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The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

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The Grand Canyon is an extensive natural rift that is located in the Arizona desert. It hosts various communities including Euro Americans, different cultures of Native Americans and the millions of international tourists who visit the area every year. The Grand Canyon also hosts various wildlife including the endangered fish, humpback chub and the Californian wild vulture called the Condor. The Grand Canyon has positively and negatively impacted the lives of both the people and the animals living in its proximity. This has been due to the rapid changes in the structures of the soil, changes in temperature, increased tourism and the legislation that saw the Grand Canyon become a national park. The presence of the Grand Canyon has impacted the settling of the communities that live in the environs. In addition, the establishment of the Canyon as a tourist attraction has improved the quality of life for most residents by providing them with employment opportunities and better transport facilitating trade ventures within the community and to the outside world. The millions of tourists who visit the area every year have promoted these trade ventures and also earn the state the much needed revenue that is used for funding other development projects.

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The Grand Canyon is not only a natural wonder of the world, but it also has a defining impact on the people and animal life living in its proximity. The Grand Canyon is a geographical feature that is speculated to have resulted from a number of processes. Of these processes, geologists attribute the most significant to have been water and wind erosion. Water is thought to have caused most of the erosion. In addition to the erosion, other forces like volcanism, the trend of the Colorado River and continental drift are thought to have played a significant role in the formation of the Grand Canyon (Garton, 2002).

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The Grand Canyon is located in an arid area. The soil on the top is baked by the sun into a hard cracked crust and because it is very dry and hard, it does not absorb water as it should even when it rains. When it rains the rain is not moderate and is often torrential. The impact of the torrential rain is that it flows very fast and does not allow percolation into the ground (Pyne, 1998). The plants that flourish in the Grand Canyon are shallow rooted to allow them as much access to the surface run off as possible. This translates in to increased erosion by water and wind because shallow roots do not hold the soil layers in place. Flash floods are usually evident at the grand canyon due to these increased erosions and the torrential downpours. The Grand Canyon is a tourist attraction and many people travel from all over to see it and hike. The vehicles are usually left at the bottom for all the hikers. These flash floods are usually a risk not only for the vehicles but also for the hikers. As a result weather conditions are usually monitored keenly by all who visit the Grand Canyon to avoid these flash floods (Levy, 1995).

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The stability of human life on the plant earth and the specific quality of life afforded to the human species is determined by the distribution of the different landforms in the environment. This is because landforms impact the regional climate, the food supply, and the resultant natural resources. The Grand Canyon is a tourist feature with many people flooding in to the region to see it. The formation of a game park and then a game reserve around it ensures that it is preserved from further damage. The federal government took up the Grand Canyon and established it as a game reserve. They have since faced many problems including the extinction and the reintroduction of the Californian Condor which is a wild vulture. There have also been issues that have arisen due to high noise levels form the aircrafts which tend to discourage the residents living near the Grand Canyon and the tourists who plan to tour the Canyon.

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There was a great controversy between the Grand Canyon managers and a nearby power plant over the intensity of pollution in the region (Pyne, 1998). The power plant which is a coal burning power generating plant is located near the Grand Canyon and this led to fewer tourists visiting the area. In 1991 the two reached an agreement and the power plant implemented several measures to curb air pollution from their industry (Garton, 2002).

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The federal government administrators induced a flood in the Grand Canyon in 2008 with the intention of allowing water absorption and permanently changing the ecosystem which was interfered with when the Glen canyon dam was constructed in 1963 to prevent flooding in the region (Levy, 1995).

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The climate in the Grand Canyon is similar to that in the surrounding environment and the whole area is generally dry with high temperatures. Rain only occurs twice in a year in winter as moderate rain and there is deep snow. In the summer, the rain brings monsoon thunderstorms caused by the extreme high temperatures. The average rainfall for the south is les than 35cms while the snow reaches 132 cm. In the higher northern end, rainfall is less than 59cm and the snow averages 317 cm. The shallower northern rim however rarely snows and the rain is low averaging 17.6 cm. Temperatures seem to vary in the Grand Canyon extensively from -17°C during the winter seasons to highs of around 38°C during the summer. These extreme conditions make the area potentially unwelcoming to visitors who at times call off their hikes before time due to hypothermia during winter and dehydration and sunburns during the summer season. The weather is generally unpredictable and even in the vent of getting accurate predictions the weather forecast is still unreliable for this region (Price, 1999).The area has been economically uplifted due to the value of the Grand Canyon as a unique, natural tourist attraction. The Grand Canyon National Park is one of the premier natural attractions all over the world receiving more than five million tourists every year. Most of these tourists are domestic with more than 80% coming from the different states in the United States and more than 12% coming from the neighboring California. Some of the tourists come from other foreign nations like United Kingdom, Netherlands, Canada, Japan and Netherlands. Most of the tourists visiting the area view it as a travel expedition because of the location of the Grand Canyon. Most of them come for sightseeing but there are also additional activities which they can engage in the area. Hiking along the Grand Canyon and running are also favorites among the tourists who visit the area. The tourists are however cautioned against running and hiking too much due to the steep rocks and the danger of heat exhaustion (Annerino, 2006).

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They are advised to spend the night in the specially established camping grounds and take up the hikes or run the following day so as to allow the body to recover from the physical exertion. Due to the varying weather conditions, not all these camping grounds are accessible throughout the year. The camping grounds that have been established along the higher northern end are generally inaccessible due to road closures as a result of poor weather conditions.

