Grand Canyon (page 1 of 4)
Colorado River, bridges, rafting, geology, archaeology

Grand Canyon, Arizona
November, 2008

My first visit to the state of Arizona just had to include a trip to Grand Canyon.  The sky was blue, the air was clear, visibility was great, and the views I saw from the South Rim were amazing.  I took a lot of pictures there.  Not a chance I'd climb down into the canyon, though!  Nevertheless, I was curious what it looks like at the bottom.... so, with photos on this page courtesy of the National Park Service, I share with you three scenes I did not see in person.

In person, I did not see this view of Kaibab Suspension Bridge (also known as Black Bridge), that spans the Colorado River.  From my vantage point a mile up at the rim of the canyon I could see a tiny black line across what looked like a little drop of water.  That tiny black line was, I was told, Kaibab Bridge!

Kaibab Suspension Bridge
Photo credit: National Park Service

Kaibab Bridge was built in 1928.  It is 440 feet long, 5 feet wide, and suspended 65 feet above the river.  Each of the eight 550-ft. cables that hold up the bridge weighs about one ton.  The spooled cables were way too heavy to be carried to the bottom of the canyon by mules!  To solve the problem, each cable was unrolled from its spool and its length was supported by 42 men who walked it down to the bottom of the canyon, and then they climbed back to the top of the canyon.  They did that eight times!!   Access to Black Bridge is through rock tunnels.  The bridge is used by both hikers and mules, but "never the twain shall meet."  Mules always have the right-of-way on the bridge.  In the interest of safety, mules have the right-of-way on all trails in the canyon, too.  Hikers are instructed to step aside to the uphill side of the trail away from the edge and remain motionless and silent until the last mule in the group is 50 feet past their position.

About a mile downstream from Black Bridge is Bright Angel Suspension Bridge (also called Silver Bridge).  Silver Bridge was completed in 1970.  While Black Bridge has a solid deck, the deck of Silver Bridge is open mesh, allowing a view of the river beneath it.  Mules refused to cross that bridge - (smart animals!) - so it is used by hikers only.  Silver Bridge also supports the transcanyon pipeline, which supplies water to the South Rim.  Water flows by gravity through the pipeline from Rushing Springs below the North Rim, and then over the river to a pumping station where it is pumped up to the South Rim.

Here's something else I didn't see -- rafting through the Grand Canyon, river-level view.  Looking toward the bottom of the canyon from the South Rim, I saw some tiny specks of dust floating from right to left on one of those little drops of water.  I was told those were actually rafts carrying people who probably began their adventure on the Colorado River six or seven days earlier at Lees Ferry, 89 miles upstream.  If their destination was Diamond Creek, they still had 137 more miles of paddling ahead!

Grand Canyon rafting
Photo credit: National Park Service

The rocks I stood on at the rim of the canyon are the "new" ones -- only 5-6 million years old; rock layers that form the canyon's walls depict 2 billion years of the Earth's geologic history.  The Colorado Plateau was uplifted about 10,000 feet beginning 70 million years ago.  Water that drained off the southern Rocky Mountain's western slopes carried sand and gravel that cut through the layers of rock.  Even now, the Colorado River continues eroding the plateau.

In addition to its geologic history, Grand Canyon holds clues to its human history, too.  These prehistoric granaries are located in the Marble Canyon area.

Grand Canyon prehistoric
Photo credit: National Park Service

So far, about three percent of Grand Canyon National Park has been surveyed by archaeologists.  They've recorded almost 5000 archaeological resources, including artifacts that date back to the Paleo-Indian period nearly 12,000 years ago.

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