The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular sights in nature. It is found in one section of the valley of the Colorado River. The river begins its course high in the Rocky Mountains of the State of Colorado. The river travels a total of 1,400 miles through Colorado, Utah and Arizona and into the Gulf of California. It forms part of Arizona’s border with Nevada and California. The Colorado River is a very swift and muddy river. It carries dirt and rocks down from the mountains. The story is told of an old fur trader who was attacked by Indians high up the river.
His only escape was down the Colorado River in a small boat. It was a terrifying trip through rapidsand around rocks at top speed. The fur trader was found some days later in very rough shape hundreds of miles down the river. No one would believe that he had come so far so fast. The Grand Canyon stretches for about 250 miles in the State of Arizona. The canyon was carved out by the flow of the river itself. In places the canyon is more than a mile deep. It stretches from four to 18 miles wide at the top. The canyon valley contains worn rocks that rise up like a mountain range. The canyon has been worn down through many layers of rock.
The river has cut its way down through layers of sandstone, limestone and shape to the granitebedrock. The different layers are of different colours, and the rocks appear very beautiful, especially at sunrise and sunset. Because the canyon is so deep, the climate changes as you go down into the valley. At the top, the climate is typical of a mountain area, with evergreen trees. Next, you havetypical forest trees. Third, there are plants like cacti that grow in warm deserts. Finally, there are sub-tropical plants at the valley bottom. Tourists can ride down the narrow trails to the bottom of the valley on mules. On one side is the rock wall of the canyon, and on the other side is a steep drop down to the bottom.
Tourists have to trust their guide, and the mule that they are riding, to get them down safely. The trails zigzag back and forth, and the tourist going down travels much more than a mile. Some 1,000 square miles of the area became the Grand Canyon National Park in 1919. Because the Colorado River is very swift and runs through dry country, several dams have been built along it. These are designed to harness its power, save its water and provide recreational opportunities. The best-known dam is Hoover Dam, formerly Boulder Dam, on the Arizona-Nevada border. This impressive structure is 727 feet high, and 1,282 feet long.
Elevators are used to carry workers up and down inside the dam. The water, which is backed up by the Hoover Dam, forms Lake Mead. Lake Mead is used to irrigate nearby land, as well as for boating and fishing. The dam itself is a major source of electric power for this section of the country. Visitors to the Grand Canyon are often filled with awe by the size and beauty of the canyon. People seem very small in comparison to the immense cliffs, valleys and the mighty river.