How Deep Is The Grand Canyon?

While there are many other canyons throughout the southwest United States., but the Grand Canyon is by far the most famous. Exactly how deep is the Grand Canyon? At its deepest point, the Grand Canyon is 6,093 (or about 1857 meters) deep.

The Grand Canyon is divided into many different regions, and its deepest point is found at a region referred to as the Dragon Corridor. A closer examination of the Grand Canyon and its regions will help you appreciate how this deep point in the Earth was formed and let you compare it with other points in the canyon.

What Lead To The Formation Of The Grand Canyon?

Many things contributed to the formation of the Grand Canyon, but the primary force that created the canyon was the Colorado River. The river has run through the canyon for millions of years. Around six million years ago the Colorado River started running towards a large plateau, the Kaibab Plateau. Because the water couldn’t pass through the plateau its flow was diverted and over millions of years the river wore away the rock layers and carved out the canyon.

Photo: KeYang via Pixabay, CC0

The Colorado River is actually separated into two different parts. On the East side of the Kaibab Plateau, the river was diverted southeast. This change in course means that the river now flows to the Gulf of Mexico when it used to run to the Pacific Ocean. The river’s west side continues to function as a drainage system for the Kaibab Plateau itself, and the regions which surround it. A large lake, Lake Bidahochi, began forming around 12 million years ago when the river’s eastern portion became blocked.

Millions of years of erosion can break down even the toughest rock formations. The western portion of the Kaibab Plateau was worn away through “headwater erosion”. The process of headwater erosion continued to weaken the plateau’s base until the water eventually broke through the plateau’s barrier and rejoined the original Colorado River. When this event occurred, the river changed course again, making use of favorable land conditions, and Lake Bidahochi drained through a large gorge. When both halves of the Colorado River joined together, the potential for erosion became much more powerful, cutting a wider and deeper path through the area. Millions of years of erosion eventually created the Grand Canyon.

Take note that the above description does simplify the process a bit, and in reality, the formation of the Grand Canyon was also driven by more subtle processes like continental drift, wind, slight changes in Earth’s orbit, and volcanism.

Regions Of The Canyon

North Rim

The Grand Canyon’s North Rim is much less popular than the canyon’s southern rim, with only a few notable lookout points and trails. The major trail on the northern rim is the North Kaibab trail. Point Imperial is the highest point at the canyon’s North Rim. Point Sublime is a popular camping spot on the North Rim. The Grand Canyon Lodge and the North Rim Visitor Center can be found here as well.

The Desert View watchtower on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo: Steppinstars via Pixabay, CC0

South Rim

The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is found in northwestern Arizona. The South rim of the canyon is the most popular area of the canyon to visit, and many lookout points and trails can be found here. The Rim Trail, the Bright Angel Trail, the Plateau Point trail, and the Yaki Point trail are all popular trails found on the southern rim of the canyon. The South Rim is also home to historic buildings like the Lookout Studio and the Hopi House. The Yavapai Museum of Geology can also be found at the South Rim.

Grand Canyon West

Grand Canyon West technically lies outside of the Grand Canyon Park and it is beyond the jurisdiction of the National Park Service. The Hualapai Reservation is found on the western side of the canyon. Grand Canyon West is found on the southern side of the Colorado River, and the Grand Canyon Skywalk is located here.

Points Of Interest

Grand Canyon Village is the main entryway to the park, and as such, it can get quite crowded, especially during peak tourism seasons. However, the Grand Canyon village is also where Yavapai Point is found, and it has arguably one of the best views of the entire canyon. The Grand Canyon village also provides lodging to people looking for a place to stay but who don’t feel like camping.

One of the most popular trails in the entire canyon is the Bright Angel Trail. The trail begins right at the Angel Lodge, which is located adjacent to the Grand Canyon Village, and it proceeds to Plateau Point. The trail is quite long, approximately 6 miles one way, and it is recommended that people not try to complete the trail in a single day. The trail offers an excellent view of the canyon and the rivers within it.

