The Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States
Photograph by Nick Zantop
One of the most famous and most visited national parks in America – and indeed in the world – the Grand Canyon attracts nearly five million visitors a year. For all the crowds and cars and tour-buses at the top of the South Rim, one might easily think that they had taken a wrong turn and ended up at Disney World. To escape the crowds, one need only hike a short distance into the canyon. After only about a mile, the crowds thin out and only the truly intrepid continue on, deeper into the canyon.
The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and in some areas up to 18 miles wide. When one looks over the edge and sees the bottom over a mile below, it is impossible to remain unimpressed by what nature crafted over the course of two billion years of erosion.
After US President Teddy Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903 he was so impressed that he establish the Grand Canyon Game Preserve only three years later. While this designation reduced livestock grazing, predators such as eagles, wolves, and mountain lions were killed. In 1908 he increased the protection for the Grand Canyon, re-designating it as a US National Monument and adding adjacent national forest lands to it. A fierce battle over the next eleven years raged between land and mining claim holders who opposed a growing movement that wanted to see the monument afforded the even greater protection of a national park. Finally, on February 26, 1919 an Act of Congress created Grand Canyon National Park – only the 17th national park at the time.