Forming the Grand Canyon

Horseshoe Bend, Grand Canyon

Almost anyone who has never been to the Grand Canyon, wishes they could do so. It is the most spectacular view, and standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon that you feel as if you’re facing the tremendous power of natural forces and time. Why is it so impressive? It consists of a huge gash across the desert, nearly 300 miles long, over a mile deep along much of its length, and as much as 18 miles wide. Was it really created by the Colorado River?

The walls of the canyon have layer after layer of sedimentary rocks, formed by collecting sediment from the base of ancient oceans and seas. The rocks near the base of the canyon are almost two billion years old, while those at the top were formed about 200 million years ago. Forming these deposits took about half the age of the planet.

However, although the deposits took such a long time to form, it did not take nearly that long to create the canyon. The Rocky Mountains on the east of the plateau were also formed by the identical collision.

About 5 million years ago, an opening was formed from the plateau to the Gulf of Mexico. Due to the elevation change from the higher reaches of the plateau to the sea, the water flowed quickly, carrying out sand and stone. Then, during the ice ages, the water flow rose and the river cut into the stone.

The debris of the water running downward, during a period of a heavy flow, cuts in the sides of the canyon, making it wider, and into the river bed, making it deeper. Moreover, if plants are known to stabilize the soil and rock, the desert has very few of them. So how long did it take for the Grand Canyon to form? On the scale of geological change, just about the blink of an eye.

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