BY CAR - to The National Park South Rim entrance:
BY PLANE - Commercial flights are available from Las Vegas, Phoenix and Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Airport (in Tusayan, just south of the park). A commercial shuttle service is available between Grand Canyon Airport in Tusayan and the South Rim at about $6 per adult.
BY BUS - SOUTH RIM: Bus Service between Grand Canyon National Park and Flagstaff, Arizona is offered by Nava-Hopi Tours, 800-892-8687, and by South Rim Travel, 928-638-2748. Greyhound Bus Lines offers service from Flagstaff and Williams to points nationwide. Grand Canyon Railroad offers service between Williams and the canyon, 1-800-THE-TRAIN. NORTH RIM: A shuttle service is provided seasonally between the North Rim and the South Rim by Trans-Canyon Shuttle, 928-638-2820.
TAKE A TOUR - Air and ground tours are available for the South Rim from Las Vegas, Phoenix, Flagstaff and Sedona. Click here for detailed information.
$20 per private vehicle or $10 per pedestrian, motorcycle rider, or cyclist. Admission is for seven days and includes both the North Rim and South Rim. No refunds are given due to inclement weather.
The SOUTH RIM is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Services are available and facilities are open year round.
Visitor services and facilities inside the national park on the NORTH RIM are only open from mid-May to mid-October. The road from Jacob Lake to the North Rim (Highway 67) is subject to closure due to snow from mid-October to mid-May. Weather permitting, the North Rim is open for day use only following the close of facilities in mid-October.
"The Park Guide" from the park entrance has all the information for parking areas and park services. Parking lots is available throughout Grand Canyon Village. From the parking lots, you can take the free shuttle buses to get to different viewing points on the South Rim.
Shuttle service is not available on the North Rim.
At the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the elevation is 6900 feet above sea level. This can cause dramatic fluctuations in weather, from cool, crisp mornings to hot, dry afternoons.
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Grand Canyon South Rim
The best stops at the Grand Canyon to see the sunrise and sunset are Yavapai Point, Mather Point and Hopi Point.
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The Grand Canyon is known worldwide as the best example of fluvial erosion. It constitutes a natural demonstration of the power of the Colorado. This river has flowed for millions of years exactly as it flows today, much like sand paper slowly digging its canyon ever deeper and deeper. How can you explain the original formation of the Grand Canyon? 35 million years ago powerful movement deep in the interior of the earth pushed upwards creating the eastern portion of the Rocky Mountains. At the same time the region around the Grand Canyon reacted by forming a plateau now called Kaibab Plateau.
The Colorado River, as we now know it, did not exist but, rather, there were two rivers very near the location of the future Grand Canyon. One of the rivers had its source in the Rockies and flowed east of the Kaibab Plateau. The other flowed from the summit of the plateau towards the west. Through the centuries the western river flowed closer and closer to the eastern river always digging longer and longer canyons. Later, the eastern river became blocked and the water flowing from the Rockies created a huge lake in the region now called the Painted Desert. The western river continued to flow across the plateau. One of its tributaries finally reached the western river. At that moment a new stream was created-the Colorado. The birth of that stream, some 10 million years ago, marked the beginning of the Grand Canyon.
The powerful Colorado eroded its bed to such an extent that the Grand Canyon in some areas reached a depth of 1,600 meters. This erosion continues today. As the river flows at a speed of at least 10 kilometers an hour it carries with it sand and lime that act like a digging tool on the river bottom much like a carpenter uses a plane.
The Colorado River is 100 meters wide and 15 meters deep, but it has changed considerably since 1963 and the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. Today the river carries only 80,000 tons of sand and lime per day. Before 1963 the Colorado carried more than 500,000 tons of sediment per day and during high water periods the river carried up to 27 million tons of sediment per day. If you add the accumulation of large boulders that fall into the river bed each day there would be enough sediment to fill railroad cars stretching from New York to San Francisco and back to St. Louis. Such is the river that digs the chasm of the Grand Canyon. Other forces of erosion have widened the Grand Canyon which now measures at least 14 kilometers wide. In winter, for example, a great deal of snow falls at the summit of the Grand Canyon. During the day, as the temperature rises, the snow melts and the water filters in-between the fissures of the canyon walls. At night the water freezes and breaks the rocks which fall into the river below. Bushes and trees also contribute to the erosion process. Their roots grow into spaces between the rocks and as they grow the rock breaks and cascades down the canyon wall into the river bed. The water from summer storms beats on the canyon walls lifting off dirt and rock particles which also find their way into the river. The erosive forces of rain, freezing, and tree roots have widened the canyon, but have also created numerous side canyons, plateaus and mesas. Today the Grand Canyon measures from 6 to 29 kilometers wide and 349 kilometers long. Truly a "grand" canyon.
