When natural beauty is discussed, there are a few places that always come up. Aurora Borealis for example is a well-known phenomenon; the Alps are an amazing landscape. But few places are as well-known or well-loved as the Grand Canyon. The 270 mile long natural wonder is Arizona’s most popular tourist destination. But the history of the Grand Canyon began long before the area became a National Park in 1919.
The Grand Canyon was home to many different Native American tribes before Europeans discovered it. Ancestral Pueblo peoples were among the first in the area, followed by the Paiute, Cerbat, and the Navajo. These tribes were all eventually forced out of the area by the American Government.
One of the best known stories about the early history of the Grand Canyon is Powell’s 1869 Expedition down the Colorado River. John Wesley Powell was a captain in the civil war and he led a scientific expedition to chart parts of the west, namely the river. The trip involved capsizes, food rationing, and extensive portaging. Three members of the trip went missing as well, becoming one of the greatest unsolved mystery of the area. Their disappearances were first blamed on local Native American tribes; it is now considered most likely that they were killed by nearby Mormon settlers. The Grand Canyon has also been the location of some great breakthroughs in geology and our understanding of the natural world. Because the canyon is a mile deep in some areas, layers of the earth previously unseen were exposed for scientist to explore.
The first settlers came to the area in the 1880’s, which is around when the area became known as a tourist destination. The trip to the rim used to be a grueling adventure from Flagstaff, most often by stagecoach. Tourism slowly increased until the Santa Fe Railroad finished the Grand Canyon Railway in 1901. This became the most common way to reach the canyon for many years. However, with the increased popularity and affordability of automobiles by 1930, the train began to be used less frequently. The route was finally canceled in 1968; just three passengers were on the final run. Hotels have been in the in the canyon since the area could support them. Bright Angel Lodge is currently the most popular hotel on the canyon rim.
The canyon was first considered a Forest Reserve in 1893 and later a National Monument. The Grand Canyon did not achieve official National Park status until 1919. The visitor center in the National Park is full of facts and information on the Grand Canyon and the surrounding area.