The Human Drama of the Past!
Early Discovery and Inhabitants


About 4,000 years ago, a prehistoric hunter-gatherer culture lived in the Grand Canyon amd Four Corners region, where they remained until 1000 B.C. These were the first inhabitants.

Many pueblo and cliff-dweller ruins, with all the accompanying artifacts, indicate an occupation by the Anasazi and others. These ancestral pueblo people arrived in the area about A.D. 500 and departed around 1150. There demise is subject to intense speculation, with climate change, internal strife, and even aliens being the reason. Some suspect the Anasazi of even canabalism! They left behind remnants of some 2,000 sites in Grand Canyon.

In 1300, ancestors of the modern Hualapai and Havasupai migrated to the western areas of the Canyon. Today, there are five Indian tribes living on nearby reservations, Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo, Hopi, Paiute.

The first Europeans to view the Canyon were a detachment of conquistadors from Coronado's gold-seeking expedition in 1540. Having learned of a "great river" from the Hopi, the explorers thought that it might be the fabled Northwest Passage to India. The first sighting of the Grand Canyon by a European is credited to Don Pedro Tovar, a Captain in the Francisco Coronado expedition of 1540. Later, two Spanish priests, Francisco Domínguez and Silvestre Vélez de Escalante, visited Marble Canyon in 1776.

In the early 1800s trappers examined it, and sundry government expeditions exploring and mapping the West began to record information about the canyon. Over the next 100 years, a succession of explorers and mountain men came and gaped, but to most it was a giant obstacle designed, as one fur trapper put it, "to deprive all human beings of the ability to descend ... and make use of its waters."

The Canyon remained largely unknown and virtually unexplored until Civil War veteran John Wesley Powell led a famous boat expedition through the gorge in 1869. The one-armed Army Major and nine men accomplished this feat in four small wooden boats. Powell's party was the first ever to make such a trip. After a second journey in 1871-72, he aptly named it Grand Canyon. By the 1870s, following the exploration of John Wesley Powell and others, extensive reports on the geography, geology, botany, and ethnology of the area were being published.

Drawn by the prospect of copper mining, the first pioneer settlements along the rim came in the 1880s. W.W. Bass, Captain John Hance, William Berry and other early residents soon discovered that tourism was destined to be more profitable than mining, and by the turn of the century Grand Canyon began earning a reputation as a popular tourist destination. Early tourist accommodations were not so different from the mining camps from which they developed. Most made the grueling trip from nearby towns to the South Rim by stagecoach.

When in 1901 the Santa Fe railroad was extended to the South Rim from Williams, the development of formal tourist facilities on the rim increased dramatically.

By 1905, the El Tovar Hotel stood where it does today, a world class hotel on the canyon's edge. The Fred Harvey Company, known throughout the West for hospitality and fine food, continued to develop facilities at the Canyon, including Phantom Ranch, built in the inner canyon in 1922. Mary Jane Colter was the architect for these and the Hopi House, Desert View Watchtower, Bright Angel Lodge, and Hermit's Rest.

Although first afforded federal protection in 1893 as a forest reserve and later as a National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve national park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service.

Today Grand Canyon National Park receives over five million visitors from all over the world annually! This is a huge increase from the yearly visitation of 44,173 which the park received in 1919.


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