the canyon, and can be seen by tourists.

29. It Has Served As An Inspiration For Artists

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Quite obviously, the Grand Canyon is an inspiring sight, and many artists, writers and musicians have used its beauty as a source of inspiration for their material. The fact that the Grand Canyon came to be through nature alone is truly astonishing, and its rugged beauty has captured the imagination of every one of its visitors. It's hard not to be inspired after a visit to the canyon!

30. There Is A Time Capsule Buried Here

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In a symbolic gesture of preserving the memories of the present for the future, a time capsule lies buried at the Grand Canyon's North Rim. Placed there in 1998, it contains a number of messages, artefacts and snapshots of life in 1998, all to be unveiled by future generations in 2098. We probably won't be around in 2098, but it'll be awesome for the youth of 2098 to discover something from 100 years before.

31. Cursed Native American relics

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There are also many tales of 'cursed' relics hailing from the Native Americans that center around the Grand Canyon. It's said a trader name Don Maguire in the 1800s accepted a 'cursed' blanket - ignoring the warning that it was cursed - passing through the canyon and had terrible misfortune for years after until he got rid of it. The "calamities" spanned two years and stopped when he got rid of the blanket!

32. Modern day tourists claim items are 'cursed'

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Even today, there are many items that tourists and visitors decide to take from the national park after visiting there - only to own up to their theft and actually beg to return what they took because of claims items are 'cursed'. Park rangers say that they get letters from tourists, all with the same story, that whatever they took has given them bad luck and even illnesses.

33. The man who died from fright

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There are many things to be scared of when it comes to the Grand Canyon, not least because of how huge, steep and high it is, but also because of wildlife and the mysteries that surround this place. One other thing to be afraid of - as we mentioned before - is the rattlesnake, but this man who was hiking in the Canyon didn't die from being bitten by one or anything, but in fact died from going into cardiac arrest after seeing it and being so scared!

34. Animals in the Grand Canyon

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Rattlesnakes aren't the only animals to watch out for in the Canyon. It's known for being awash with a number of dangerous animals that call this place home. This includes mountain lions, which would be bad enough on their own, but then coupled with black bears, elk and even a particularly ferocious species of squirrel that likes to surprise attack and bite you!

35. Skeletal remains

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There have been a huge amount of reports about skeletal remains that have been found in the Grand Canyon, too. The fact is, there are a great number of unsolved cold cases from the Sheriff's department, that it's actually less surprising than it should be when bones turn up. With the number of disappearances and unexplained deaths that happen at the canyon, it only adds to the dark secrets of this place.

36. Unresolved murders

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One particular unresolved case is a murder from 1975 that happened at the canyon's North Rim, where a shirt covered in blood was found with 36 stab holes in it. It was believed the woman who the shirt belonged to was possibly murdered by a motorcycle gang. Other deaths include suicide, accidental deaths and other murders, and 'the cold-case squad' continues to investigate.

37. The 'Thelma and Louise' inspiration takes a dark turn

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We know that the iconic end scene from Thelma and Louise was shot at the canyon, but unfortunately it's been tragic inspiration for a lot of real-life situations. There was one woman who drove her car to the canyon in an attempt to recreate the scene and drive to her death. It didn't go to plan, but she ended up falling to her death in the end. But she hasn't been the only one - other people have attempted to drive their cars off the edge, too.

38. The dangers of a scenic tour

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The Grand Canyon is a hotspot for tourists, which means taking in a scenic tour from a helicopter or plane is on a lot of people's to do lists. Unfortunately, the Grand Canyon's reputation as a suicide spot also comes with that territory, as there have also been instances of tourists taking a scenic tour in a copter over the canyon only to jump to their death, as one man did in 2004.

39. The Skywalk deaths

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One thing tourists can also explore at the Canyon is the Skywalk, which gives an amazing view into the canyon using a horseshoe-shaped glass viewing platform. Unfortunately, this also has a dark side, too, and has been the location of more than one death. A tourist fell to his death after trying to take a picture from the Skywalk, and another man jumped to his death by climbing over the side of it.

