Determining the precise geologic history of the Grand Canyon has not been an easy task over the years. Rivers carve out canyons through erosion, a process that erases the physical evidence of their work. With no rock record left behind, scientists must look at the land formations that remain to reconstruct the history of such erosion. In recent years, sophisticated new techniques have allowed them to do this with greater accuracy than ever before.
Through a process called thermochronology, scientists can analyze canyon rock samples by microscope in search of crystals known as apatite, which contain helium-producing uranium. When the apatite is hotter than around 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius), the helium escapes, but when the rocks cool–which happens when they are exposed to the surface by a river, for example–the helium remains trapped inside the crystals. By measuring the amount of helium in the apatite, then, scientists can estimate how long the rock has been exposed near the surface.
In November 2012, geologists Rebecca Flowers of the University of Colorado and Brian Wernicke of the California Institute of Technology used thermochronological data to back up their controversial challenge to the prevailing view that the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon less than 6 million years ago. Writing in the journal Science, they claimed that an ancient river flowing west to east carved the western part of the Grand Canyon almost to modern depths some 70 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period.
Fast forward to this weekend, when a team led by Karl Karlstrom, a geologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and a leading proponent of the “Young Canyon” school of thought, released a new study of their own in the journal Nature Geoscience. Karlstrom and his colleagues are seeking to rebut the idea that the gorge we know as the Grand Canyon was around in the age of the dinosaurs. In research also backed by thermochronology, they argue that though some sections of it are older, the canyon as it exists today is no more than 6 million years old.
According to the new study, a section of the eastern canyon was excised between 15 to 25 million years ago, while an even older section further west–known as Hurricane Canyon–was carved by a northwest-flowing river between 50 and 70 million years ago. The easternmost and westernmost portions, however, were less than 6 million years old. As Karlstrom and his colleagues interpret the data, the Colorado River integrated the two older “paleocanyons” with the younger sections between 5 and 6 million years ago, after which it began flowing into the Gulf of California. The gorge then got much wider and deeper, and morphed into the Grand Canyon we see today. Since then, they say, the canyon has deepened at a fairly steady rate of roughly 100 to 200 meters (328 to 656 feet) every million years.
The new study will likely do little to resolve the debate, however, as Flowers and Wernicke show no signs of abandoning their “Old Canyon” argument. Flowers told LiveScience that both her team and Karlstrom’s discovered 70 million-year-old cooling ages near the westernmost canyon, a section that the new study claims is less than 6 million years old. According to Flowers, “It will take a bit more time to understand fully why their interpretations are so different from ours.” Her co-author, Wernicke, is sticking to his guns as well, but points out that what’s important is that the “Young Canyon” view is not universally accepted without question, as “We’ve all learned that it’s a lot more complicated than that.”
Rock fall at Grand Canyon reveals ancient animal footprints
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- It's something like a modern-day chuckwalla, strolling in sand dunes on an island in what now is the Grand Canyon region.
That's how Steve Rowland, professor emeritus of geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and his fellow researchers interpret fossil footprints that were revealed in a rock fall near a popular Grand Canyon hiking trail. They estimate the tracks are 313 million years old, give or take a half-million years.
At that age, they'd be among the oldest tracks of animals that lay eggs with a protective hard or leathery shell and the earliest evidence of vertebrate animals walking distinctively in sand dunes, Rowland, Mario Caputo and Zachary Jensen wrote in a research paper published this month.
“I think our interpretations will hold up very well,” Rowland said Monday.
Not everyone is convinced the footprints were created by a single, four-legged animal that has a lateral-sequence walk, where the legs on one side of the body move in succession, followed by the legs on the other side. Or, that the footprints mark the point in evolution where animals were able to lay eggs with protective shells outside water.
Still, the paper raises interesting questions, said Mark Nebel, the paleontology program manager at the Grand Canyon.
“Some of the conclusions likely are going to be controversial,” he said. ”There's a lot of disagreement in the scientific community about interpreting tracks, interpreting the age of rocks, especially interpreting what kind of animal made these tracks."
Rowland first heard about the footprints from a Norwegian geology professor, Allan Krill, who was hiking at the Grand Canyon in 2016 with his students and sent Rowland a photo.
Rowland made out claw marks common among reptiles in the 28 footprints, which he said help tease out the scarce skeletal record. Some of the earliest bones of similar animals that lay eggs outside the water were found in Nova Scotia around the same time the creatures would have been in what's now northern Arizona, Rowland said.
Similar tracks elsewhere largely are found in coal beds, not sand dunes, he said.
“You could always learn more, and we certainly would like to find more tracks of those same animals," he said.
The rock fell from the Manakacha Formation, made up of sandstone, limestone and mudstone that points to it being a onetime coastal plain when Arizona was near the western edge of the super continent, Pangaea. Dinosaurs weren’t around yet.
Officials at the Grand Canyon are trying to determine what to do with the rock. It weighs hundreds of pounds and is in plain view along the Bright Angel Trail. Another part of the rock also has footprints but wasn't studied extensively.
The Grand Canyon has talked about creating a trail-side display or flying the rock out and into a museum, which would be costlier, Nebel said.
“A lot of people walk by it and never see it,” he said. “Scientists, we have trained eyes. Now that they know something's there, it will draw more interest.”
How Old is the Grand Canyon? That Depends, Scientists Say - HISTORY
EXPLORATIONS IN GRAND CANYON
Mysteries of Immense Rich Cavern Being Brought to Light
Remarkable Finds Indicate Ancient People Migrated From Orient
The latest news of the progress of the explorations of what is now regarded by scientists as not only the oldest archaeological discovery in the United States, but one of the most valuable in the world, which was mentioned some time ago in the Gazette, was brought to the city yesterday by G.E. Kinkaid, the explorer who found the great underground citadel of the Grand Canyon during a trip from Green River, Wyoming, down the Colorado in a wooden boat, to Yuma, several months ago.
According to the story yesterday to the Gazette by Mr. Kinkaid, the archaeologist of the Smithsonian Institute, which is financing the explorations, have made discoveries which almost conclusively prove that the race which inhabited this mysterious cavern, hewn in solid rock by human hands, was of Oriental origin or possibly from Egypt tracing back to Ramses.
If their theories are borne out of the translation of the tablets engraved with hieroglyphics, the mystery of the prehistoric peoples of North America, their ancient arts, who they were and whence they came, will be solved.
Egypt and the Nile and Arizona and the Colorado will be linked by a historical chain running back to ages which staggers the wildest fancy of the fictionist.
A Thorough Investigation
Under the direction of professor S.A. Jordan, the Smithsonian Institute is now prosecuting the most thorough explorations, which will be continued until the last link in the chain has been forged.
Nearly a mile underground, about 1480 feet below the surface, the long main passage has been delved into, to find another mammoth chamber from which radiates scores of passageways, like the spokes of a wheel. Several hundred rooms have been discovered, reached by passageways running from the main passage, one of them having been explored for 854 feet and another 634 feet.
The recent finds include articles which have never been known as native to this country and doubtless they had their origin in the Orient. War weapons, copper instruments sharp edged and hard as steel, indicate the high state of civilization reached by these strange people. So interested have the scientists become that preparations are being made to equip the camp for extensive studies and the force will be increased to thirty or forty persons.
Before going further into the cavern, better facilities for lighting have to be installed, for the darkness is dense and impenetrable for the average flash light.
