I'm Steve Ember.
I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.
we take you to one of the most popular and beautiful places in the United
States. It is the Grand Canyon in the southwestern state of Arizona.
(MUSIC: "Canyon Lullaby")
canyons of America's Southwest are deep, ancient openings in the earth. They
look as if they formed as the earth split apart. But the canyons did not split.
They were cut by rivers.
carried dirt and pieces of stone that slowly ate away at the surrounding rock.
For millions of years, the rivers turned and pushed. They cut deeper and deeper
into the earth. They left a pathway of great rocky openings in the earth that
extend for hundreds of kilometers.
Grand Canyon in Arizona is one of the largest and most beautiful of all
canyons. It extends four hundred fifty kilometers.
surrounding area does not make you suspect the existence of such a great
opening in the earth. You come upon the canyon suddenly, when you reach its
edge. Then you are looking at a land like nothing else in the world.
Walls of rock fall away sharply at your
feet. In some places, the canyon walls are more than a kilometer deep. Far
below is the dark, turning line of the Colorado River.
On the other side,
sunshine lights up the naked rock walls in red, orange, and gold. The bright
colors are the result of minerals in the rocks. Their appearance changes
endlessly -- with the light, the time of year, and the weather. At sunset, when
the sun has moved across the sky, the canyon walls give up their fiery reds and
golds. They take on quieter colors of blue, purple, and green.
of rocky points rise from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Some are very tall.
Yet all are below the level of an observer on the edge, looking over.
Looking at the
Grand Canyon is like looking back in time. Forty million years ago, the
Colorado River began cutting through the area. At the same time, the
surrounding land was pushed up by forces deep within the Earth. Rain, snow,
ice, wind, and plant roots rubbed away at the top of the new canyon. Below, the
flowing river continued to uncover more and more levels of ancient rock.
Some of Earth's oldest rocks are seen here. There are
many levels of granite, schist, limestone, and sandstone.
Grand Canyon has several weather environments. The top is often much different
from the bottom. On some winter days, for example, you may find cold winds and
snow at the top. But at the bottom, you may find warm winds and flowers.
of plants and animals are found in the canyon and nowhere else on Earth.
Because the canyon's environments are so different, these species did not
spread beyond the canyon, or even far within it.
Indians occupied the Grand Canyon three thousand years ago. Evidence of their
existence has been found in more than two thousand five hundred places so far.
Bones, hair, feathers, even the remains of plants have been found in deep, dry caves
high in the rock walls.
Hopi, the Paiute, the Navajo and other Native American tribes have all been in
the area for at least seven centuries.
However, much of what we know today about the Grand Canyon was recorded
by John Wesley Powell. In eighteen sixty-nine, he became the first white
American to explore much of the canyon.
Wesley Powell and his group traveled in four boats. They knew very little about
getting over the rapid, rocky waters of the Colorado River. In many areas of
fast-flowing water, a boat could be turned over by a wave as high as a house.
Soon after starting, Powell's group lost some of its
food and equipment. Then three members of the group left. As they walked up and
out of the canyon, they were killed by Indians. The rest of the group was lucky
to survive. Starving and tired, they reached the end of the canyon. They had
traveled on the Colorado River for more than three months. John Wesley Powell's reports and maps from
the trip made him famous. They also greatly increased interest in the Grand
Canyon. But visitors did not begin to go to there in large numbers until
nineteen-oh-one. That was when a railroad reached the area.
Today, the Grand Canyon is known as one of the seven
wonders of the natural world. About five million people visit the canyon each
year. Most visitors walk along paths
part way down into the canyon. It takes several hours to walk to the bottom. It
takes two times as long to get back up. Some visitors ride mules to the bottom
and back. The mules are strong animals that look like horses. They are known
for their ability to walk slowly and safely on the paths.
America's National Park Service is responsible for
protecting the Grand Canyon from the effects of so many visitors. All waste
material must be carried out of the canyon. All rocks, historical objects,
plants, and wildlife must be left untouched. As the National Park Service tells
visitors: "Take only photographs. Leave only footprints. "
are several other ways to visit the Grand Canyon. Hundreds of thousands of
people see the canyon by air each year. They pay a helicopter or airplane pilot
to fly them above and around the canyon.
About twenty thousand people a year see the Grand
Canyon from the Colorado River itself. They ride boats over the rapid, rocky
water. These trips last from one week to three weeks.
can see the Grand Canyon in still another way. A huge glass walkway, called the
Skywalk, extends twenty-one meters from the edge of the Grand Canyon. The
Skywalk is suspended more than one thousand two hundred meters above the bottom
of the canyon. It is shaped like a giant horseshoe. Visitors pay twenty-five dollars each to walk
beyond the canyon walls, surrounded by the canyon, while standing at the edge
of the glass bridge.
Hualapai Indian Tribe built the Skywalk at a cost of more than
forty million dollars. The tribe owns
almost four hundred thousand hectares of land in the canyon. The Hualapai built the Skywalk to gain money
by getting more people to visit its reservation. The tribe says the area, called Grand Canyon
West, will include a large visitors' center, restaurants, and possibly hotels
in the future.
people say the Skywalk is an engineering wonder. However, other people have
criticized the Skywalk and future development.
They say it harms a national treasure and reduces the enjoyment of
nature in the Grand Canyon.
writers have tried to describe the wonder of the Grand Canyon. They use words
like mysterious, overpowering, strange. Yet writers recognize that it is
impossible to put human meaning in such a place. The Grand Canyon exists in its
own space and time.
say they feel so small when measured against the canyon's great size. One
writer who has spent a lot of time in the Grand Canyon finds it a peaceful
place. He says the almost overpowering silence and deepness of the Grand Canyon
shakes people -- at least briefly -- out of their self-importance. He says it
makes us remember our place in the natural world.
close our program with music from a record called "Canyon Lullaby"
written by Paul Winter. Mister Winter said it was his first attempt to
translate the spirit of the canyon into sound.
program was written by Shelley Gollust. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Steve
And I'm Barbara Klein. You can find scripts
and download audio at our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com. Join us again next
week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.