There is also a history as passionate as the formation of the Grand Canyon and that is the history told by the canyon rocks themselves. This history unfolds in 5 chapters. Each chapter corresponds to a particular geologic period that you can discover as easily as reading in an encyclopedia.
To begin this history written in the rocks it is necessary to look back over two billion years. First chapter: The Anterior Precambrian Era. At this point a sea covered the region. Sand and mud formed in horizontal layers covered by volcanic lava. These layers of sediment grew in enormous proportions. The pressure from these growing layers created layers of shale and sandstone. Later, powerful movement within the earth's crust gradually broke up these layers and slowly moved them upward. Eventually a mountain chain was formed. At the same time as the mountain chain was forming natural erosion began its destructive work. Flowing water, plant growth, and ice untiringly eroded the mountains over a period of hundreds of millions of years until there existed only small hills measuring several meters in height. At that time the ground began to gradually cave in and soon a sea, once again, covered the area erasing all traces of one great mountains. This ending the first chapter of geologic history.
Once again, in this sea, began the gradual accumulation of sediment creating the rocks of chapter two: The Posterior Precambrian Era. The accumulation of these sediments reached a thickness of approximately 3,660 meters. In these rocks we find the first traces of life forms to live in the Grand Canyon: a primitive plant similar to algae which exists even today along the green, mossy sides of the canyons ponds and pools. Little by little each of these rocks broke up, lifted and formed a series of gigantic blocks forming a mountain chain. These mountains were once again eroded even more completely than there predecessors and today the rocks of chapter 2 are only visible in rare canyon locations. Once again the earth in the area began to break up leaving only a large sea, bringing an end to chapter 2: the Posterior Precambrian Era.
From the interior gorge at the summit of the Grand Canyon we can see rocks from chapter III of our earth's history: the Paleozoic Era. During this period the sea flooded the region many times depositing a chalky mud in which were preserved the fossils of sea snails, coral, the teeth of various fish species, and all sorts of shells. During the periods of immersion the large rivers that flowed through the plain deposited layers of red mud which contained the fossils of several species of ground plants. As the climate became extremely dry enormous sand dunes invaded the area. They became stratified and today you can easily recognize the different, wind blown layers in the Aeolian sandstone of the Coconino Plateau. During this period of chapter III forms of life began to multiply, developing first in the sea and subsequently moving to the shores and inland. When chapter III ended, 250 million years ago, the summit of the Grand Canyon, Kaibab, was composed mainly of limestone and was at sea level, while today the summit reaches some 2,740 meters high. During the Mesozoic Era, our chapter IV, a layer of rock covered all the region of the Grand Canyon reaching a thickness of 1,525 to 2,400 meters, but this layer is at present almost completely eroded away. Presently it only exists in a very few locations such as the famous Mountain of Cedars and at the panoramic view point, "Desert View" These locations are composed of sedimentary rock deposited at the period when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
At the end of chapter IV and during chapter V: the Cenozoic Era, the region of the Grand Canyon was already raised significantly above sea level. The most impressive rocks of this period are the volcanoes seen strewn throughout this portion of Arizona. Chapter V is the age of the mammal and, of course, man himself but the most important event of the Cenozoic Era was the formation of the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is much more than a magnificent canyon of impressive dimensions. It is above all a book where man can study the history of the construction of the earth, the evolution of life, and the power of erosion. To protect this incomparable jewel of nature, the people of the United States have transformed the Grand Canyon into a national park whose mission is to preserve its natural state for all time. Visitors from all over the world can admire, study, and appreciate the Grand Canyon in all of its splendor. This is the desire of the members of the National Park Service.
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