In order to avoid being lost, wires are being strung from the entrance to all passageways leading directly to large chambers.
How far this cavern extends no one can guess, but it is now the belief of many that what has already been explored is merely the "Barracks", to use an American term, for the soldiers, and that far into the underworld will be found the main communal dwellings of the families and possibly other shrines.
The perfect ventilation of the cavern, the steady drought that blows through, indicates that it has another outlet to the surface.
Mr. Kinkaids Report
Mr. Kinkaid was the first white child born in Idaho and has been an explorer and hunter all his life.
Thirty years having been in the service of the Smithsonian Institute. Even briefly recounted, his history sounds fabulous, almost grotesque.
"First, I would impress that the cavern is almost inaccessible. The entrance is almost 1486 feet down a shear canyon wall. It is located on government land and no visitor will be allowed there under penalty of trespass. The scientists wish to work unmolested, without fear of the archaeological discoveries being disturbed by curio or relic hunters. A trip there would be fruitless and the visitor would be sent on his way.
The story of how I found the cavern has already been recounted, but in a paragraph: I was journeying down the Colorado river in a boat, alone, looking for mineral.
Some forty two miles up the river from El Tovar Crystal canyon, I saw on the east wall, stains in the sedimentary formation about 2000 feet above the river bed.
There was no trail to this point, but I finally reached it with great difficulty. Above a shelf, which hid it from view of the river, was the mouth of the cave.
There are steps leading from this entrance some thirty yards from what was at the time the cavern was inhabited, the level of the river. When I saw the chisel marks on the wall inside the entrance, I became interested, secured my gun and went in.
During that trip I went back several hundred feet along the main passage, till I came to the main crypt in which I discovered the mummies. One of these I stood up and photographed by flashlight. I gathered a number of relics, which I carried down the Colorado to Yuma, from whence I shipped them to Washington with details of the discovery.
Following this, the explorations were undertaken".
"The main passageway is about 12 feet wide, narrowing to 9 feet toward the farther end.
About 57 feet from the entrance, the first passages branch off to the right and left, along which, on both sides, are a number of rooms about the size of ordinary living rooms of today, though some are 30 to 40 feet square.
These are entered by oval shaped doors and are ventilated by round air spaces through the walls into the passages.
The walls are about 3 feet 6 inches in thickness. The passages are chiseled or hewn as straight as could be laid out by any engineer.
The ceilings of many of the rooms converge to a center.
The side passages near the entrance run at a sharp angle from the main hall, but toward the rear they gradually reach a right angle in direction".
"Over a hundred feet from the entrance is a cross-hall, several hundred feet long, in which was found the idol, or image, of the peoples god, sitting cross-legged, with a Lotus flower or Lily in each hand. The cast of the face is Oriental, and the carving shows a skillful hand, and the entire is remarkably well preserved, as is everything in this cavern.
The idol most resembles Buddha, though the scientists are not certain as to what religious worship it represents. Taking into consideration everything found thus far, it is possible that the worship most resembles the ancient people of Thibet.
Surrounding this idol are smaller images, some beautiful in form, other crooked necked and distorted shapes, symbolical, probably, of good and evil. There are two large cacti with protruding arms, one on each side of the dais on which the god squats. All this is carved out of hard rock resembling marble.
In the opposite corner of this cross-hall were found tools of all descriptions, made of copper. This people undoubtedly knew the lost art of hardening this metal, which has been sought by chemists for centuries without result. On a bench running around the workroom was some charcoal and other material probably used in the process.
There is also slag and stuff similar to matte, showing that these ancient peoples smelted ores, but so far, no trace of where of how this was done has been discovered, nor the origin of the ore. Among other finds are vases or urns and cups of copper and gold made very artistic in design. The pottery work includes enameled ware and glazed vessels.
Another passageway leads to granaries such as are found in the Oriental temples. They contain seeds of various kinds. One very large storehouse has not been entered, as it is twelve feet high and can be reached only from above. Two copper hooks extend on the edge, (continued on page 7) which indicates that some sort of ladder was attached. These granaries are rounded and the materials of which they are constructed, I think, is a very hard cement.
A grey metal is also found in this cavern which puzzles the scientists, for it's identity has not been established. It resembles platinum. Strewn promiscuously over the floor everywhere are what people call "Cats eyes" or "Tiger eyes", a yellow stone of no great value. Each one is engraved with a head of a Malay type."
"On all the urns, on the walls over the doorways and tablets of stone which were found by the image are mysterious hieroglyphics, the key to which the Smithsonian Institution hopes yet to discover. These writings resemble those found on the rocks about this valley.
The engraving on the tablets probably has something to do with the religion of the people.
Similar hieroglyphics have been found in the peninsula of Yucatan, but these are not found in the Orient. Some believe that these cave dwellers built the old canals in the Salt River valley. Among the pictorial writings only two animals are found. One is of prehistoric type".
"The tomb or crypt in which the mummies are found is one of the largest of the chambers, the walls slanting back at an angle of about 35 degrees. One these are tiers of mummies, each one occupying a separate hewn shelf.
At the head of each is a small bench on which is found copper cups and pieces of broken swords. Some of the mummies are covered with clay and all are wrapped in a bark fabric. The urns or cups on the lower tiers are crude, while as the higher shelves are reached, the urns are finer in design showing a interstage of civilization. It is worthy of note that all the mummies examined so far have proved to be male, no children or females being buried here.
This leads to the belief that this interior section was the warriors barracks.
Among the discoveries no bones of animals have been found, no skins, no clothing nor bedding.
Many of the rooms are bare but for the water vessels. One room, about 400 by 700 feet, was probably the main dining hall for cooking utensils are found here. What these people lived on is a problem, though it is presumed that they came south for the winter and farmed in the valleys, going back north in the summer. Upwards of 50,000 people could have lived in the cavern comfortably.
One theory is that the present Indian tribe found in Arizona are descendants of the serfs or slaves of the people which inhabited the cave. Undoubtedly a good many thousands of years before the Christian era a people lived here which reached a high state of civilization.
The chronology of human history is full of gaps. Prof. Jordan is much enthused over the discoveries and believes that the find will prove of incalculable value in archaeological work.
One thing I have spoken of may be of interest.
There is one chamber the passageways to which is not ventilated and when we approach it a deadly, snaky smell struck us.
Our lights would not penetrate the gloom and until stronger ones are available, we will not know what the chamber contains.
Some say snakes, but others boo-hoo this idea and think that it may contain a deadly gas or chemicals used by the ancients.
No sounds are heard, but it smells snaky just the same.
The whole underground institution gives one of shaky nerves the creeps. The gloom is like a weight on ones shoulders and our flashlights and candles only make the darkness blacker.
Imagination can revel in conjectures and ungodly day-dreams back through the ages that have elapsed till the mind reels dizzily in space".
In connection with this story, it is notable that among the Hopis the tradition is told that their ancestors once lived in an underworld in the Grand Canyon till dissension arose between the good and the bad, the people of one heart, the people of two hearts.
(Manchoto) who was their chief, counselled them to leave the underworld, but there was no way out. The chief then caused a tree to grow up and pierce the roof of the underworld and then the people of one heart climbed out.
They tarried by Palsiaval (Red River), which is the Colorado, and grew grain and corn. They sent out a message to the temple of the sun, asking the blessing of peace, good will and rain for the people of one heart. That messenger never returned but, today at the Hopi village, at sundown can be seen the old men of the tribe out on the housetops gazing towards the sun, looking for the messenger.
