Grand Canyon National Park Turns 100 Today — Here’s a Look Back at the First Century
Today a treasured natural wonder of the world celebrates its centennial year as a national park, nestled in the southwest state of Arizona between the native lands of the Hualapai, Havasupai, Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Paiute tribes. These traditional indigenous tribes have long considered the canyon a sacred place where they continue to keep cultural traditions alive. The Grand Canyon itself is so old that no one is quite sure the exact number — scientists believe the Colorado River has been carving it out for at least 6 million years — but in 1908 the area was designated as a national monument by Theodore Roosevelt and later a bill was passed and signed by Woodrow Wilson, making it an official national park of the United States in 1919.
Over the next year, in partnership with the Grand Canyon Conservancy, the park will hold a variety of events honoring the rich history and lesser-known points of the park to visit. The Conservancy plays a vital role in the preservation and restoration of the park's trails and is currently working to gain official International Dark Sky Park status as it’s one of the last places to see the Milky Way.
The Grand Canyon National Park ranks as the second most visited park in the National Park System, right behind Smoky Mountain National Park. Throughout its 100-year history, the canyon has been the site of significant moments in pop culture, served as photographers’ playground and home to countless vacation memories. From an 1800s expedition by the Wheeler Survey to Albert Einstein’s visit with his wife in 1931, and the training of Apollo 11 astronauts to the daredevil jump of Robbie Knievel, we look back at the last century in honor, appreciation, and wonder of this famed destination. With all it’s natural glory beloved by millions, the Grand Canyon National Park is more than deserving of a year-long celebration.
A member of the 1872 Wheeler Survey gazing across the Grand Canyon toward Foot of Toroweap valley. Grand Canyon, Arizona, ca. 1872.
1935: A Photographer's Eye
A photo of the Grand Canyon by Margaret Bourke-White made in 1935. The Grand Canyon has been the site in which many legendary photographers have made iconic images.
1925: Colorado River
Photograph of the powerful Colorado River as it runs through the Grand Canyon in 1925.
1931: Famous Visitors
Elsa Einstein, front, stands at the rim of the Grand Canyon with her husband Albert and their friends.
1935: Lone Ranger
A cowboy wearing chaps stands on Grandeur Point overlooking the Grand Canyon.
1946: Aerial View
An aerial view of the Grand Canyon National Park. The Grand Canyon creates it's own weather because of the drastic changes in elevation which means visitors throughout the park could be experiencing very different weather.
1944: The River Runs Through
The Colorado River runs through the canyon, long believed to help shape the canyon. Of eight species of fish found in the river, six of them are not found outside of the Colorado River habitat.
1944: Stone Arches
Detail of the stone arches in the Grand Canyon.
1947: Landscape in Color
From Right: Western view of Cathedral Stairs in Grand Canyon; Two people standing beneath tree, watching Havasu Falls.
1960: Canyon Exploration
From Right: Boats taking tourists along the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon; Three young men exploring a pool of water
1964: Apollo 11 Training
Neil Armstrong during geological training at the Grand Canyon in 1964.
1967: Robert Kennedy
Senator Robert Kennedy (left) jumps for shore as his raft comes to a landing during a four day trip along the Colorado River. The New York Senator and a party of friends made the 87-mile journey through the Grand Canyon on four rubber rafts.
1970: Finding Solitude
A solitary figure standing near their car in the Grand Canyon.
1980: American Destination
Tourists from across the globe trek thousands of miles to visit the Grand Canyon. This photo of a tourist was taken in 1980 by French photographer, François Le Diascorn.
1992: Mule Trails
Mule Trails near Maricopa Point at the Grand Canyon.
1996: Childhood Fantasies
Two boys recreate their own version of the wild West while visiting the Grand Canyon's East Rim, April 10, 1996. The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and 18 miles across at its widest point.
1996: Presidential Protection
President Bill Clinton poised with a pen while Vice President Al Gore looks on during the signing of a proclamation establishing Utah's Grand Escalante National Monument in a ceremony staged at edge of Grand Canyon.
1999: Knievel Feat
Robbie Knievel is airborne above the Grand Canyon May 20, 1999 during a successful 228-feet world record jump. Knievel crashed following his landing and sustained unknown injuries but talked to the crowd before being flown by helicopter to the University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
2004: Southern Sunset
South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
2007: The Skywalk
Don Habatone, a member of the Hualapai Indian Tribe, looks out over The Skywalk at Grand Canyon West, located 120 miles east of Las Vegas on March 7, 2007 in Hualapai Indian Reservation, Arizona.
2009: Trail Reconstruction
Volunteer Fiona O-Malley from Westport, Ireland breaks rocks while working with team members to rehabilitate a trail on June 10, 2009. This work was a major federal stimulus funded project to repair the scenic South Kaibab Trail at the park. The project was the biggest trail reconstruction project in the Grand Canyon since the 1960s and the first there to use some of the $10.8 million in economic stimulus money granted by Congress for projects in the park.
2009: First Family Visit
US President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and their daughters Sasha and Malia tour Hopi Point on August 16, 2009.
2013: New Ways of Picturing the Grand Canyon
A tourists captures an image on an iPad while visiting the Grand Canyon.
2014: Water Supply
The Colorado River as seen from Mohave Point located on the Southern Rim of Grand Canyon on June 26, 2014.
2018: Starry Skies
One-third of the world's population (including 80% of Americans) can no longer see the Milky Way. The Grand Canyon Conservancy is seeking official status for the park as an International Dark Sky destination.
2019: The Centennial
A winter storm drops several inches of snow along the South Rim and in parts of the canyon on February 6, 2019. Grand Canyon National Park, often considered one of the "Wonders of the World," was officially designated a national park on February 26, 1919, and is celebrating its Centennial this year.