Grand Canyon cel­e­brates 100th year as park

Park draws six mil­lion tourists a year

Lethbridge Herald - - GREAT ESCAPES - Feli­cia Fon­seca

The first Euro­pean Amer­i­can who reached the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon mar­veled at what was be­fore him: an as­tound­ing sys­tem of canyons, pro­found fis­sures and slen­der spires that seem­ingly tot­tered from their bases.

The scenery wasn’t enough to con­vince Lt. Joseph Christ­mas Ives that any­one would visit after his group that set out in a steam­boat wrapped up an ex­pe­di­tion in 1858.

“Ours has been the first and, doubt­less, will be the last party of whites to visit this prof­it­less lo­cal­ity,” he wrote. “It seems in­tended by na­ture that the Colorado River along the greater por­tion of its lonely and ma­jes­tic way shall be for­ever un­vis­ited and undis­turbed.”

That clearly wasn’t the way things worked out, and the Grand Canyon this year will cel­e­brate its 100th an­niver­sary as a national park.

De­spite a fed­eral gov­ern­ment shutdown that has closed some other U.S. national parks, the Grand Canyon has re­mained open be­cause Ari­zona de­cided to sup­ply money needed to keep trails, shut­tles and re­strooms open.

It now draws more than six mil­lion tourists a year who peer over the pop­u­lar South Rim into the gorge a mile (1.6 kilo­me­tres) deep, nav­i­gate river rapids, hike the trails and camp un­der the stars.

Early ex­plor­ers came on boat, foot and horse­back of­ten with the help of Na­tive Amer­i­can guides. The wealthy trav­elled by stage­coach in a two-day trip from Flagstaff to the south­ern­most point on the canyon’s South Rim in the 1880s.

The first pas­sen­ger train rolled in from Wil­liams in 1901, but the rail­road was more in­ter­ested in min­ing cop­per than car­ry­ing tourists. The au­to­mo­bile be­came the more pop­u­lar way to reach the Grand Canyon in the 1930s.

Early en­trepreneurs charged $1 to hike down the Bright An­gel Trail used by the Hava­su­pai peo­ple whose cur­rent-day reser­va­tion lies in the depths of the Grand Canyon, de­vel­oped camp­ing spots and built ho­tels. Tourists paid for drink­ing wa­ter, to use out­houses and for cu­rios in a tent pitched at the South Rim.

Ralph Cameron, a prospec­tor for whom the Navajo Na­tion com­mu­nity of Cameron is named, was one of the ma­jor op­po­nents of nam­ing the Grand Canyon a national park be­cause he saw how much money could be made from tourism.

Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son signed leg­is­la­tion to cre­ate the park in 1919 but Teddy Roo­sevelt is cred­ited for its early preser­va­tion as a game re­serve and a national mon­u­ment.

He fa­mously said: “Leave it as it is. You can­not im­prove on it. The ages have been at work on it, and man can only mar it.”

Cen­ten­nial events will in­clude Roo­sevelt im­per­son­ators, a historical sym­po­sium, a liv­ing his­tory week and ef­forts to get visi­tors be­yond the South Rim by show­cas­ing lesser-known sites on so­cial me­dia. The park’s ac­tual birth­day is Feb. 26, when a cel­e­bra­tion is sched­uled at the South Rim, with other events at other lo­ca­tions pro­grammed for later in the year.

Vanessa Ceja Cer­vantes, one of the cen­ten­nial co-or­di­na­tors, said the park will broad­cast ranger talks, the founder’s day event and other vir­tual tours through­out the year.

“A lot of our visi­tors come for the day and they’re drawn here for this amaz­ing land­scape,” she said.

“But we re­ally want to give them rea­sons to stay, to learn about the ge­ol­ogy, the nat­u­ral re­sources, cul­tural or his­toric be­cause there’s some­thing here for ev­ery­one.”

Visi­tors might even learn about the Apollo 11 as­tro­nauts who trained at the Grand Canyon, a spot­ted skunk there who does a hand­stand when it feels threat­ened, a com­mer­cial air­line crash that spurred the creation of the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion or the story of a heart-shaped rock em­bed­ded in wall for a ho­tel wait­ress.

Be­fore Grand Canyon be­came a national park, the land was home to and vis­ited fre­quently by Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes.

As the story goes, Span­ish ex­plor­ers reached the canyon in the 1540s, led by Hopi guides. They de­scended into the canyon but mis­judged its depth and vast­ness, turn­ing back be­fore they could reach the Colorado River. Their reports likely de­terred oth­ers from ex­plor­ing the re­gion for cen­turies.

Gertrude Smith, who works in the cul­tural of­fice for the Yava­pai-Apache Na­tion in Camp Verde, said tribes con­tinue to revere the Grand Canyon as a place of emer­gence and where they for­age for plants and nuts, and hunted be­fore it be­came out­lawed.

“Peo­ple do for­get the Na­tive peo­ple were the first peo­ple to dwell in these places and use the re­sources,” she said.

Wayne Ran­ney, the im­me­di­ate past pres­i­dent of the Grand Canyon Historical So­ci­ety, moved to Phan­tom Ranch to work as a back­coun­try ranger in 1975, a job that would cre­ate a bond with his pa­ter­nal grand­fa­ther who first vis­ited Grand Canyon National Park in 1919. He worked for the rail­road and could get a roundtrip ticket for $5, Ran­ney said.

In the years after World War II ended, the National Park Ser­vice be­gan to mod­ern­ize places like the Grand Canyon. The gorge hit one mil­lion visi­tors an­nu­ally in 1956, a num­ber that has only grown since.

“Its pop­u­lar­ity is never di­min­ished,” Ran­ney said. “For most peo­ple, even though it may be crowded when they visit, they still come away with a feel­ing of awe.”

As­so­ci­ated Press pho­tos

In this file photo, a mule train winds its way down the Bright An­gel Trail at Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz.

The Grand Canyon National Park is cov­ered in the morn­ing sun­light as seen from a he­li­copter near Tusayan, Ariz.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.