When he returns, their land and ancient dwelling place will be restored to them. That is the tradition.
Among the engravings of animals in the cave is seen a image of a heart over the spot where it is located.
The legend was learned by W.E. Rollins, the artist, during a year spent with the Hopi Indians. There are two theories of the origin of the Egyptians. One is that they came from Asia: another is that the racial cradle was in the upper Nile region.
Heeren, an Egyptologist, believed in the Indian origin of the Egyptians. The discoveries in the Grand Canyon may throw further light on human evolution and prehistoric ages."
13 Things You Didn’t Know About Grand Canyon National Park
For more than a century, tourists from all over the world have visited the Grand Canyon to experience its awe-inspiring vistas. First protected in 1893 as a reserve and later as a national monument, it wasn’t until February 26, 1919, that the Grand Canyon became a national park. As we celebrate nearly 100 years of protecting this special place, check out 13 great facts about this Arizona icon.
1. The Grand Canyon is bigger than the state of Rhode Island. The Grand Canyon is a mile deep, 277 miles long and 18 miles wide. While the park doesn’t include the entire canyon, it does measure in at a whopping 1,904 square miles in total. In comparison, Rhode Island is around 1,212 square miles.
With wide vistas and a view of the Colorado River to the west, Hopi Point off of Hermit Road is one of the most popular viewpoints for watching the sunset and sunrise because of its wide vistas. Sunset photo by Jack Denger (www.sharetheexperience.org).
2. The Grand Canyon itself can influence the weather. The Grand Canyon has an elevation spanning from around 2,000 feet to over 8,000 feet, allowing it to experience a variety of weather conditions. As a result, the temperature generally increases by 5.5 degrees with each 1,000-feet loss in elevation.
An amazing image of a total cloud inversion in 2013. This rare meteorological event fills the canyon with a sea of clouds when the air near the ground is cooler than the air above it. It's something park rangers wait years to see. Photo by Erin Huggins, National Park Service.
3. Hidden caves abound in the canyon. Tucked within the Grand Canyon are an estimated 1,000 caves, and of those, 335 have been recorded. Even fewer have been mapped or inventoried. Today, only one cave is open to the public -- the Cave of the Domes on Horseshoe Mesa.
The Redwall Limestone in the Grand Canyon is a water soluble rock, meaning that it can be slowly dissolved by water, eventually resulting in caves of various sizes. Photo by Kristen M. Caldon, National Park Service
4. The Grand Canyon is one of the most visited national parks in the United States. An estimated 5.9 million people visit the Grand Canyon a year, making it the second most popular national park following just behind the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. It’s a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 in 1919 when the park was created.
Visitors take in the stunning views of the Grand Canyon at Mather Point. Photo by National Park Service
5. The Grand Canyon was carved over some 6 million years. Geological activity and erosion by the Colorado River created the Grand Canyon as we know it today. It is one of the most studied landscapes in the world, with extensive fossil records, a multitude of geologic features and rich archeological history. Learn more about the history of the Grand Canyon.
The oldest human artifacts found in the Grand Canyon are nearly 12,000 years old and date to the Paleo-Indian period. There has been continuous use and occupation of the park since that time. Photo of granaries above Nankoweap by National Park Service.
6. The most dangerous animal in the park is the rock squirrel. From bighorn sheep and the California Condors to the Gila monster, the Grand Canyon is home to a large array of wildlife. But it’s the rock squirrel that causes the most trouble. Every year, dozens of visitors are bitten when they try to feed these animals. To stay safe, do not approach or feed any animals found at Grand Canyon (or any park). Learn more about keeping wildlife wild.
Squirrels that are fed by people become dependent on human food, and may lose their natural fear of humans and their ability to forage for natural foods. Photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.
7. Visiting the North Rim and South Rim in the same day may be harder than you think. As the crow flies, Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim and the lodge on the North Rim are only about 10 miles apart. However, to drive between them through the park, over the Colorado River and loop around the canyon, you have to travel 215 miles or about 5 hours. That’s just one small way to understand the immensity of this incredible place.
Sun rays shine through clouds to light up the North Rim. If you’re looking to explore Grand Canyon National Park with less crowds, the North Rim provides serenity and spectacular views. The North Rim closes to vehicles during the winter and remains open to hikers, snowshoers and cross country skiers. Photo by Yan Li (www.sharetheexperience.org).
8. You can get an aerial view of the Grand Canyon without ever leaving the ground. The Skywalk, managed by the Hualapai Tribe and located on tribal lands, consists of a horseshoe shaped steel frame with glass floor and sides that projects about 70 feet from the canyon rim. It is the most famous attraction at Grand Canyon West.
A photo from the very first weeks of the opening of the Grand Canyon Skywalk by Chris Loncar (www.sharetheexperience.org).
9. Souvenirs may be bought but not taken. Grand Canyon National Park -- a World Heritage Site -- belongs to everyone. Rocks, plants, wood and artifacts must be left where you found them so others can enjoy them in the future. Learn more about Leave No Trace.
A visitor enjoys sunset at the Grand Canyon. Photo by Robert Shuman (www.sharetheexperience.org).
10. Controlled fires are good for the canyon’s landscape. Fire has been a part of the Colorado Plateau ecosystem for thousands of years. It naturally thins the forest, recycles nutrients into the soil and stimulates new plant growth. Fire managers at Grand Canyon National Park work to strike a balance between restoring and maintaining natural processes associated with fire, and protecting human life and property.
Smoke rises from a fire on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in 2016. Photo by U.S. Forest Service.
11. Want to have the canyon to yourself? Head to Tuweep. A visit to Tuweep (also spelled Toroweap) Overlook offers a chance for an uncrowded, rustic and dramatic experience at the Grand Canyon. Here a 3,000-foot sheer drop provides stunning views of the North Rim of the canyon and the Colorado River. But be warned -- the area can only be reached by negotiating difficult roads with a high-clearance vehicle.
Sunrise at the Tuweep Overlook. Photo by Rebecca Wilks (www.sharetheexperience.org).
12. Hit the trail for some of the best views in the country. Mule trips, rafting the Colorado River and stargazing -- there is so much to do at the Grand Canyon. If you can only do one thing: Take a hike. Whether it’s long or short, all trails come an exceptional view.
Bright Angel is Grand Canyon’s premier hiking trail. Its endless switchbacks descend in the canyon, giving hikers epic views that are framed by massive cliffs. Be sure to check the weather and come prepared with water before setting out on the trail. Photo by Michael Quinn, National Park Service.
13. Teddy Roosevelt was instrumental in protecting the Grand Canyon. President Theodore Roosevelt first visited the Grand Canyon in 1903 and was deeply moved by the unique landscape. In 1906, Roosevelt signed a bill that proclaimed the area the Grand Canyon Game Reserve, and two years later, he made it a national monument. Of the Grand Canyon, he 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.”
President Theodore Roosevelt and other officials pose in front of the Grand Canyon in 1903. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.
The Pyramids of the Grand Canyon, its “Off-Limit” Areas, & Egyptian Relics
In a restricted area of the Grand Canyon there are pyramids & caves full of hieroglyphics and Egyptian relics. Many people do not know about them as this information has been suppressed by the federal government for about a century. (NOTE: Some photos have been supplied for information purposes/examples of relics and are not from or at the Grand Canyon discovery.)