Havasu Falls. Photo: By Gonzo fan2007 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7545653

Havasu Falls is frequently considered one of the most beautiful sights in the entire canyon. The falls have clear, crystal blue water that stand out against the red rocks of the surrounding canyon. The falls are found to the south of the park within the Havasupai Reservation and in order to get there, you must hike approximately 10 miles, which means that it is a multi-day hike. However, most people find the long hike to the falls worth the journey.

Lee’s Ferry is a point on the Colorado River, located just above Marble Canyon, it is technically outside of the Grand Canyon itself. However, it is an important point for white water rafting trips that proceed through the Grand Canyon. Lee’s Ferry is a popular fishing site as well as river rafting launch site, and those who go on rafting trips through the canyon get to see progressively older rock strata as they move onwards.

The Desert View Watchtower is the highest point on the southern rim of the canyon. The Upper Floors of the tower are an observation deck which let visitors get a wide view of the southeastern canyon. The watchtower is about 70-feet or (21 meters) tall and it was designed by Mary Colter.

The Dragon Corridor is the happens to be the widest and deepest part of the entire canyon. Getting to this part of the canyon can be quite difficult, as it lies six miles from the South Rim over fairly rugged terrain. For this reason, many people choose to see the Dragon Corridor by way of a helicopter tour.

General Facts About The Grand Canyon

  • Although the Grand Canyon is quite deep, it isn’t the deepest canyon on Earth. Measuring the depth of a canyon is somewhat difficult, but it is likely that the deepest canyon is either Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru, as it is approximately 11,000 feet deep, or Nepal’s Kali Gandaki Gorge, which is similarly deep.
  • The Grand Canyon isn’t even the deepest canyon in the US. Hell’s Canyon, found along the Idaho/Oregon border, is approximately a half mile deeper than the Grand Canyon.
  • It is difficult to determine the exact age of the Grand Canyon. Examination of the canyon’s minerals implies that the canyon could be upwards of 70 million years old, at least in some spots. The Grand Canyon may have been created in different spots at different times, rather than in one continuous process. So parts of the canyon could be around 70 million years old, other parts as young as 6 million years old.
  • The Grand Canyon’s temperature can fluctuate substantially. This is largely because the elevation within the canyon changes so much. The canyon’s North Rim is around 8000 feet above sea level, and the bottom of the canyon is more than a mile below. The temperature of the canyon can shift around 25 degrees Fahrenheit. In the depths of the gorge, temperatures can be above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while winter lows at the crest of the canyon can be around 0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • European explorers of the Grand Canyon wouldn’t reach the bottom of the canyon until 1869. John Wesley Powell lead an expedition through the canyon, and this expedition produced the first maps of the canyon and the Colorado River.
  • The entire state of Rhode Island is actually smaller than the Grand Canyon. The canyon is around 18 miles wide and 277 miles long, and the canyon’s total size is around 1,902 square miles in total. In contrast, the state of Rhode Island is somewhere around 1,212 square miles.
  • The Grand Canyon is thought to be home to around 1000 caves, and only 335 of these caves have been logged. Very few of these caves have been mapped. The only cave currently open to the public is found on Horseshoe Mesa, the Cave of the Domes.
  • One of the most famous attractions at the Grand Canyon is the Skywalk. The Skywalk is a large, glass-bottomed, structure found at the western portion of the canyon. The structure protrudes about 70 feet from the rim of the canyon, and it is managed by the Hualapai Tribe and found on tribal lands.

About The Author

Daniel Nelson

Daniel obtained his BS and is pursuing a Master's degree in the science of Human-Computer Interaction. He hopes to work on projects which bridge the sciences and humanities. His background in education and training is diverse including education in computer science, communication theory, psychology, and philosophy. He aims to create content that educates, persuades, entertains and inspires.

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