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Grand Canyon National Park (3)  


Introduction

History

Grand Canyon Village

West Rim

East Rim

Desert View

Colorado River

Trails

Plants & Trees

Animals

Other Features

References


East Rim Drive (South Rim)

East Rim Drive follows the south rim from the South Entrance Road to Desert View area, a distance of about 23 miles. It provides a number of spectacular vistas.





One of the most beautiful overlooks along the eastern section of the south rim is Grandview Point, among the highest points on the south rim at 7406 feet. Because of the altitude this point receives more moisture and supports more vegetation than other points along the south rim. The formation known as Vishnu Temple is visible in the upper center portion of the picture. Views into the canyon from either produce the interesting perspective of looking down on mountains.

This area is also the trailhead for the Grandview Trail which descends into the canyon. Here, in 1895, one of the first major tourist facilities, the Grandview Hotel, was built by miner Pete Berry. The hotel has long since disappeared, a victim of the arrival of the railroad at the Grand Canyon Village.



Each vantage point along the rim of the canyon proves a very different view of the great gorge, but the views differ considerably with different lighting conditions and different climatic conditions. The canyon can be especially beautiful at twilight.



As the sun goes down it casts deep shadows across the formations on the sides of the canyon.



Another view from Grandview Point at twilight is shown below. This view looks across the canyon toward Newberry Butte, Krishna Shrine, Hall Butte, Wotans Thone, and other formations on the north side of the canyon. Cape Royal, a major overlook on the north rim, is directly across the canyon from Grandview point.



The Buggeln Hill area lies midway between Grand Canyon Village and Desert View. The view below looks north across the canyon toward the north rim. The denser forest cover on the north rim can be seen in this photograph. Although the canyon averages about 8 miles in width, it varies considerably, ranging from about 4 to 18 months.



Further to the west at 7157 feet is Moran Point, named for the famed landscape artist Thomas Moran. Moran first visited the North Rim in 1873 and his paintings helped bring knowledge and awareness of the great canyon to the nation. This view, looking northeast across the canyon, shows Zuni Point on the south rim near the right side of the photograph. Also visible is the Colorado River near Hance Rapids, one of the roughest stretches of whitewater, where the river drops an intimidating 30 feet through the rapids.



Desert View

The eastern most "designated viewpoint" on the East Rim Drive is Desert View. This area is most famous for the Watchtower, perched on the rim of the canyon and shown below.



The Watchtower is 67 foot feet high and 30 feet in diameter at the base. It was designed and built in 1933 by Mary Colter, architect of many of Grand Canyon's well known buildings.



It's visible from the bottom of the canyon on the river. It was designed to provide outstanding views of the surrounding area and was modeled after prehistoric towers in the southwest and constructed of natural stone found in the area. Interestingly, it also made use of some of the logs originally used in the Grandview Hotel for roofing materials.



The interior of the tower is quite noteworthy, and from the beginning featured designs by Hopi artist Fred Kobotie, who later became an internationally known artist.



The Desert View area provides excellent views of the surrounding countryside. This view looks away from the canyon to the east, toward the Painted Desert. The flat-topped butte in the background on the right is Cedar Mountain at 7053 feet.



In the Desert View area the river swings from flowing south to a westerly direction. The view below looks north along the edge of Tanner Canyon The wall along the right is known as the Palisades of the Desert. The Colorado can be seen flowing in the upper left corner of the photograph. Seven miles upstream from this point the Little Colorado River joins the Colorado itself.



On clear days, such as these, it's possible to see a very long way from the rim of the canyon, but the canyon often suffers from haze which restricts visibility.



Two major sources for air pollution are the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Arizona, and metropolitan areas as far away Los Angeles. At some times it may even be difficult to see the opposite rim.



Looking west along the canyon provides a view of Escalante Butte and other formations. The canyon ranges in depth from about 3500 to 6000 feet. This does not make it the deepest canyon in the U.S.--that honor belongs to Kings Canyon just outside the border of Kings Canyon National Park. But the appearance and sheer immensity of the Grand Canyon sets it apart from all others.



Colorado River

Great architect of the Grand Canyon, the Colorado River is the second longest river in the United States. Arising 5 or 6 miles west of Long's Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park in the Colorado Rockies, and its great tributary the Green River in the Wind River Range in Wyoming, it drains 240,000 square miles, 1/12 of the United States. Through the canyon the river averages about 50 feet in depth--the deepest point is 110 feet--and the width varies from about 200 to 300 feet.The view below is telephoto shot from the rim at Hopi Point.



The river is known for the great rapids which any traveler on the river would encounter. The Indians of the area had been afraid of the river, believing it contained steep waterfalls. Although James White may have floated down the river 2 years before him, the first person to complete a documented trip down the river was John Wesley Powell. On May 24, 1869 Powell and a group of adventurers put 4 wooden boats featuring water tight compartments into the Green River and begun their trip. After a passage of several months, Powell and his colleagues emerged from the canyon successfully, minus one person who left the trip early and three others who climbed out of the canyon, only to be killed by Indians. Powell and his fellow adventurers spent 98 days in total and 24 days running through the canyon itself.

For many years floating the river through the canyon was a dangerous and rare adventure. However, commercial river runs were begun in 1938. And, by 1972, so many people were making the trip each year (16,432!) that the National Park Service began to limit the number of trips available.

The view below shows the river from Mohave Point and features Granite Rapids.



Historically, the flow of water through the canyon varied considerably at different times. However, the Colorado was dammed upriver from the canyon in 1965, and the flow of the river is now carefully regulated. This dam has drastically changed the ecology of the canyon. Before establishment of the dam river flow ranged from about 100 to 325,00 cubic feet per second, but it's less variable with a median of about 12,200.

The effects of the dam on the ecology of river have been extensive. The water is considerably cooler than before construction, and the fish living in the river have suffered as a result. There has been an increase both in the cold water trout living in the river, and the eagles which feed on them.The amount of silt carved by the river has diminished a great deal, and as a result the color of the river's water has changed and it can no longer move large rocks as it once could. It's no longer often the Rio Colorado--Red River. Solar radiation now penetrates all the way to the river bottom. Seasonal floods no longer scour the riverbanks, destroying and rebuilding beaches and periodically stripping them of vegetation. So there is more vegetation, more insects, and more birds. To return the canyon at least partially to the conditions which existed before construction of the dam steps are currently being taken to periodically release larger volumes water into the canyon from Lake Powell.

The rapids in the canyon are still amazing. The Colorado drops some 2000 during its descent through the canyon, and there are over 70 major rapids (and 161 rapids in all). The water flows through these rapids as quickly as 10 miles per hour.

Another view of Granite Rapids (below) can be gleaned from Pima Point. This is the point at which Monument Creek flows into the Colorado just above the rapids. The rapids has been formed by boulders and other coarse material dumped into the canyon from Monument Canyon on the side, which is typical of the formation of many rapids. In 1984 a debris flow carried 300,00 cubic feet of sediment into the channel.The stretch of violent white water can be easily seen in this photograph. From afar the river looks green, but up close it is clear as glass.



The last 43 miles of the Colorado River in the canyon is currently submerged by Lake Mead, formed behind the Hoover Dam.


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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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