Formation of Grand Canyon

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 29 November 2016

Formation of Grand Canyon

Most physical features that surround the environment took time to be the state it is know. This means that there are certain eroding factors and contributing factors that resulted to their development. Mountains are formed due to factors such as volcanic activity and continental drift while others are formed due to erosion factors. An example is the Grand Canyon. Geological Foundation Geological foundation of Grand Canyon started with a primitive sea floor that is positioned near a large continent.

It took million of years and effects that are associated with erosion, heat, and uplifts to create the Grand Canyon, which is located in Colorado Plateau Province that incorporates Arizona and the Rocky Mountains of Utah. The Plate is an area of approximately 130,000 and touches Four Corner states. Tributary canyons, rock strata, and geological fault lines shows a layered nature and history of Colorado Plateau and the effects of Colorado River that is associated with erosion effects in the area.

Grand Canyon is believed to be a young formation but the rocks that are associated with it are very old. There are various theories that are associated with the Grand Canyon’s Development (Daniel 67). Major John Wesley Powell Theory This is the first theory that believes that the Grand Canyon was due to uplift of the rocks in the area and effects of erosion that is associated with Colorado River. The second theory believes that it resulted from the drainages that the river captured through erosion and after the uplift of the Plateau.

Where else, the third theory is that the river was active in down cutting, but was interrupted by uplifting that resulted in erosion. There are large gaps in the rock strata, which makes it impossible to determine the sequence of time between the different layers. It is located to the west part of the Painted Desert, and the Grand Canyon is framed by various plateaus and includes Kanab, Paria, Kainbab, Coconino, Shivwits, and the Marble Platform. It is also located near Hualapai Mountains of Arizona and Black Mountains with portions of Echo Cliffs and Grand Wash Cliffs (Keith 90).

Impact of Colorado River on the Geology of Grand Canyon The river drops a distance of over 2,200 feet’s within the Inner Canyon, at an average of 8’ per river mile. This means that it has a sharp decent that is approximately 25 times lower than that of Mississippi river. The force that works on the canyon consists of more than 70 major rapids that have a razor like effect on the various rock stratas that includes sandstone, shale-siltstone, limestone, conglomerate, dolomite, metamorphic and igneous rocks. In addition, there are more that 94 rocks that are within this area.

The river at some areas has cut more than mile deep in the region (Greer 89). The down cutting that is caused by the River is ten times slower than the lateral erosion that is witnessed on the Canyon walls, the strata at this region has been impacted by thawing cycles and freezing simultaneously, which have increase the rate of alteration and disintegration of the different rocks type. The impact that is caused by the Colorado River resulted to formation of a Canyon, which ranges between 0. 1 miles to more than 18 miles on the furthest point.

Geography of Grand Canyon The Grand Canyon is a massive rift that is situated in the Colorado Plateau, it exposes the uplift of Proterozoic and the Paleozoic strata, and it is included in the six distinct physiographic features of the Colorado Plateau Province. It is not the deepest canyon in the world, because of the presence of the Cotahuasi Canyon – 11,598 feet and Colca Canyon – 10,499 which are in Arequipa in Peru, and also the Hell’s canyon – 7993 feet that is in the border of Idaho-Oregon which are deeper.

Some of the features that make it distinctive from other canyons are the colorful and intricate landscape and its overwhelming size (Rick 67). Geological information that is available in these rocks tells a lot about the history of North America continent. This is because of the thick sequence of rocks that were preserved in the canyon and currently exposed on its walls. Uplift, which is associated with the development of mountains building and the related events, moved the many types of sediment many feet upwards and then created the Colorado Plateau.

In addition, the great precipitation that is in the area is associated with the higher elevation, but the precipitation is not enough to change the semi-aridness of the area. The Colorado uplift is not even, the north-south Kaibab Plateau that bisects the Grand Canyon is more than a thousand feet at the higher North Rim (1000 feet) than the Southern Rim. This asymmetry explains why the Colorado River flows in a curve in the South Rim part of the plateau and higher North Rim part of the Kaibab Plateau.

It is also understood that before massive erosion in the region, the Colorado River, found its way around or across the Kaibab Uplift by following the ‘racetrack’ path to the southern part of the plateau. Most run off that is in the North Rim – associated with snow and rain, flows towards the Grand Canyon, while the runoff that is behind the South Rim plateau flows away from the Canyon – general tilt. These then results to the deeper and longer tributary washes and the canyons that are on the northern side, and on the southern side it has shorter tributary and steeper side canyons.

The temperatures at the North Rim are lower than in the South Rim due to the elevation – 8000 feet. Both sides of the rims obtain heavy rainfalls during the summer months. Due to road blockage during the winter months, the North Rim primary route is limited to its accessibility. South Rim view impression is not the same as that of North Rim; North Rim gives a better impression. Geology of Grand Canyon It is believed that the Colorado River basin, which constitutes the Grand Canyon, developed in around 40 million years ago. While the canyon is, approximate 17 million years ago.