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Tourists who can afford it also have the option of viewing the Grand Canyon through privately chartered planes and helicopters. They can only view the Grand Canyon from far due to the plane accidents in 1990.Some helicopters may however choose to land on the less restricted India reservations that fall within the Canyon (Annerino, 2006).

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More than six hundred people have died since the Grand Canyon became a tourist attraction. Many hikers have overestimated their physical capabilities and ended up being involved in fatal accidents, health complications including hypothermia, heart attacks, and dehydration. Other deaths result from plain collisions within the canyon and over zealous photographers. There are other fatalities that have resulted from lighting, flash floods, drowning and rock falls (Bauer & Wallace, 2008).

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There are many communities living within the canyon. They are under the constant threats of flash flooding and temperature extremities. In August, 2008 the government had to evacuate tourists and residents of Supai which is a residential town at the foot of the Grand Canyon, as a result of heavy rainfall. Residents had to be evacuated due to a break in the Redland dam which is constructed upstream of the town (Price, 1999).

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Native Americans communities have been living in the Grand Canyon and in the environs that are now part of the Grand Canyon Reserve, for more than four thousand years. The Anasazi, the Cohonina and the Puebleoans cultures in the Native American communities were shaped as basket makers in the desert cultures that constituted a group of Native Americans. It was only after migrating and adapting less nomadic trends that they became dependent on agriculture as their main socio economic activity. Other cultures also settled in the Grand Canyon but archaeologists predict that climatic changes and the 13th century drought triggered their migration to other places and triggered a change in their cultures. Later the Paiutes, the Cerbat and the Navajo or Dine cultures settled extensively in the Grand Canyon but were forced in to reservations in 1882 due to the Indian wars. They were restricted in reservations within the Canyon by the US government after the declaration of Independence and are still in the region. The Havasupai and Hualapai, who are Native Americans that still occupy the region, are descendants of the Cerbat cultures (Bauer & Wallace, 2008).

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In the late 19th century a geologist team discovered the potential of the region in terms of the unexploited mineral resources that constituted copper and asbestos. Many of the current settlers are descendants of the pioneers who came in along the rim for the purpose of mining. This enthusiasm was however short-lived, as the residents discovered that there was a better economic alternative to the poorly rewarding mining. Tourism overtook the mining efforts and by the twentieth century, the Grand Canyon was a well established tourist destination.

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As a tourist destination, the Grand Canyon has facilitated various aspects of development in the surrounding area for the communities that continue to occupy these regions. Initially the first tourists used stage coaches to access the area abut within a short period of time railway lines had been established allowing a larger influx of people and also facilitating trade for the residents. There was a rapid interest for key players to invest in this region and they established formal tourist facilities. A lot of these facilities were centered at the Grand Canyon village. The federal government gave the Grand Canyon the national park status in 1919(Annerino, 2006).

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Officials have constantly flooded the Grand Canyon as a strategy to preserve the local ecosystems in the Grand Canyon and preserve endangered species like humpback chub.

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The humpback chub is a fish of an extremely rare species that is only found in the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. It was declared endangered in 1967. The ecosystem on this particular species was altered when the government authorized the construction of the Glen Canyon dam in 1963. This diluted the Colorado waters and converted them from the muddy waters to the clear and efficient systems that they became (NRC etal, 2000). By flooding the dam, researchers speculated that this will alter the already established banks of the Colorado to form a similar version to the one that existed before the dam was constructed. This in turn facilitated preservation of these endangered species by regulating the ecosystem. This measure has worked relatively well in the past at increasing the numbers of the humpback chub. The government has also facilitated the removal of the populous rainbow trout from the Colorado River in an effort to reduce competition of food between the two species. These efforts have regulated the numbers of rainbow trout and reduced the food competition for the humpback chub. Due to the changing global patterns the weather in the Colorado has been too cold for the optimal reproduction of the humpback chub. Their reproduction was restricted to a little region at the Little Colorado River. There has been recorded increase in temperature in the Colorado River favoring the reproduction of the humpback chub. Experimental releases of the dam waters have led to increased temperatures as well as the past droughts in the last few years leading to an increase in the number of humpback chubs being spawned and surviving in the Colorado waters.

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The Grand Canyon is a beautiful natural wonder of the world and demonstrates how a landform and its geologic history can impact the quality of life for neighboring humans and animals through direct and indirect contribution to other factors such as soils and tourism. It has influenced the lifestyle of people in the region as well as the climate and the type of plants that can be grown there.

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REFERENCES

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John Annerino. (2006). Hiking the Grand Canyon. New York: Sierra Club Books

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Stephen J Pyne. (1998). How the Canyon Became Grand. Boston: Viking publishers.

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Marion D. Bauer & John Wallace. (2006). The Grand Canyon. New York: Aladdin publishers.

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Jeff Garton. (2002). Grand Canyon: The Great Abyss. Los Angeles: Advantage Pub Group.

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Daniel S. Levy. (1995). Conceptual and Statistical Issues in Contingent Valuation: Estimating the Value of Altered Visibility in the Grand Canyon: Rand Corporation

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L. Greer Price. (1999). An Introduction to Grand Canyon Geology. Grand Canyon: Grand Canyon Association.

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National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research, National Research Council, Water Science and Technology Board, National Research Council, Commission on Geosciences, Environment $ Resources. (2000). Downstream: Adaptive Management of Glen Canyon Dam and the Colorado River Ecosystem. Washington: National Academies Press.

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