40. The haunted hotel

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Around 20 feet away from the South Rim of the canyon is the El Tovar Hotel, which has been the site of more than one apparent ghostly encounter, with creepy reports of paranormal activity. Adding to the spooky legend is a mysterious gravestone that lies close to the front doors, and guests have claimed to have seen a figure walking from the stairway to the grave, and then disappearing...

41. The disappearance of Bessie and Glen Hyde

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Bessie and Glen Hyde were a newlywed couple who took to the rapids of the Grand Canyon in the 1920s. Their boat was later found floating, abandoned, in the water, but completely upright and fully stocked. Nobody knows what happened to them, but there have been rumors of things from drowning to being murdered by Native Americans. Nothing has been proven, and they were never found.

42. The serial killer Robert Spangler

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Robert Spangler killed his wife and their two children back in 1978, and unfortunately managed to wriggle out of a conviction due to lack of evidence. Even more tragically, he went on to re-marry, and then killed his third wife by throwing her over the side of the Grand Canyon. The police struggled to prove that she didn't slip and fall, and he got away again. Eventually, he owned up to his crimes, and went to prison before dying.

43. The story of John Wesley Powell

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In the 1800s, John Wesley Powell led the very first group of white men to travel down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon. Three of the men abandoned the river journey, fearing for their lives, but were later killed at the canyon by Native Americans. Powell himself, and the remaining members of the team, managed to reach the settlement on the river bank.

44. The plane crash above the Grand Canyon

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In one of the worst air disasters in American history, two planes collided directly over the Grand Canyon in the 1950s, and an investigation revealed that both pilots were on the wrong course, flying at the same altitude and failed to spot each other because of the clouds. The site of the crash has now even become a tourist destination at the canyon, known as Crash Canyon, with some of the wreckage still visible.

45. The high amount of tourist murders

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Another dark fact about the canyon is the amount of tourists that have actually been murdered there. Michael and Charlotte Sherman were two tourists whose bodies were found to be shot. Another tourist, Tomomi Hanamure, was found underneath a waterfall, stabbed to death in the same way another tourist had been several years earlier: Kim Quanimptewa, found at the South Rim.

46. Some believe it's a gateway to the afterlife

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No matter what you believe about the Grand Canyon, there's no doubt it's a hotspot for deaths, paranormal occurences and steeped in spiritual history. Native tribes have labelled the canyon as a sort of gateway to the afterlife or a spot they call "place of emergence", and even the Colorado river itself has been said to transport a person from one life to the next.

47. Icy cold temperatures

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Most people see photos of the canyon with that stunning red-orange hue, and photos taken in the summer months. What a lot of people can forget is the dangerous range of temperatures that can be found at the canyon, including scorching hit at the bottom during summer, and extreme icy cold at the very top during the winter months. The weather and temperatures can vary so differently depending on where you're standing.

48. Nobody knows how old it is

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Another secret the canyon is keeping is the truth about its age. Nobody really knows when the canyon came to be, as there has been some debate over how old it actually is. It was at first believed it began six million years ago, while later it was revealed this couldn't be possible and it was more likely 70 million years ago. Another theory is that it started as smaller canyons that eventually came together.

49. Controlled fire is used in the canyon

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When you think of natural fires in the US, it's a scary thought. But when it comes to the Grand Canyon, fire is a good thing - and so much so that 'controlled fires' are actually operated to encourage the ecosystem. The fires work to reduce the forest at the canyon, add more nutrients to the soil and thus result in more plant growth. There are people who work to protect anything else from these controlled fires, including wildlife.

50. Secret caves

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There's also the mystery of the secret caves at the canyon yet to be explored. It's believed there are at least 1,000 caves in the canyon, but only a few hundred of these have been mapped out and documented, which means there are a whole lot of caves left to be explored - or even mapped properly. Only one of the found caves is open to the public, while the rest remain a mystery.