The “Isis Temple” of the Grand Canyon
The sky over this area is restricted air space, the area surrounding this pyramid and cave on the ground is illegal (and treacherous) to navigate, and all official reports about this from the Smithsonian and elsewhere have been censored, modified, nullified, or retracted. This still did not stop people from attempting to visit this part of the canyon. Many have been arrested, and some have died attempting to climb to these sacred sites over the years. It has gotten to the point where the government feels it must have armed FBI agents guarding inside the entrance to the cave that is now known as Kincaid’s Cave.
Kincaid’s Cave was named after G.E. Kincaid, who was the first to enter the cave. After retiring from the Marines, G. E Kincaid worked for S. A. Jordan as a archaeologist. S. A Jordan was sent to the Grand Canyon by the Smithsonian Institute to investigate information reported by John Westly Powell. The tunnel is presently on a cliff wall 400 feet above the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Archaeologists estimate the Man Made Cavern is around 3,000 years old. This cavern is over five hundred feet long, and has several cross tunnels to large chambers. This was the lowest level and last Egyptian “tunnel city” that was built in the Grand Canyon. Since the time that it was constructed, archaeologists estimate the Colorado River has eroded 300 feet lower.
There were many Egyptian relics that were discovered in Kincaid’s Cave, one of which was a pure gold artifact for the Egyptian king named Khyan, Khian or Khayan. The relic is holding lotus flowers in both hands (native to Egypt). This was found in the first cross tunnel of the cave, which was in the exact same location as the shrines in the valley of the king’s tunnel cities, before the kings of ancient Egypt began to build pyramids and above ground cities. It was found that Khyan was a descendant of King Zaphnath in Egypt who may have been Joseph in the Bible.
This Egyptian golden tablet was also discovered in the depths of this tunnel city led by way of Kincaid’s Cave. This tablet serves as a history book, including names that began with King Zaphnath coming to Aztlan, and information about his decedent King Khyan coming to the Grand Canyon.
These pure gold artifacts from Kincaid’s Cave and these Egyptian urns from Powell’s Cave (pictured above) are some of the only historical artifacts from the Grand Canyon on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. Where did the rest of them go? At least some of them were obviously photographed and documented, but who knows what wasn’t. There is a reason why other relics that have been found here are not on display.
/>The first American explorer/archaeologist that searched the Grand Canyon was John Westly Powell, who partnered with a native, Jacob Vernon Hamblin (both pictured above), who served in place of his late partner for the expedition. Powell worked as an explorer/archaeologist for the US Department of the Interior, and was the director of the Bureau of Ethnology at the Smithsonian Institution. In 1869, Powell traveled down the Green River to explore the Grand Canyon, and was the first person to report any archaeological information to the US government about natives that inhabited the Grand Canyon and their history.
John Westly Powell discovered what is now called Powell’s Cave (cave entrance pictured above). The following is a quote taken directly out of a book that Powell published:
“In this Canyon, great numbers of man made caves are hollowed out. I first walked down a gorge to the left of a cliff and climbed to a bench of the cliff. There was a trail on the cliff bench that was deeply worn into the rock formation. Where the trail crossed some gulches, some steps had been cut. I could see no evidence that the trail had been traveled in a long time. I returned to our camp about 3:00 PM and the men had found more Egyptian hieroglyphics on cliff walls near the cave. We explored the cave and found this shrine and other artifacts. That evening I sent a team member to notify the Smithsonian Institute of our discovery. We continued to survey the canyon and discovered more Egyptian tunnel cities. I estimate in my report that I think upwards of 50,000 Egyptians had inhabited the Grand Canyon at one time.”
The Shrine that Powell and his team found in Powell’s Cave
This was identified as a Shrine for Seteprene sometimes spelled Smenkhare, Seti, or Smenkare. King Seteprene was King Akhenaten’s son that began his rule at Saqqara , Shemau in 1336 BC, but only lasted 10 years, which was when he died on his last trip to Saqqara Egypt.The hieroglyphics Powell’s team found. This is a diagram for the Egyptian writing system when the ancient Egyptians came to the Grand Canyon. It was a school tablet used for teaching Egyptian children to read and write.There were even crypts (sarcophagi) discovered. One of crypts was opened in the Grand Canyon to see if there were mummies in them before they were sent to the Smithsonian Institute storage building.
They also discovered this rock cut vault with statues
Did you know that all the monuments in the Grand Canyon are named after Egyptian pharaohs? This famous canyon in Arizona is actually an ancient array of pyramids. The sites even align with the same stars that the pyramids of Giza align with, the constellations of Orion and Pleiades.
Zoroaster Temple in the Grand Canyon: named by Hopi IndiansAnother cave entrance in the canyon
Hieroglyphics from Kincaid’s CaveSo you tell me, do the artifacts or writing found in the Grand Canyon appear to be created by native Americans, or by ancient Egyptians? The answer is pretty clear.
On how the Grand Canyon’s layers formed
“Well the oldest rocks in the bottom of the Grand Canyon are almost two billion years old and there is a pretty good record of sedimentation that follows after that. If you count up the different layers of limestone, there's probably been eight to 10 different seas that have inundated the Grand Canyon region over those two billion years. There's a huge stack of sedimentary rocks that are brightly colored, gently uplifted, and then incised by this large river. And it just proves to be one of the best places on Earth to take in a sweeping view for the long span of geologic history.
“Sometimes people will say, 'I heard the ocean was here once' and I have to correct them slightly and say, 'No it's been here many times,' and the different layers represent that.”
On what gives the rock its red color
“In a general sense, when we look at Red Rocks, we're typically looking at sediments that were deposited on land and the iron in that sediment reacted with the oxygen in the atmosphere and gave it these brilliant hues of reds and purples and golds. And so the sea was here all those many times. But also there's a long span of history where we had terrestrial environments, things like sand dunes and river floodplains and tidal flats, and the fossils that are preserved in these layers can help us understand this long span of Earth history.”
On how the Colorado Plateau was lifted
“Well the uplift that is responsible for the Grand Canyon happened within the last 70 million years. So we can talk about those old rocks on the scale of hundreds of millions of years but the uplift is the last 70 million years. This uplift was due to the fact that the western part of North America, its crust was being squeezed from the West, and when it was squeezed horizontally, the rock layers got thick vertically and that's what lifted up the plateau.”
An aerial picture of the Grand Canyon in Arizona taken on July 1, 2013 from around 30,000 feet. (Joe Klamar/AFP/Getty Images)
On how many years the plateau uplift took
“That's correct. I mean if you could live 10 lifetimes, you might have felt half a dozen earthquakes but you wouldn't have noticed that you were being uplifted. But when you look through those tens of millions of years then we can greatly uplift the Colorado Plateau.”
On how the Colorado River carved the Grand Canyon
“So one of the current ideas is that the initial cutting of the Grand Canyon was not necessarily done by the river we see today, but [by] some of the segments that later became connected and then became the Colorado River.
“We can go back to that 70 million year mark, and in that time areas to the southwest of the Grand Canyon were uplifted into a huge mountain range much like the Andes Mountains today, and prior ancestors to the Colorado River actually flowed in the opposite direction it goes today. Those rivers went from the mountains southwest of the Grand Canyon and they went out onto the surface of what is now the Colorado Plateau.”
