Greetings from Grand Canyon National Park

The immensity of the Grand Canyon is difficult to comprehend. Even sweeping views from its high rim cannot do it justice. Yet for adventurers who drift along the Colorado River’s many eddying pools, stretches of flat water, and thundering rapids, the canyon gradually unveils a 277-mile panorama of sharp-edged mesas, multicolored sandstone and limestone cliffs, and meandering side canyons. Over millions of years, the river has carved out a volume of rock more than 250 times the size of Mount Everest, excavating basement rocks two billion years old—half the age of the earth.

–The Author

After midnight, my companions on our 13-day, paddle-rafting trip are asleep in their tents. On this moonless night, a few yards in front of me the Colorado River glides through the canyon, partly in bold starlight, and partly in the deep shadow of the cliffs. I edge down the sloping beach toward the frigid river. The sand is still warm to my bare feet from the day of fierce sun. There is the earthy smell of wet limestone. As I near the river, a layer of heavy, cool air rises to my knees. A water-smoothed driftwood log to rest on… Coolness ascends to my chest. Razor-sharp stars perforate the blue-black sky, their ghostly light outlining distant mesas that soar nearly a mile above me. Quietness… And the occasional splash of the river, too absorbed in its monumental work for pleasantries. It is slow and patient work, done in both vast dimension and painstaking detail. Always, there is the unobserved etching of sandstone and limestone, the sculpting of marble, and the leisurely design of vistas yet to be. By day, the abrading currents, the echoing Canyon Wrens, and the attentive sun abet creation, but the project is advanced indifferently by sun and rain, by wind and calm, under the moon, and at the silent dawn. Neither the establishment of empires, nor the price of bread matter here. No days of rest, no festivals mark the year. No proclamations as new constructions are tried out, nor ceremonies as masterworks are set in place. The pieces are assembled as civilizations rise and installed as they decline. The plan unfolds hour by hour, but the changes of a lifetime escape notice. A few millennia will provide a wider bend for the river, a finer cut to a mesa, perhaps a new side canyon to pour translucent, churning, green emeralds of water into the red-brown river. This cathedral of rainbow-stone, this ancient yet always new engine of creation, this canvas beyond all human scale, commands us to be mute and still, and to bear witness to the infinite and patient artistry of Deep Time.


Grand Canyon National Park

America’s Southwest is full of breathtaking canyons, but none as famous or as widely visited as the Grand Canyon. This world-famous landmark offers wondrous views, spectacular hiking, exhilarating whitewater rafting and countless adventures. One look across the enormous chasm confirms just why this inspirational place is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and a must-see destination for so many travelers. The park also protects a wealth of biological diversity, including numerous endemic and threatened species and several rare ecosystems.

State(s): Arizona

Established: 1919

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