Everyone knows of the Grand Canyon, but how much do you actually know about it? The rote facts you learned in grade school hardly touch on the surface of what there is to know about this fascinating natural wonder. If you want to learn about its geological makeup, history, or opening hours, this isn’t the article for you. However, if you’re curious about weird and wonderful Grand Canyon facts, read on! Here are some cool things you didn’t know about the Grand Canyon.
American Indians have been living inside the Canyon for thousands of years
In fact, Native people still live at the bottom! Imagine waking up to that view every day. Part of the canyon is located within the Havasupai Indian Reservation. Here, there is a town called Supai Village. It’s the most remote community in the lower 48 states, and it’s totally inaccessible by road. Visitors are welcome for a small fee, but it’s not easy to make it down there. Want to get in or out? You’ll have to take a mule or hike! Unless you’re wealthy, of course—then you can take a helicopter.
The first European explorer to encounter the Grand Canyon was not impressed
When Spaniard Garcia Lopez de Cardenas found his trail interrupted by a gigantic hole back in 1540, he was more annoyed than astonished. For one thing, it was not going to help him find the “Seven Cities of Gold,” and for another, the river below was inaccessible to the thirsty trekkers. The next European visitor did not return for many decades, and it was not until the late 19th Century that its value was actually recognized by anyone other than the local Natives.
The Grand Canyon makes its own personal weather
The Grand Canyon has an incredibly varied topography, which creates many little microclimates within the canyon. At the same moment, it can be snowing in one part and swelteringly hot in another! On any given day, you’ll find that the temperature on the rim is much different from the temperature below.
A sisterhood of evangelical nuns donated scripture plaques at the Grand Canyon
Frequent canyon visitors are familiar with the three small, bronze scripture plaques that hang at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Even non-religious visitors seem to appreciate the Biblical words of awe on the plaques; they seem to fit the breathtaking setting of the Grand Canyon. At one time, the plaques were removed and mailed back to the sisterhood’s property in central Phoenix, but the dismay of the public caused the situation to be reviewed. The existence of the plaques was determined to be constitutional, and they were returned.
There’s a book about how people died at the canyon
Nothing like a gripping story of gore and horror, right? You may not expect a horrifying book about all the ways to die at the Grand Canyon to be sold in onsite book stores, yet here it is. Actually, Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon reads less like a sensational novel and more like a tragic warning of the dangers visitors may encounter. One assumes that the bookshops display the book in hopes that it will discourage visitors from taking risks that lead to more death at the Grand Canyon.
You can’t buy bottled water at the Grand Canyon
This is thanks to the thousands of litterbugs who have pitched their plastic bottles into the depths of the canyon. Not cool. Now, you have to bring your own water bottle, which can be filled at water stations around the park. If you forget a water container, no worries—they sell reusable water bottles at a price that discourages you from tossing them over the canyon’s edge.
There are wrecked planes at the bottom of the Grand Canyon
The most common cause of death in the Grand Canyon isn’t falling or dying of heat exhaustion. Nope. It’s actually air fatalities. In fact, a particularly tragic plan collision in 1956 that led to the creation of some of today’s plane safety laws. The wreckage is still down there… but good luck finding it! Apparently, the hike is almost 20 miles. That’s a long trek for a look at some mangled jet remains.
Nobody knows how old the Grand Canyon is
I guess rocks never come with a birth certificate, but the Grand Canyon has been a bit of a conundrum. For a long time, textbooks taught that the canyon is an unequivocal six million years old. Now… scientists are not so sure. One of the weirdest geological aspects of the Grand Canyon is that some of the rock layers are older than the rock directly beneath them! Figure that one out.
Hopi tradition teaches that the Grand Canyon is the gateway to the afterlife
Hopi people have been living near the Grand Canyon for much longer than the United States has existed. It’s little wonder, then, than the religious traditions of the Hopi are intertwined with the Grand Canyon’s majestic formations. According to Hopi tradition, a spirit must pass westward through the “place of emergence” within the canyon in order to arrive at the afterlife.
An elaborate hoax ignited the Grand Canyon’s biggest conspiracy theory
Two scientists claiming to be associated with the Smithsonian managed to make the news in 1909. The pair claimed they had found remains of an Egyptian-like civilization within a hidden cavern in the Grand Canyon. The excitement quickly subsided as the Smithsonian denied any ties with the men, who suddenly could not be found. To this day, however, conspiracy theorists are convinced that the Smithsonian is hiding something.
Despite being one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World and being immediately recognizable by most people, there are plenty of cool facts you probably didn’t know about the Grand Canyon. Here’s a bonus fun fact: The Grand Canyon, with its otherworldly vibe, was a film location, doubling for Mars in 2007’s Transformers movie.