On how the Grand Canyon’s weather patterns have changed over time
“Well I think the wind is a very good agent to transport broken material out of the canyon. It's probably not a very big factor when it comes to actually breaking the rock apart. But once the other causes of weathering take effect, then the wind can carry that material away, and it's probably true that a lot of the material off of the Colorado Plateau is sitting out in the Rocky Mountains in the Great Plains of North America through all these millions of years.”
On what fossils can tell us about its history
“The fossils are a very good indicator of the past environments, and even those of the fossils are hundreds of millions of years old, they still give a record for what was here. In these layers of rock in the Grand Canyon, there's evidence for giant Sahara-like deserts and in those particular rocks, these sand stones that are cross bedded. You can see well-preserved reptile tracks and they let us know that this area was once very arid. The layer directly below that shows fern fossils and it can tell us that the area was humid, and there were rivers running through it. I mean it's just things are changing through time and that's what makes the Grand Canyon so special is that all of these things are preserved and protected.”
On what’s still unknown about the canyon’s geology
“I think one of the biggest things that's in debate is the period of time when the rivers went opposite that the Colorado River goes today. There is about a 16 or 20 million-year period where we lose sight of what the rivers were doing. So there a period of time that begins about 30 million years ago and then we finally get to see the river again somewhere between six and 16 million years ago. And it's going in the other direction. That's one of the things. There's three periods of uplift in the last 70 million years and geologists are trying to figure out the relative importance or amount of uplift for each of those three periods. And one of the most exciting things that's happened recently is that it looks like the upwelling of hot mantle material in the western Grand Canyon is what has carved or helped carve and deepen the western part of the Grand Canyon. There's some lava flows that have poured over the rim of the canyon and it's spectacularly preserved and plastered on the walls out there in the western Grand Canyon.”
The Colorado River winds its way along the West Rim of the Grand Canyon in the Havasupai Reservation on January 10, 2019. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
On other places on Earth that captivate him as a geologist
“I've been fortunate enough to travel to 90 countries studying geology. And I keep looking for a place that approximates the Colorado Plateau and I guess I'm happy to say that there is no place. The Colorado Plateau is very unique. But a couple of places that come to mind are Northwest Argentina on the east side of the Andes. Some of the eastern parts of Morocco next to the Atlas Mountains also have similar characteristics to the Colorado Plateau. But here the Colorado Plateau —130,000 square miles — there's really no place on Earth that even approximates what we have right here in the southwestern part of the United States.”
On the Grand Canyon as an American symbol
“It's an American thing. I think if there were one landscape that people associate with America, it would be the Grand Canyon. But 40% of the visitors here come from other countries and that percentage is increasing. And so on the one hand, it is strictly an American icon. But on the other hand, it's a world icon.”
On his favorite part of studying the Grand Canyon
“My favorite thing about it is how it's constantly changing with respect to the weather and the climate and the time of day and the time of year. It's such a big place. The temperature difference from the top to the bottom can be 30 or 35 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature differences between winter and summer can be up to 70 or 100 degrees. If you had an imaginary highway along the Colorado River and you drove along that highway at 70 miles an hour, it would still take you four hours to drive through the Grand Canyon. So as the river trip or your trip down the river unfolds, you're constantly seeing new and different landscapes even though the rock layers remain the same. They are exposed beneath three different North American deserts in that whole trip.”
Julia Corcoran produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna .Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.
This segment aired on August 12, 2019.
On the history of the Havasupai Tribe
“We are the only Native American tribe that lives below the rim in the Grand Canyon. The Havasupai have been here since time immemorial. Traditionally, we had two areas where we lived. Where we live now in Supai village was our summer home. During the wintertime, we lived in bands spread out on the South Rim in the area now known as the Grand Canyon National Park. So we migrated between both areas and down here where we currently live is great land to grow crops, and we would grow them down here through the spring and summer. We would keep the over abundance and bring the rest of us up on the rim where we would live with our families and probably hunt just a couple deer every year. Predominantly, we had a vegetarian diet. But when we had to go live on the South Rim is when we would request help. And I thank our animal friends for helping us live through the winter time.”
On when the tribe was first disrupted
“There are some stories in some books where we did meet some Spanish conquistadors on the South Rim and there's very little documentation. I wouldn't call that the 'first disruption.' I would say the first disruption is when the Fred Harvey railway [was made]. Everyone would remember it as the Grand Canyon Railway. And that group made their way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and discovered the area. And by 1919 is when they had federally turned the area into a Grand Canyon National Park.”
On the original reservation, which was set up in 1880
“In 1880, [the government] met then-chief Navajo and that was when we had already been hearing stories from displaced nations who had been coming to the Grand Canyon to hide out essentially. We knew they were coming and we heard the stories that they were coming. So when they got here, we pretty much just put our hands up and said . 'Please just let us stay here in our land.' And they did. They turned down here, Supai village, into a reservation but it was very small. It was like five miles by three miles. And that original reservation didn't even include our world famous waterfalls. That was later on given to Grand Canyon National Park.”
On Grand Canyon National Park’s 100th anniversary
“I think if you were to talk to older individuals that they would still have some resentment. . When we were on the South Rims, that's when we would be in bands to be able to tell our origin stories. And that disruption is still felt amongst families today. But it would depend on the age and who you ask. The younger people that you would ask may not quite be aware of that history yet.
“We know that although this is the 100th year celebration for the national park, we've been here in this land in that area since time immemorial and in fact we still have a population of Havasupai tribal members who live inside the national park. They decided to stay even through the long history of struggle with the national park and then trying to push us out of the area. They persevered, and they actually still live inside the national park today.”
This 1997 photo shows one of five waterfalls on Havasu Creek as its waters tumble 210 feet on the Havasupai Tribe's reservation in a southeastern branch of the Grand Canyon near Supai, Ariz. (Bob Daugherty/File/AP)
On the challenges that the Havasupai Tribe faces today
“The top of the list for issues impacting the Havasupai Tribe today is uranium mining. The second would be being able to use and [get] back as much of our aboriginal territories as possible. We also are working on establishing water rights, which includes getting into communication with either individuals or entities who have a well deep enough that pierces the Red Wall Mojave aquifer and the Red Wall Mojave aquifer is what fills the entirety of Havasu Creek. That's our entire water source.”
On what the tribe wants Grand Canyon tourists to know
“Well I would want them to know that the Havasupai are the guardians of the Grand Canyon. We call ourselves the Havasu Baaja, the People of the Blue Green Waters. I would have to mention that this land is sacred and this land has sustained life since the beginning of time. And that we've been trying to protect the land as our destiny, as our calling as Havasupai people know and already feel that our hearts are buried beneath the land and our ancestors have been walking on this land before us, protecting it for us.
“So just to give resonance and thanks for being in the area and as you would make your way to the rim and you park your cars and you get out and you look over the edge, you realize that the world is so grand. And that when you look down into the bottom and you see these green cottonwood trees and you say, 'Wow, there must be water down there. Maybe people used lived down there.' Well in fact, we did. What you will be viewing as Havasupai garden was farmed by Havasupais. And just to remember that you're on Indian land. I know we share origin stories with many other nations who consider the Grand Canyon the birthplace of their people.”
Julia Corcoran produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Kathleen McKenna .Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.
This segment aired on August 13, 2019.
Flood Geology and the Grand Canyon: What Does the Evidence Really Say?
