96 years ago today on February 26, 1919, the Grand Canyon was designated as a National Park.
My first glimpse of the Grand Canyon was in 2011 when I flew over it. Even at that height it was quite a sight and I was feeling left out because I was sure I was one of a small minority that had never been to the Grand Canyon.
Two years later on our way home from California my husband and I spent a couple nights in Williams, AZ for the express purpose of finally visiting the Grand Canyon.
The Grand Canyon is breathtaking, majestic, spectacular, awe-inspiring, beautiful, magnificent, and glorious and these words pale in comparison to what the eye beholds. Words cannot describe it and pictures, however beautiful they may be, don’t do it justice.
There are many ways to see the Canyon. You can take a mule trip, hike, backpack and spend the night in the Canyon, or you can view it from the many lookouts.
Everything you ever wanted to know about the Grand Canyon before you visit:
I took a pass on the first day because Bill wanted to do some hiking and I don’t hike. He saw some wonderful sights. The Elk seem to be on a friendly basis with the tourists.
Beyond the beauty of a landmark or place you visit there is the history. The Grand Canyon was home to the Havasupai (Havsuw’ Baaja) American Indian Tribe for over 800 years. They lived in an area known as Cataract Canyon which was about the size of Delaware until 1882. Then the federal government forced them to abandon all but 518 acres of their land. This was devastating because the land they lost was fertile land. Interesting how most change in America came about because of the Railroad and this was no exception. With the railroad came people and then there was the Silver Rush which is said to have been as big as the Gold Rush. The Havasupai were being pushed bit by bit off of their 518 acres.
In 1893 miner Pete Berry decided to give up mining and cater to the growing number of tourists. He provided lodging and started guiding mule-riding tourists down into the canyon. In 1897 he built the two-story log hotel.
The Havasupai turned to tourism to make a living. People flocked to see their streams and waterfalls. In 1905 Hopi House was built by Fred Harvey Company and it was a market for Native American Crafts made by artisans in the area. The Havasupais and Hopis had a long and interesting relationship.
Desert View Watchtower, also known as the Indian Watchtower at Desert View, is a 70-foot, 4 story stone building located on the South Rim of the Canyon. The lower floor is a gift shop and its upper floors serve as observation decks where visitors have breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert.
Then came the National Park designation in 1919 and President Roosevelt met with the Havasupai council and they were told they were going to have to leave the area. It’s a sad story filled with decades of the Havasupai Tribe fighting to regain their land. On January 4, 1975, approximately 185,000 acres were returned to them with another 95,300 granted for their traditional use but overseen by the National Park Service.
As you leave the National Park you will come upon an area that kind of looks like a Mini Grand Canyon from the road. This is part of the land that was finally returned to the Tribe. There is a long drive that heads toward the Canyon and on the drive is a shed type building with people milling around. This is a section of the land that was returned to the Havasupais. Some of the land is suitable for farming, some is very scenic and attracts tourists and in addition the family makes and sells jewelry. Continue down the path to the edge of the property and this is a glimpse of what you will see.
In the building four Native Americans are busy making jewelry and taking care of tourists. They use pine nuts in much of their jewelry. Apparently pine nuts have a special medicinal properties. I am not sure if that is true if you wear them but they do use them in a lot of their ceremonial jewelry and on their costumes. I bought 4 bracelets.
And there you have an abbreviated view of the Grand Canyon and a bit of its history. This is one place that if I were returning again I would do a lot more research on the activities offered and the history of the Canyon. If you have not been there it definitely deserves a spot on your bucket list.