Grand Canyon National Park
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 Utah Travel Center National ParksGrand Canyon • History


Grand CanyonThe Grand Canyon, so named by John Wesley Powell in 1872, was called Kaibab, meaning Mountain Lying Down, by the Paiutes. No matter what name it is known by, the Grand Canyon is as awe-inspiring today as it must have been to the people who first stumbled upon it.

Native Americans. Paleo-hunters wandered the Southwest more than 11,000 years ago chasing big game. The paleo-hunters left few signs of their passing and in time they were followed by others. The Desert Archaic culture came to the Grand Canyon region and remained there until about 1,000 b.c. Evidence of their presence was not found until 1932. Radiocarbon dating of figurines found in the Redwall Limestone cliffis of the Inner Gorge approximate them at nearly 4,000 years old.
Grand Canyon     The Anasazi(Ancestral Puebloan) culture were found in the region by a.d. 500. They inhabited dark, smoky, semisubterranean pithouses. The Anasazi lived peacefully alongside the Cohonina and shared many similar cultural traits.Unfortunately, it was to good to last and in the late 1200s, the Anasazi and the Cohonina had to abandon their homes.
      In the 1300s, two new tribes entered the area. The Cerbat and the Southern Paiute entered the northern and western areas of the canyon at the same time. The people or descendants have survived to this day.The other Native Americans to come to the area were the Navajo, who moved here around a.d.1400. Their adaptability has allowed them to dominate the region and to become, as they are today, the largest, strongest Native American tride in the United States.

Early Explorers. In 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado led the first European expedition into the Southwest in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cíbola, which was reputed to contain great riches. Coronado returned after reaching modern-day New Mexico, but sent Garcia Lopez de Cárdenas and several men further northward. Cárdenas became the first European to see the Grand Canyon but left frustrated because he could not cross it.The Spanish returned to the area in 1776. In that year, Francisco Atanasia Dominguez and Sylvestre Velez de Escalante left Santa Fe in search of an overland route to Monterey, California. They did not see the Grand Canyon but crossed the Colorado River in Glen Canyon a couple hundred miles up river from the canyon.

Becoming a National Park. As the United States expanded westward, the government wanted to know more of the territory that it had aquired. In 1857, Lieutenant Joseph Ives led a U.S. Amrry Survey party to the Grand Canyon area. Ives was very pessimistic in his 1858 report: "The region... is of course altogether valueless... Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whitees to visit this profitless locality."
     Not ten years later, a fearless, one-armed Civil War veteran named Major John Wesley Powell and his nine companions became the first men to journey 1,000 miles on the Colorado River going through the Grand Canyon. Powell and his men braved dangerous rapids, searing heat, sinking morale, and lost three men to complete their remarkable feat. Invaluable information about one of the last unexplored regions of the country was recieved from Powell's notes on this and his second trip in 1871-1872. Powell went on to found the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology.
      As the U.S. government promoted the West as a land of abundant resources, many miners came to the Grand Canyon to stake claims to mine zinc, copper, lead, and asbestos. Because of the difficulty of extraction and transportation from the canyon, some turned to a more lucrative and less dangerous option of tourism. As the new century dawned, Americans began changing their view of the country. Writers, artists, photographers, environmentalists, newspaper magnates, and railroad barons began fighting for protected recreation area called national parks.
     In the early 1900s, the Fred Harvey Company undertook, to provide the finest service of any national park and began building for that purpose. The Fred Harvey Company had buildings designed to blend into the park environment thus making it seem more natural to the human eye. The Fred Harvey Company became the primary concessioner for the Grand Canyon in 1920.
     It was in 1903 that President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon and was much impressed. The 1906 Act for the Preservation of Americna Antiquities gave Roosevelt, a devoted outdoorsman and park supporter, the chane to change Grand Canyon's status from national forest and game preserve to national monument in 1908. In 1919, Congress authorized the expansion and upgrading from national monument to national park. In 1975, President GeraldFord signed the act doubling the park's size into law. In recognition of the universal value of its exceptional natural and cultural features, the Grand Canyon was named a World Heritage Site in 1979.

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