Spending time at the Grand Canyon was simply stunning, but it was also fascinating to absorb some of the geological history that was laid out in front of my eyes. So, I wanted to share some of what I learned to hopefully fascinate and titillate you as well.
But before I do this I wanted to let you know that currently companies have rights to mine uranium in the Grand Canyon – defacing this incredible natural wonder and (to my thinking) sacred space. The company currently mining in the Grand Canyon is called Denison Mines Corp. And their mining has been approved by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. They are also mining close to or at a Havasupai Tribal Sacred Site. You can learn more right here.
The earth is 4554 million years old. The oldest exposed rock in the Grand Canyon is 1840 million years old. It took The Colorado River only between 5-6 million years to create the Grand Canyon – in 5-6 million years the Colorado River exposed 1840 million years of rock record or 40% of the earths history recorded in those rocks. How fascinating is that? The rock record is exposed million of years before plants and animals appeared on earth, about 225 million years ago as this rock, floating in space, went through it’s initial upheavals to create our home. Then each era of life is recorded in the various rock formations.
Above picture has taken each layer of rock, polished in and then displayed thin layer of each age to illustrate how the different layers represents a different time, and how each color represents a different rock record.
Above is a picture of a piece of polished rock that is 1840 million years old. A full 40% of the earths history.
Originally the land that I walked on in the Grand Canyon was on the other side of the equator and tropical land or tropical oceans. Through the moving of the land masses the land moved further North and lifted up giving the Colorado River a canvas to paint on.
There are various types of rocks, some with fossilized ocean and land life forms, others with preserved tracks and steps in the rocks. Each era has it’s own type of rocks, created with the raw materials available at the time, and entombing whatever life was available at that time. A few eras apparently have been eroded away in some places, but not all places. Which is why there are not that many dinosaur skeletons in the area.
Then, finally, 5-6 million years ago the Colorado River appeared and started to carve through the rock – and the Grand Canyon is still being created by the forces that have impacted this land for so long. The Colorado River on it’s own removes the equivalent of the thickness of a piece of paper from the rock each year.
Humans appeared in the Grand Canyon about 10,000 years ago, and the first human people there were hunter / gatherers. Later, the Native American Indigenous people settled down at the bottom of the Canyon where they had a lot of opportunities to grow things due to the relatively milder climate. There are also signs of carved out caves in the side of the Canyon where people either lived or stored food.
Above, a picture of one of those caves.
The various stunning colors that we see in the Grand Canyon are all different types and layers of rock that was created during the last 1840 million years.