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The Grand Canyon is an area in North America that has been studied over for its amazing revelation of nature in its beauty (Beus, 2003). Precisely, the area is located along the Colorado River in Arizona. It is situated near the borders of Utah and Nevada. It is managed by the owners of the Grand Canyon National Park since it is situated within and close to the park. There are also state agents who manage the lands adjacent to the park. Every person visiting this area is able to appreciate the simplicity in which the rocks formed in this area are arranged, yet they show the majestic features. In fact, some say that the word grand may not fully describe the region in its totality (Robert, 2005). Even those not so interested in geology and the related subjects are amazed when they visit this area.
The Grand Canyon was formed over 17 million years ago, when the river began eroding the area around it (Beus, 2003). More to it, there was the rising of the Colorado plateau, which accelerated the erosion activities of the river. However, the rocks around the area are very old as compared to the Grand Canyon. More than forty sedimentary rocks are found in the area, some of which have been there for over 200 million years. It is said that the oldest rocks in this area have been in existence for two billion years.
The beauty of the region is explained by the changes that sedimentary rocks exhibit after erosion of the region by the river Colorado among other rivers. Some changed into beautiful cliffs and others into slopes (Beus, 2003). Each of them has changed after different periods of time, giving them the unique features. The beautiful and different colors result from the various distinct deposits in the rocks (Salem, 1998).
The discovery of the region was done only after the civil war. Most of these regions were undiscovered until the civil war that took place in 1869. A civil veteran, in his adventure walked around the region and the Colorado River. The minerals in the region and the beauty of the place continued to attract more people into the region after this. Many people with diverse interests started visiting the region and geologists were able to excavate the region and study the vast rocks in the region (Robert, 2005). The region became a National Park so as to protect it from the activities of the mass population that have continued to visit the region.
Several explanations are given on the formation of the Grand Canyon. One profound explanation is given to refer to the rocks that are located in the walls of the canyon (Beus, 2003). The periods in which these rocks were formed are used to explain the Grand Canyon. The arrangement of the rocks is studied to explain the periods in which they might have been formed. It is explained that some of the rocks were as old as 2 million years. These rocks are known as Precambrian rocks (Price, 1999). They were in existence even before the formation of the Grand Canyon. Other rocks were formed over 500 million years ago during the period of Paleozoic era. There are some rocks that were formed within the canyon but not found today. These rocks were known as Mesozoic and Cenozoic rocks.
Five basic arrangements are seen within the Canyon (Kiver & Harris, 1999). One specific side of the canyon can be broken down as follows. It includes schist at the bottom, which is followed by granite. The third from the bottom is shale and then sand stone comes at the top. Further, the geological layers are divided into three main sections. At the bottom there is the inner gorge. This has the Vishnu group and Zoroaster granite. It also has Tapeats Sandstone and Muav Limestone (Beus, 2003). It is a section that has rocks which have great levels of unconformity in the rock formation compared to the other sections. The middle section which is known as the Supai Group has several formations known as Makanacha, Wescogame and Watahomigi formations. At the top there is the Kaibab limestone, Coconino sandstone and Hermit Shale. All this is studied to explain the Grand Canyon but it is not sufficient. It leaves questions in the minds of readers, which leads to the need of a more profound explanation.
In the second explanation, it is established that the erosion of the Colorado River led to the formation of the Grand Canyon (Price, 1999). The rain water, snow and the tributaries that flow into the river from the past has led to beautiful formations of the Canyon. The weather in the place is semi-arid, receiving minimal rain per year. However, when it rains, there is heavy presence of storms and powerful erosion. These natural occurrences have given sufficient explanation for the formation of the canyon (Salem, 1998)
Besides the erosions of the Colorado River, an uplift of the region occurred about 75 million years ago (Robert, 2005). This had followed the laramide orogeny that happens to have affected the geological formations in the whole of North America. These occurrences happened in the period known as the Mesozoic (Salem, 1998). This formed the rocky mountains on the east side of the region. The plateau was lifted for about three kilometers from its original location, creating a totally different region, with beauty and ranges. Rivers and drainages are also known to change their course (Kiver & Harris, 1999). The river flowing from the east of the canyon started to flow into the basin and the ranges on the lower side of the canyon. Still, the Gulf of California was opened allowing a river to flow to the north east. This river formed a new tributary to the Colorado River.
The wet climates existing in the ice age were also very helpful in the formation of the canyon. The area was excavated further into great depth. The activities of the volcano also contributed to great deposits of lava into the Colorado River. They further formed lakes which were more than 600 meters in depth (Robert, 2005). Lava dams also formed within short periods, some forming after only one week. They were great in height and would later be filled with sedimentary in the years that followed. However these dams lasted only for only 100, 000 years. The excavation of the canyon, however, has reduced greatly due to changes in the climate of the region. The ice age era is no longer experienced and the rainfall is no longer as heavy as it used to be in the past. Earthquakes still bring in erosion in the region in the current days.
