ReWilding Spring 2014

Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Grand Canyon National Park is the United States’ 15th oldest national park. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. The Grand Canyon is located in northwestern Arizona. The park’s central feature is the Grand Canyon, a gorge of the Colorado River, which is often considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

The Grand Canyon was officially designated a national park in 1919. President Theodore Roosevelt visited the site and said: “The Grand Canyon fills me with awe. It is beyond comparison—beyond description; absolutely unparalleled through-out the wide world… Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.”

Although first-time visitors to the Grand Canyon may wonder how anyone ever risked the first foray into its depths, the geography of the gorge did not dissuade prehistoric people. The vertical walls and projecting plateaus have a rich human history dating back to the Ice Age, a time when large mammals still foraged on the North American continent. During what scientists term the Pleistocene era (9,500 B.C. to 6,500 B.C.), Paleo-Indians fashioned large stone spearheads to hunt mammoths, giant sloths and other large game. Across the larger Colorado Plateau, archaeologists have found ample evidence of such early human occupation. In the Grand Canyon, only a few spear points are left to tell us of those early hunters, but the clues that survived give us a good idea of what occurred.

Roughly 11,000 years ago, the earth’s climate warmed – glaciers melted and weather systems changed. Over time, the large Pleistocene mammals disappeared, forcing humans to adapt their hunting practices – and tools – to smaller game such as bighorn sheep and deer. This human history was not recorded in books. Rather, it has been pieced together by archaeologists and paleoanthropologists studying those remnants that survived the millenniums – large spear points gave way to smaller ones and finally to arrow points to correspond with the smaller game animals. As time wore on, clues left behind by humans in the Grand Canyon accumulated. The oldest human artifacts found 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.

In Remembrance of Will Reed

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