On July 7, Answers in Genesis (AiG) will open the Ark Encounter to the public. Built around a “full-size” wooden replica of Noah’s ark, this attraction is designed to promote the young-earth creationist (YEC) perspective on the Bible and science. AiG, led by popular creationist Ken Ham, has provided well-financed momentum to the YEC movement. The organization is also responsible for the successful Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, which has quickly become the most prominent symbol of the entire young-earth creationist cause. There is little doubt that the Ark Encounter will enjoy similar popularity.
Young-earth creationists today apply what they consider a literal understanding of the creation and flood accounts in Genesis to the interpretation of Earth’s geologic past.1 In doing so, they challenge the entire history of geological science in the modern era. Most of the pioneering natural scientists and geologists of the Renaissance and late modern era (1500 to 1815)—a group which included many pious Christians—expected that their field work would provide evidence of the biblical flood, reflecting a catastrophic event in earth’s history of only thousands of years. However, as they discovered the interrelated, dynamic processes of the rock cycle and pieced together earth’s history from the vertical sequence of rock layers around the world, they concluded that the earth must be far older than thousands of years. Furthermore, they couldn’t identify a single layer of rock or sediment that fit with a global flood occurring early in human history.2 By the early 20th century, most leading Christians accepted the great age of the planet earth. For example, notes in the popular Scofield Reference Bible published in 1909 provided an old-earth interpretation of Genesis 1.
In 1961, Henry Morris and John Whitcomb published The Genesis Flood, which laid out a radical rejection of modern geology and instead gave the biblical flood credit for almost all geological features and fossils in the world. The Grand Canyon emerged as “exhibit A” in their creation science apologetics. And, why not? Some five million tourists visit the national park every year! Continuing to this day, advocates of flood geology sell attractive books and offer bus, hiking, and raft tours to convince (or reassure) visitors that the Grand Canyon indeed provides breathtaking evidence of Noah’s flood and its aftermath.3 They invite seminary professors on free raft trips to ensure that the young earth view and flood geology is propagated to future pastors. However, the overwhelming majority of geologists, including Christian geologists who affirm the authority of the Bible, reject the flood geology narrative.
In a new book, The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth, eleven authors describe the geology of the canyon rocks and landforms and focus on the claims of flood geologists.4 The authors are a mix of Christian and non-Christian professional earth scientists who are concerned about the impact of flood geology on public science literacy and, especially for the Christian authors, the negative impact of a gospel message associated with faulty scientific explanations. The four authors of this article all contributed to the book.
Using explanations and illustrations found in our book, we will address five of the top evidences offered for a global flood that are supposedly revealed in the Grand Canyon. These evidences are summarized on a poster from AiG (find it here). We will consider them in a different order than on the poster, adding some additional compelling evidences that are inconsistent with the flood model and rarely mentioned in their literature.
Grand Canyon geology illustrated in a stratigraphic column. Flood geologists refer to the Paleozoic layers as “early flood.” (Fig. 4-1, The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth, illustration by Tim Helble)
1. Layers Over Entire Continents
Flood geologists believe that layers of sedimentary rock exposed across continents, such as observed at the Grand Canyon are evidence of deposition out of turbulent water during the Genesis flood. They observe that strata standing far above sea level contain marine (sea) fossils and therefore conclude that they must have been deposited by high levels of water that covered the continents during the deluge. Flood geologists have different opinions about how deep (or high) the floodwaters rose over the continents. Some imagine the water rising above the present heights of mountain ranges. Others suggest that during the late stages of the flood the continents were lifted up as water drained into the deepening ocean basins.
The character of the rock layers does not surprise old-earth geologists. In our chapter Plate Tectonics, Our Restless Earth, we explain how ocean and continental plates continuously move both laterally and vertically. We can actually measure this movement in real time by GPS today. Sometimes, internal forces of stress can stretch continental crust so that it thins and sinks below sea level, as evident at Death Valley and the Dead Sea. There are many places on earth today where very thick deposits of sediment and sedimentary rock are accumulating on continental crust below sea level. Examples include all of the wide continental shelves surrounding the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, the North Sea between the United Kingdom and Norway, the Gulf of Carpenteria between Australia and Papua/Papua New Guinea, and the South China Sea, to name a few. The weight of the sediments causes the crust to sink, giving more room for still more sediments, ultimately allowing miles of sediment to accumulate. As continents converge in the future, these sea deposits, containing abundant remains of sea creatures, may be lifted above sea level, just like they did in the layers of the Grand Canyon. The point is, many modern seas are on continental crust and none of the sedimentary rock layers in the Grand Canyon resemble deep ocean deposits.
While many sedimentary rock layers do cover vast areas of the continents, no single layer covers an entire continent from one end to the other as the flood geologists imply. Rather, the rock layers overlap one another like leaves piled up on a lawn. Rather than finding evidence of one massive deluge, geologists find abundant evidence of multiple periods of rising and falling sea level that varied by as much as 120 m higher or lower than at present. 5 It’s the combination of low-standing continental crust and high-standing sea level that results in these sedimentary layers.
In our chapter Sedimentary Rock Types and How They Form, we describe how layers of sedimentary rock were deposited in the Grand Canyon region as sea level repeatedly rose and fell. With each rise in sea level, shorelines moved inland along with the deposits of sand, shale, and limestone that comprise the geological formations we see in the canyon. Geologists recognize that deposits at some locations accumulated by flows of sediment across the seafloor as flood geologists claim. But these are rare in the Grand Canyon! Most of the sedimentary rock layers there formed in very shallow water or just above sea level. Evidence of periods above sea level is evident from abundant sedimentary structures such as mudcracks, raindrop prints, ripple marks, cross bedding, and small animal tracks (we show many photos of these structures in our chapter Sedimentary Structures, Clues from the Scene of the Crime).
2. Billions of Dead Things (sea animals deposited rapidly on land)
Ken Ham frequently tells audiences that the worldwide flood resulted in “billions of dead things buried in the ground.” He describes the sea creatures being swept along by turbulent floodwaters and deposited, tsunami-style, along with the sediment forming the rock layers we see in the Grand Canyon. We devote three chapters to the story fossils tell us about Grand Canyon rocks. Rather than finding evidence of a single, global catastrophe, the fossils of the Grand Canyon provide one of the clearest pictures of a long history of changing environmental conditions and life forms. In the chapter Fossils of the Grand Canyon and Grand Staircase, we describe the fact that most fossil organisms are found in association with other fossils from coherent ecosystems – not violently transported and mixed with organisms from dissimilar environments. Discrete layers can be found in the Canyon where only terrestrial fossils are found, typical of a riverine environment, with no evidence of chaotic mixing with marine organisms. Most significantly, not a single mammal, bird, dinosaur, or flowering plant is found fossilized in any rocks of the Grand Canyon, yet they are abundant in the younger rocks of the Grand Staircase. Flood geologists call upon sediment particle sorting based on organism size and density to explain the order, yet the smaller mammals and birds and plants that should then be found in the lower layers are entirely absent.
The chapter also draws attention to inconsistent flood geology arguments, such as simultaneously arguing that exquisitely preserved delicate fossils are evidence of rapid burial by a catastrophic flood, and broken and strewn fossils are evidence of violent upheaval by a catastrophic flood. To say that both fine preservation and fragmented preservation are convincing evidence of the same phenomenon is no evidence at all. There are indeed variations in the preservation observed, but in each case, the character of the fossils is consistent with specific environmental conditions.
