History of the Grand Canyon



There have been volumes of history written about the Grand Canyon. I will attempt to summarize some of the history and will add more as time goes on.

About 10,000 years ago, paleohunters hunted big game throughout the Grand Canyon area. Later hunter gathers lived in the same area until around 1000 B.C. The archeological findings have been carbon dated to 4000 years ago.

Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi) people moved in around 500 A.D. They grew corn and hunted sheep, rabbits, and deer. They are still known for their basket making skills. Today these people are still called basket makers.

History tells us that in the late 1200s these people left the Grand Canyon area.

There are many questions as to why they left. Possibly a drought or some other catastrophic event.

These basket makers were very technology advanced. They used stone masonry to build villages below the cliffs of the canyon. If you are interested in seeing some of their ruins, visit Canyon de Chelly in northeast Arizona or Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. Later these people were considered part of the Pueblo Anasazi.

Getting back to the history...

In the 1300s, the Cerbat (who are ancestors of the Havasupai and Hualapai tribes) moved in along with the southern Paiutes.

A century later, the Navajo and the Dine settled in and around the Grand Canyon.

In 1540 the Spanish launched an expedition to find the Seven Cities of Cibola.

All they eventually found was an indian village. The Seven Cities of Cibola were supposed to have copious amounts of gold. Needless to say, they were really disappointed. Before they gave up and left, the Indians told them about a mighty river to the west .

A search party was formed and they eventually found the Grand Canyon. They weren't impressed with the find. They weren't able to understand the dimensions of the Colorado River. They thought it was only 6 feet wide. The indians told them that it was much bigger but they refused to believe them.

Not wanting to give up, they did try to find a route to the river and eventually were able to travel part of the way down. Unfortunately, they weren't able to go any further. When they discovered the true dimensions of the Grand Canyon they left and never did find the Seven Cities of Cibola.

There were more Spanish expeditions over the years with the last group trying to find a way to the Pacific from New Mexico. They were the last Spanish explorers to see the Grand Canyon.

Although the Spanish had little interaction with the indians living near the Grand Canyon, they did introduce horses, cattle, and sheep which continues to define Indian culture today.

In 1868, John Wesley Powell organized an expedition to explore the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. History tells us that he was a small man 5 feet 6 inches tall and was one armed due to an amputation. However, he had a lot of ambition. Looking at a United States map at that time you would have seen UNEXPLORED written across the Grand Canyon area. This didn't stop Powell. He and the nine men with him became the first Americans to explore the Grand Canyon.

By the 1880s people were curious about the Grand Canyon and were starting to arrive. The news that the Grand Canyon had lead, zinc, abestos and copper drew a crowd and many people were filing mining claims. In the end the canyon wasn't mined due to the danger and it wasn't going to be profitable.

Eventually tourism took hold as people started to travel to the Grand Canyon to relax and enjoy the views. With the advent of people the railroad was built. Within a few months after the railroad was built, people started arriving in cars.

Today automobiles are still the most popular form of transportation in the Grand Canyon.

In 1906, the Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities was passed. This act gave the President the power to put aside area that had objects of historic and scientific nature. The same year President Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Reserve.

Finally, in 1917, after Arizona became a state, Carl Hayden and Henry Fountain of Arizona introduced legislation to create the Grand Canyon National Park. In February of 1919 President Woodrow Wilson signed the bill into law.

History indicates that the giant hole in the ground was now one of our most loved national treasures.


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