Marco Gabbin/ClickAlps/REDA&CO/UIG/Getty Images
- February 26 marks the 100th anniversary of the Grand Canyon National Park, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
- The history of the land dates back millions of years.
- Explorers once thought the canyon was dangerous and inhabitable.
- Now its ecosystem is being threatened by a nearby dam.
Grand Canyon National Park celebrates its 100th anniversary on February 26, but the history of the land dates back millions of years.
Long before the canyon was considered a national treasure, it hosted indigenous ancestral populations, followed by small groups of explorers who struggled to navigate the terrain.
It wasn’t until a 1869 expedition that Americans realized explorers could travel the entire canyon — which stretches nearly 230 miles — and live to tell the tale.
More than a century later, the canyon is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
Take a look at its long and fascinating history.
Scientists have debated over when the Grand Canyon first formed, but the general consensus is 5 to 6 million years ago.
Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images
In 2012, a group of geologists came out with a report saying that the Grand Canyon was old enough to have been witnessed by dinosaurs.
While scientists had previously acknowledged that the canyon was around five to six million years old, the 2012 report claimed it could have been around for up to 70 million years.
For the most part, scientists continue to side with the theory that the Grand Canyon and dinosaurs never crossed paths.
The accepted hypothesis is that the Colorado River carved the canyon over million of years by eroding the Colorado Plateau. Shifting tectonic plates also helped lift the rocks higher, creating a path for the river.
The first humans to pass through the Grand Canyon likely did so around 12,000 years ago.
Picture Service/UIG/Getty Images
Small groups of hunters likely traipsed the Grand Canyon region near the end of the last Ice Age, searching for mountain goats, bison, and wild plants.
The first recorded group to live in the Grand Canyon was the Ancestral Puebloans, who inhabited the land around 2,300 years ago.
Spanish explorers stumbled on the Grand Canyon in the 1540s while searching for the legendary "Seven Cities of Gold," which were said to contain infinite riches.
Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau Nieto/Wikimedia Commons
The explorers never made it to the bottom. They were allegedly forced to turn back after running out of water.
- I went to Joshua Tree after the government shutdown. Even though it looked picture-perfect, it could actually take the park 300 years to recover from the damage.
- Fascinating photos of abandoned movie palaces reveal the decline of movie-going in America
- Staggering photos show one small town covered in 19,000 tons of plastic waste