The erosion that is witnessed in this area is enormous and forms complete geological columns on the planet. Exposures that are witnessed in the Grand Canyon range in terms of age from the 2 billion year old Vishnu Schist that is at the bottom of Inner Gorge to the 230 million year old Kaibab Limestone on the different Rims. However, there is approximately a gap of over 1 billion years between the lower level, which is over 1. 5 billion years old and 500 million years old stratum. This indicates erosion that took place in two periods of deposition (Kenneth 56).

The many formations were usually deposited in the shallow seas and near-shore environments, and swamps when the seashore continually advanced and retreated over the edge of the proto-North America. An exception to this physical process is the Permian Coconino Sandstone that most geologists’ belief that it is an aeolian sand dune deposits. Grand Canyon great depth and the height of the strata – mostly below the sea level, is attributed to the 5,000 to about 10,000 feet uplift of Colorado Plateau, which began in the Laramide Orogeny period around 65 million years ago.

The uplift that is witnessed has steepened the gradient of the stream of the Colorado River and the tributaries. The steepness of the tributaries and the River has resulted in increase of their speed resulting to great pressure that is exacted on the rock causing it to be cut easy. The conditions of weather in the ice ages increased the amount of water in Colorado River drainage system. Hence, the ancestral Colorado River resulted by cutting its channel deeper and at a fast rate. The base of the ancient Colorado River changed 5.

3 million years ago when Gulf of California was opened and lowered base level of the river to its lowest point. This then increased the rate of erosion and developed in creating the Grand Canyon’s depth by 1. 2 million years ago. Differential erosion created the terraced walls of the canyon. Volcanic activity that took place around 1 million years ago; mostly western part of the canyon area, resulted in the depositing of lava and ash over the area which was about to completely obstruct the river.

Hence, they are the youngest rocks in the canyon (Jeff 34). Formation of Grand Canyon Various processes contributed to the creation of the Grand Canyon. Major forces that contributed to the formation of the Grand Canyon are the erosion by water and wind. Other forces that contributed to its formation include Colorado River, continental drift, and volcanism and the variations of earth seasons. Water contributes to the greatest impact in its formation, and it is primary due to the movement and related forces.

This is a semi-arid area with high level of temperatures, which bakes the soil in the canyon area and if it rains, the water comes inform of torrents. The plants in this region have shallow roots that cannot hold back the soil when erosion occurs. When it rains the boulders of soil is moved easily down to the Colorado River creating canyon. Apart from the liquid water, there is also the solid water – ice. During the colder seasons, the water sips into the cracks that are in the rocks that may have been caused by seismic activity or constant soaking.

When the water in the cracks freezes it expands and it expands the cracks, rocks that are near the rim pushes of and follows into the canyon. When the rain comes all the debris that are within the canyon are carried down to the Colorado River (Richard 99). After the debris is in the Colorado River, the River takes over. During the spring seasons – May and June, the debris in the Colorado River are carried away by the melted ice, at greater rate and speed. When the debris are moved over the bed of the river, it scourges it, make the river to be deeper and wider.

Currently the rate of erosion has drastically reduced because the River is eating the harder schists and granites that are at the bottom of the canyon compared to the previous softer rocks (Mathew 66). Various factors have come together in creating this unique physical feature. Geologists and researches have analyzed the situation in Grand Canyon, and bring into focus the wide factors, which contribute to the formation of the Grand Canyon and the physical situation of the area. Erosion capabilities are fully witnessed in this scenario.

Water both liquid and ice and combination of wind continues to make the River deeper as its goes towards the Pacific Ocean. Terrain of the area and other factors that contribute to its development brings into focus the sequence that is associated with erosion and effects to the landscape and other factors such as volcanism, continental drift and the earth orbit movement.


Daniel, Jack. Physical Geography. New York: Barron’s Educational Series, 2002, pp. 66 – 70. Greer, Price. An Introduction to Grand Canyon Geology. New York: Grand Canyon Association, 1999, pp. 89 – 92.

Jeff, Garton and Page Stegner. Grand Canyon. New York: Advantage Pub. Group, 2002, pp. 30 – 35. Keith, Joshua. Developments in the Grand Canyon Feature. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, pp. 90. Kenneth, Wamuyu. Degeneration of the Environment. London: Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 55 – 59. Mathew, Peter. Desertification and Erosion Effects. London: Cambridge University Press, 1997, 65 – 68. Rick, Atkinson. Physical Geography: Grand Canyon. Boston: Houghton – Mifflin, 1993, 66 – 73. Richard, Paul. Soil Erosion in America. New York: New York Publishers, 1998, pp. 89 – 90.


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