Rather than brief chaotic history, the fossils of the Grand Canyon tell us a story of a wonderfully diverse and deep history. For example, in our chapter Tiny Plants – Big Impact we describe the diversity of plant fossils in the Grand Canyon. It is significant that plant fossils are missing from most layers of rock in the Grand Canyon. This is consistent with the observation that much of the rock in the Grand Canyon is marine in origin and thus not expected – by geologists – to contain plants. Where plant fossils are found they show distinct patterns that are consistent with the preservation of local terrestrial communities.
The fossilized plants found in Grand Canyon rocks consist of only extinct ferns, lycopods, and conifers. No remains of flowering plants (e.g. sunflowers, grasses, oaks, etc.) or flowering-plant pollen grains are preserved in Grand Canyon rocks. However, pollen grains of conifers and spores from ferns have been found. Pollen and spores are incredibly small, and easily carried by wind and water great distances. How could a global flood with tsunamis sweeping across continents fail to deposit a single grain of flowering-plant pollen in the entire sequence of Grand Canyon layers? It makes far more sense if these layers were laid down during a time when flowering plants were not yet found on earth.
In addition to the stony remains of animals and plants, we also have preserved traces of their life. In our chapter Trace Fossils, Footprints and Imprints of Past Life, we describe trace fossils, which are records in rock of past activities of past animals when they were alive. For example, we find trilobite feeding marks indicative of a calm, shallow sea bottom. There are preserved footprints and tail marks that vertebrates made while walking over wet sand dunes. How could these have formed and been preserved in the middle of a chaotic, worldwide flood? Likewise, there are preserved tracks and burrows of spiders, scorpions, millipedes, and more in Grand Canyon rocks.
So, yes, there are billions of fossils in many of the Grand Canyon rocks, but these fossils are not the jumbled mess that one would expect from a turbulent, global flood. Rather there is an amazing, predictable order in the succession of fossils that can be explained by changes in life forms over earth history.
3. Rapid Deposition of Sand Carried Across Continents
Flood geologists argue that sediments found in regional-scale rock formations, like the Coconino Sandstone in the Grand Canyon, must have been eroded from distant sources, carried long distances, and rapidly deposited by fast-moving water. The argument states: “no known sediment transport system is capable of carrying sand across the entire North American continent during the required millions of years.” 6 But there is a well-understood sediment transport mechanism – rivers! A modern example is the Mississippi River, which carries sediment from the eastern Rockies and western Appalachians to the Gulf of Mexico.
Cross beds in the Coconino Sandstone. (Photo by Tim Helble)
In our chapter Sedimentary Rock Types and How They Form, we address the claim that the Coconino Sandstone could have been deposited by a global flood. This rock unit is distinguished by cross bedding, which are dipping, parallel layers within the formation that are seen in modern sand dunes. We point out how conventional geologists see the cross bedding in these sandstones, along with other features such as trace fossils (animal footprints), as strong evidence for wind-driven deposition in a giant dune sea, such as in Namibia, Africa today. Dry sand dunes don’t fit in the middle of a year-long global flood, so flood geologists argue that these cross beds were formed through underwater processes such as migrating sand waves.
One flood geologist estimated that only a 2 to 4 miles/hour (mph) current was needed to form migrating underwater sand waves as high as the Coconino cross beds. 7 It is true that 4 mph currents over a sandy bed can eventually build up underwater dunes as high as the cross beds seen in the Coconino. However, flood geologists say that all the Paleozoic strata in the Grand Canyon and Mesozoic strata in the Grand Staircase were also deposited during the one year flood. This leaves only a matter of days to deposit each formation. To form the Coconino in a matter of days, it can be shown using simple math that we wouldn’t just need sand grains migrating over the tops of underwater sand dunes in a 4 mph current, we would need a wall of sand hundreds of feet high and hundreds of miles wide sliding laterally at this speed across thousands of square miles. 8
Recently, flood geologists have turned to underwater gravity currents to explain how large, regional scale formations could have been rapidly deposited. 9 These currents are said to have moved huge quantities of stockpiled sediment and fossils from higher areas, leaving behind deposits that happen to have all the features found in sedimentary rock, including complex cross beds, intact fossil communities, and even buried stream channels. This and other flood geology claims for rapid sediment transport would require a host of miracles. These include somehow maintaining the compositional purity of thousands of massive stockpiles of loose sediment in the face of fantastic turbulence and global currents until each stockpile was transported to form a particular formation somewhere on earth.
4. No Slow and Gradual Erosion
Flood geologists claim that rock layers in the Grand Canyon are flat and show little evidence of erosion. They refer to “knife edge” contacts between layers that do not reveal erosion between layers. They recognize at least one ancient surface of erosion at the base of the Grand Canyon strata, known as the Great Unconformity. This feature is a contact between underlying igneous and metamorphic rocks with some pockets of deformed sedimentary rocks exposed in the walls of the inner gorge and the overlying, mostly flat sedimentary rocks that we see along the upper walls of the canyon. But, it’s far from flat and “knife edge” in character. In many places along the canyon wall the contact projects several feet upward into the overlying Tapeats Sandstone like miniature islands. It’s clear that layer upon layer of sand covered this bumpy surface as the overlying unit was deposited. Gravel to boulder size fragments of the underlying rock are incorporated in the base of the Tapeats Sandstone along the Great Unconformity, providing evidence of erosion and exposure of the underlying bedrock.
Meandering stream channel, filled with the Temple Butte Formation, in the wall of Saddle Canyon, near River Mile 47.
But that’s only one of nineteen unconformities that we describe in our chapter Missing Time, Gaps In The Rock Record. Flood geologists must be aware of these unconformities because they are well documented in the geological literature and fairly easy to spot in the walls of the canyon. Two formations feature spectacular buried channels that formed after the units were deposited and their upper surfaces were eroded. During the next sea level rise, the channels were filled with sediment. The Temple Butte Formation fills channels scoured into the top of the Muav Limestone Formation. The Surprise Canyon Formation fills channels scoured into the top of the Redwall Limestone Formation. Not only was the top of the Redwall Formation eroded during a long period of exposure, but also sinkholes and caves formed within the limestone. Many of the ancient caves eventually collapsed or were filled with the younger Surprise Canyon Formation. Caves form in solid limestone. If the limestone was deposited rapidly and immediately buried by overlying sediments as flood geologists claim, how could caves have formed at all?
View of the Grand Canyon where the oldest Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks are exposed beneath the cover of tilted Late Precambrian layers (Supergroup) and flat-lying Paleozoic sedimentary strata. Compare with the geologic column. (Photo by Gregg Davidson)
5. Flat Layers Made in Rapid Succession
Most people have a mental image of the flat lying sedimentary rocks in the Grand Canyon because that’s what you see in most photographs and from many overlooks from the rim. In fact, there are many examples of tilted, folded, and faulted rock in the Grand Canyon. We describe them in the chapter Broken and Bent Rock, Fractures, Faults and Folds. Along the length of the canyon, the Colorado Plateau is broken by several prominent faults. The Kaibab Monocline is an immensely broad downward bend of the entire vertical stack of rocks. More severe and smaller scale folding is observed in the Tapeats Sandstone in the Carbon Creek area. Flood geologists say that such folding can only occur if the sedimentary layers are so recently deposited that they are still soft, not old, hard rock. As evidence they report that the folds lack fractures, which would be evidence of hard-rock breakage during folding. On the contrary, we show in our book that the folds are riddled with fractures and contain evidence of brittle and flexural slip within and between layers in the folds. These absolutely cannot form in recently deposited sediment, as claimed by flood geologists.