Geologists explain the features of the canyon using time periods, when the formations took place (Kiver & Harris, 1999). These time periods were analyzed to explain when a certain part of the Grand Canyon was formed. These time periods include Paleozoic era, Mississippian era and Pennsylvanian era among other geological periods. It is noted that in each of these periods some geological occurrences were experienced. This led to formation of the Grand Canyon. The features explained in the geological books and documentaries are just a few compared to the vast features that dominate the region.
One must consider that there were sedimentary and volcanic activities that took place in the region. The sedimentary activities brought about schist known as Vishnu, while the volcanic resulted into the schists known as Brahma and Rama. Looking into the depth of the contents of the canyon, there are sedimentary and volcanic schists. These were formed over 1.5 billion years ago during the Precambrian era (Robert, 2005).The rock at the bottom of the canyon was formed after collision of islands with the northern American continent (Kiver & Harris, 1999). The sediments were then lifted out of the sea only to be buried into the sea in the years that followed. They were further pressured to form metamorphic rocks. This same rock is seen at the bottom of the canyon. The collision of the volcanoes with the land, magma was left laid on the metamorphic gorge. These, when they cooled formed Zoroaster, which later was changed into gneiss. This is what forms the light and colored part in the area.
More erosion continued to occur, which reduced the mountains to smaller heights. There are records that are still needed to explain the gaps in between the periods of formation of the canyon. There are other groups formed in the late years of the Precambrian, which resulted from further shifting of the volcanic rocks and basins (Kiver & Harris, 1999). This would result into some regions sinking that would later be filled with sediments. This then formed some parts of the canyon. One such a group is viewed from the eastern part of the canyon.
The Unkar group is the oldest and beautifully endowed with great colors such as red and orange (Price, 1999). Predominant color is red, following the changes that have continued to occur over time. The first sediments were the lime stones, which were then changed into bass limestone. This was deposited in the coast and was originally grey in color. The other super group is known as the Tonto group that is located very close to Colorado River. It was formed from deposits of sand and congromate. One distinct feature of this group is the presence of brown color and ripple marks (Gordon, 2000).
Other great features in the Grand Canyon include the Red Wall which has blue and grey colors (Kiver & Harris, 1999). Many fossils have been noticed in this region, with many minerals deposited along the wall. Many changes continued to occur to the wall during the next few years, causing erosion and wearing off of its parts. The red wall has also changed its colors due to constant rain water. There is also the Surprise Canyon, which was formed during periods of Mississippian era. Fossils and shells have been seen deposited along the feature.
Supai group is the other group that is found in the region, which has various deposits in its components (Price, 1999). For example, there are minerals, mud and silt in its features. The hermit group comes in next in the line, deposited along the coast of the river. The formation took place in Permian age. It is known to have numerous deposits of plants and animal fossils among other deposits. Most of these groups are divided depending on their features, location of the group and the period of formation. The difference in color is owed to the mineral deposits portrayed within them. Various sediments also give them unique features (Beus, 2003).
The youngest of these formations is the Kaibab limestone (Robert, 2005). It is the highest since it has not been eroded over time. It was formed over 200 million years ago during the latest Permian time. Other formations include the Mesozoic deposition that came after further uplifts of the land and more streams flowing into the newly formed regions. There are critical features that have not been explained by the geologists. They fail to capture specific feature and their periods of formation (Gordon, 2000). This then is noted as the features that do not conform to the periods in which the features are known to have formed. Further research is therefore called for to make the explanations. The changes that have occurred over time must also be explained through more research.
The length of the Grand Canyon is 1904 square miles (Bronze, 2003). However, people measure the Canyon differently, some starting from the river, which gives totally different measurements from those who do not include it. It is estimated that over five million people visit the Grand Canyon every year. Despite the fact that there are others of this kind, it stands out as the most spectacular of them all. With time, climatic changes have brought about numerous changes within the park (Gordon 2000). Lesser water has meant little erosion of the rocks and therefore there have been lesser changes within the area. Consequently, the mass wasting activities have been able to bring about more effects than they did before. More steep cliffs have been seen to occur with time. The Grand Canyon has also become wider than it used to be.
The human activities have also been of effect in the area. With the continual visitation of the region by many people, some of the features are bound to get exploited. Stern conservation measures have been taken to ensure that the environment maintains its splendor (Kiver & Harris 1999). The quality of air is enhanced continually, while the endangered species are given more care and protection. The control of water flowing from the Colorado River is done through the Glen Canyon dam (Bronze, 2003). It is however important to note that this control has brought about numerous effects on the river. Most people complain of more cold water from the Colorado River and reduced sediments along the river banks. The once warm river has been getting cold with time due to climatic changes.
In the long run, there may be more effects on the region as a whole. In this regard, it is important that stern measures are taken to ensure that conservation of the beautiful park is maintained. The federal authorities must indeed invest heavily in the region so that the future of the region is secured. The ease of protecting the region has made harder with time. It is only through deliberate effort and hard work that we can continue to get the amazing experiences from the Grand Canyon.