With the famous declaration, “The ages had been at work on it, and man can only mar it,” US President Theodore Roosevelt designated the Grand Canyon in northwestern Arizona a national monument on January 11, 1908. By declaring it thus, the president allowed for public preservation work to be undertaken and the Grand Canyon is now one of the most visited sites in the US. President Roosevelt was awestruck by the natural beauty of the region during his visit in 1903 and was of the strong opinion that it was the nation’s responsibility to preserve natural treasures for future generations. He said that it was the responsibility of the nation “to let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”
The Grand Canyon has been inhabited for many thousands of years by the Native Americans who made its many caves their home. The Pubelo natives worshiped the towering cliffs, the deep ravines, and the natural elements that aided their life, and made pilgrimages to this rugged land. The first Europeans to set foot here were the members of an expedition led by the Spaniard Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in 1540. The tortuous terrain discouraged much exploration in the subsequent centuries. It was later in 1869 that John Wesley Powell, a renowned geologist, and his team of 10 men went down, along the rapids of the Colorado River and set off on a difficult expedition to the bottom of the gorge. The first bill to establish a Grand Canyon National Park was introduced in 1882 but failed. Later, in 1893, President Benjamin Harrison, declared it a “forest reserve” through the Presidential Proclamation #45.
With the discovery of minerals in the Grand Canyon, miners came in droves. Mining, however, soon turned out to be expensive and hazardous. With the wane of mining activity, it seemed that the region would soon fall back into isolation but the turn of the 20th century brought a boost to the tourism of the canyon. President Theodore Roosevelt’s love for the American West translated into a sound agenda for environmental conservation during his tenure at the White House. President Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve in 1906. With this, smaller animals, birds, and fishes of the region were protected but predators such as wolves and mountain lions were still open to threat of eradication. To accord the Grand Canyon a national park status an act of Congress was imperative but to protect the region Roosevelt decided to initiate a new practice and designated more than 800,000 acres of the region a “national monument” through the Presidential Declaration #794. Private development in the Grand Canyon region, however, was not outlawed for almost a decade. In 1919, the Congress finally declared it the 17th American National Park when President Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act. The National Park Service was established in 1916. It took over administration of the park. In 1975, the Marble Canyon National Monument was also included in Grand Canyon National Park following the directive of the Grand Canyon National Park Enlargement Act. Currently, the total park size is over 487,350 hectares. In 1979, UNESCO declared the park a World Heritage Site.
The Grand Canyon is a 277-mile long gorge created by the action of the Colorado River and its tributaries on the rocky surface with the simultaneous upliftment of the Colorado Plateau. Geologists have been able to establish that the Colorado River found its course through the rocky valley at least 17 million years ago. With a depth of 85 feet, the Grand Canyon is home to 373 species of birds, 92 mammal species, and 57 species of reptiles and amphibians. The beauty of the Grand Canyon is stunning and this has made it one of the best-loved natural landscapes of the US. The canyon has been called one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. In 2012, the Grand Canyon National Park was visited by 4, 421,352 visitors.
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