Twelve Thousand Feet of Strata Flood Geologists Can’t Explain!
The Grand Canyon Supergroup is a thick sequence of tilted layers that lies underneath the more familiar horizontal layers of the Grand Canyon. An erosional layer, or unconformity, separates the tilted layers below from the younger rocks above. Flood geologists claim the Supergroup layers were deposited before the great flood. Cataclysmic flooding and earthquakes faulted, tilted, and eroded the Supergroup, followed by thousands of feet of deposition of mud, sand, and lime, all during the first half of the flood. The chapter River to Rim, Putting all the Pieces Together explains why these layers should look vastly different from the overlying layers according to the flood geology scenario. The Supergroup is 12,000 ft thick, and sits on eroded metamorphic rock. We know it was eroded because igneous intrusions are truncated at the base of the Supergroup, and weathered fragments of the metamorphic rock are found in the lowermost Supergroup layer. Within the Supergroup, layers alternate between rock formed from mud, sand, lime, and lava, with evidence of many cycles of formation below and above water. Time above water is evident from the many layers with preserved mud cracks and raindrop impressions. Some layers are separated by erosional surfaces. Alternating layers of shale, sandstone, and limestone are consistent with changes in the depth of water and proximity to sources of sediment as the continents shifted in position and elevation.
The overlying Paleozoic rocks, said by flood geologists to represent early flood deposits, are 4,000 to 5,000 ft thick. They are deposited on an erosional surface, alternate between shale, sandstone, and limestone, and include many layers with preserved mudcracks and raindrop impressions. Multiple layers are separated by erosional surfaces, some with river channel networks carved into the surface – some up to 400 ft deep (described in 4, above)! On top of that are 5,000 to 10,000 ft of Mesozoic strata. In other words, the 15,000 ft of supposed flood deposits look nearly the same as the 12,000 ft of layers deposited before the flood. If it took a titanic flood to produce the Paleozoic and Mesozoic layers, why does it look so similar in thickness, character, and apparent history to the underlying Supergroup layers without one? In fact, the only substantive difference between the Supergroup and Paleozoic layers is fossils. In 12,000 ft of sedimentary rock, deposited during a time when flood geologists say all life as we know it was represented (at least in ancestral forms), not a single fossil is found that is more complex than algae. No clam shells, fish bones, twig fragments, or trilobites. Fossilization was clearly happening, but not even wind-blown pollen made it into the two-mile-thick sequence of sediments. The absence of complex life in the Supergroup only makes sense if complex life was not yet found on the earth.
The geology of the Grand Canyon is known fairly well after nearly one hundred and fifty years of careful field and laboratory studies of the rocks and landscape. In our chapter, Time Frame of Modern Geology, we describe multiple, sequential scenes in the history of the canyon with abundant illustrations and photographs. The geological evidence, only a fraction of it described here, is overwhelmingly inconsistent with flood geology – that strata were deposited in the span of less than one year during a global, diluvial catastrophe. Despite the claims of flood geologists, the rocks reveal multiple episodes of deposition and intervening periods of erosion. Every sedimentary formation can easily be explained by analogy to modern depositional environments, such as the open sea, coastlines, estuaries, and sand deserts. The condition and distribution of fossils in the strata do not reflect the rapid burial of sea animals and small land animals out of deep, turbulent water. Flood geologists have failed to conceive a physical model for catastrophic formation that is consistent with the real geology of the Grand Canyon.
Our goal for The Grand Canyon, Monument to an Ancient Earth is to provide a readable and well-illustrated overview of how modern geology succeeds in explaining its natural history. The grandeur of the Grand Canyon moves believers to worship the God who “laid the foundation of the earth” and who “causes the springs to gush into the valley.” It’s not our intention to settle the question of how to interpret the Genesis flood story (that is a matter for another book). However, as responsible earth scientists, we are motivated to give the public an honest accounting for the origins of a most glorious piece of creation!
Notes & References
1. Ron Numbers’ The Creationists: From Scientific Creationism to Intelligent Design, Expanded Edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006) is perhaps the definitive history of the modern creationist movement.
2. We recommend Martin J. S. Rudwick’s Earth’s Deep History, How it was Discovered and Why it Matters (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014) for a scholarly and highly readable account of the history of geology.
3. Books include Tom Vails’ Grand Canyon a Different View (Green Forest, AR: New Leaf Press, 2003) and Steven Austin’s Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe (Institute for Creation Research, 1995). For trips see www.canyonministries.org.
4. Carol Hill, Gregg Davidson, Tim Helble and Wayne Ranney, editors, The Grand Canyon Monument to an Ancient Earth, Can Noah’s Flood Explain the Grand Canyon? (Grand Rapids:Kregel Publications, 2016).
5. Miller, K. G., Kominz, M. A., Browning, J. V., Wright, J. D., Mountain, G. S., Katz, M. E., Sugarman, P. J., Cramer, B. S., Christie-Blick, N., Pekar, S. F. “The Phanerozoic Record of Global Sea-Level Change.” Science 310, (2005), pp. 1293-1298.
6. Snelling, A. A. 2008, Sand Transported Cross Country: Flood Evidence Number Four.” Answers, Vol. 3, No. 4, p. 96–99.
7. Austin, S. A. (ed.), 1994, Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Institute for Creation Research, 284 p. 33-36.
8. Helble, T. K., 2011, Sediment Transport and the Coconino Sandstone: A Reality Check on Flood Geology. Perspectives on Science and the Christian Faith, Vol., 63, No. 1, p. 25-41.
9. Austin, S. A., 2012, Grand Canyon, Creation, and the Global Flood. Christian Research Journal, Vol. 35, No. 1, p. 50-53.
About the Authors
Stephen O. Moshier
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The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon in the Himalayas is the deepest canyon we know of. According to Live Science, it's as deep as 17,567 feet. It's also longer than the Grand Canyon, going on for 308 miles. The Grand Canyon reaches 7,800 feet deep, and is 277 miles long.
The Havasupai, Hualapai, and Hopi tribes, among others, have lived in and around the Grand Canyon for hundreds of years and now live on US government-designated reservations that are much smaller than their original lands. Many support their reservations through tourism. The influx of non-indigenous recreationists in recent decades has raised issues around respect to the land, which many Native Americans view as sacred.
Evidence of Noah’s Flood
The evidence does, however, point to Noah’s Flood. Today, we see two beach lines from what used to be two large lakes near the Grand Canyon. Creationists believe that after Noah’s Flood, the lakes got too full and spilled over the top. When water overflows a dam, the weakest point is instantly eroded. Thus, the Grand Canyon would have been formed quickly, supporting the creationist interpretation.
So, which interpretation is right? Knowing that rivers don’t flow uphill and no leftover sedimentary deposits are found, evolutionists have a lot of explaining to do when it comes to the Grand Canyon. The Bible, however, says that a flood covered the whole earth (see Genesis 7:18-20). This means we should find places where the water drained. The Grand Canyon is one of those places. It is a washed-out spillway and provides great evidence for Noah’s Flood.
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