The Grand Canyon National Park

A Pamphlet By: Alison Gage

Location

This amazing national park is located in the North Western corner of Arizona in the United States.


Climate

Overall, the climate in the Grand Canyon can be classified as semi-arid desert, but weather patterns vary depending on seasons and elevations.


Spring & Fall: These seasons can be unpredictable, so be prepared for sudden changes in the weather. May and October can be some of the driest months (but snowstorms have been known to happen) and late April and May can be windy. The temperatures tend to me mild, with warm days and cooler nights.


Summer: At 7,000 ft summer temperatures on the South Rim are usually from 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit, while the North Rim (being 8,000 ft and therefore above sea level) usually ranges from 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Thunderstorms often occur during July, August and early September. The inner canyon temperatures are much more extreme, often exceeding 105 degrees Fahrenheit.


Winter: On the South Rim conditions can be extreme such as icy roads and trails, snow, and possible road closures. North Rim can get heavy snowfall, and Highway 67 is always closed from the first snowfall to usually mid-March.

Ecosystems

While the entire park is semi-arid desert (as mentioned above) there are distinct habitats that are located at different elevations. Near the Colorado River, riparian vegetation and sandy beaches are common. Just above the river, the desert scrub community consisting of cacti and warm desert scrub species is dominant. Up to 6,200 ft above the desert scrub is the juniper and pinyon pine forest. After that, between 6,200 and 8,200 ft ponderosa pine is abundant. Finally a spruce-fir forest tops out the park on the highest points of the Northern Rim.



Endangered Species

Of the 1500 different species that live in and around the Grand Canyon, many are endangered. The Kanab Ambersnail, the Humpback Chub, the Razorback Sucker, the Desert Tortoise, the Northern Leopard Frog, the California Brown Pelican, the Yuma Clapper Rail and the Southern Willow Fly-Catcher are only a few of these species.


To help protect these endangered species, the park is currently working to allow native plant species in the riparian zone by controlling and removing the invasive Tamarisk plants from the river banks. They also protect the California Condore, one of the rarest and largest birds in North America, from hunting and provide it with many opportunities to nest in the trees on the Canyon rims and therefore chances to let it naturally increase their population.



Environmental Factors

Most, if not all, of the environmental problems found in the Grand Canon are human caused. Haze blocking the view from several of the scenic vistas rolls in from time to time. This is because of nearby coal-fueled power plants spewing smoke into the air.


Humans have also disrupted the plant communities by introducing non-native species to the park. Due to their lack of predators, these invasive plants flourish and rob the native plants of space, water and sunlight.


Along the same lines, non-native animal species have also been disrupting natural animal populations in the park because of human introduction.


The water in some streams has been contaminated with fecal coliform. This comes from both cow and human waste.


Finally, a dam built in Glen Canyon has altered the riparian and aquatic ecosystems throughout most of the park since its construction.


Park History

People have been living in and around the Grand Canyon for up to 12,000 years. The groups known to have once inhabited the Canyon include Paleo-Indian, Archaic, Basketmaker, Ancestral Puebloan (Kayenta and Virgin branches), Cohonina, Cerbat, Pai, Southern Paiute, Zuni, Hopi, Navajo, and Euro-American. Studies of only 5% of the park have presented Archaeologists with 4,300 artifacts. Many of these artifacts have been classified as split twig figurines. They were made by taking a single twig, often from a willow tree, and cutting it right down the middle and then folding the pieces into animal shapes. These figurines have been dated back 2,000 - 4,000 years ago. Most often, they were fashioned into deer or bighorn sheep and on occasion they were even equipped with horns or antlers. While at first glance they may seem like toys, research suggests that they were in fact associated with totems associated with the late Archaic hunting and gathering culture. They have often been found under rock cairns, indicating careful, almost sacred placement.


My Visit to the Grand Canyon

If I had 48 hours to spend at the Grand Canyon I would first take a guided bike tour because it not only provides the tourists with access to areas restricted by car, it also limits the amount of car traffic which therefore limits the air and noise pollution in the park, making my visit to the Grand Canyon a green one. I would then head over to my private cabin on the North Rim and watch the sun set. Then i would go to sleep and wake up just before sunrise so I could watch that too. Finally, I would spend a day hiking around the bottom of the canyon, then I would go home.



If I had a week to spend at the Grand Canyon I would arrive on a Sunday so that I could participate in a learning and lodging program which takes tourists on a 2 day, hands-on guided adventure through, around and inside the Canyon. Then I would take a guided bike tour on the third day to do my part to keep the park green. That night I would stay on the North Rim in my own private cabin and watch the sun rise and set. The next day I would take a mule ride down into the Canyon and spend the next 2 nights at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Canyon. After waking up the next morning I would horseback ride and whitewater raft in the river rapids. Finally, I would hike up to the south rim and watch the sun rise and set one last time before I left.