Over 1 mile deep, 277 miles long, and up to 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon is one of the few wonders of nature which can be seen from space. Because it was carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries, the rock walls reveal a geological history of ancient seas which retreated, antediluvian beaches which receded, and pre-historic swamps which are no more.

The Grand Canyon has four rims: South, East, North, and West. From Sedona, the South and East Rims are about a two hour drive while the North and West Rims are over a four hour drive because they are on the other side of the Colorado River.

The South Rim has the majority of cabins, hotels, restaurants, and Visitor Centers. Most first time visitors to the Grand Canyon tour the South and East Rims because the views are spectacular! By stopping at lesser known view points, such as Duck on a Rock, visitors often feel that they have the entire Grand Canyon to themselves.

Mary Colter, one of the first women architects, fused Pueblo Revival, Arts and Crafts style, and Spanish Colonial architecture into her designs for the Hopi House (1905), Hermit’s Rest (1914), the Lookout Studio, Bright Angel Lodge complex (1935), and the Phantom Ranch (1922) at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. At the time, because women architects were not allowed to be licensed, a male architect had to sign off on all her drawings.

The East Rim is beautiful and wild. In 1932, Ms. Colter designed the Desert View Watchtower which incorporated elements of ancient Hopi architecture and art. Visitors get fantastic views of the Canyon from the ground floor of the tower and breathtaking views all the way out to the Painted Desert when they climb the 70 ft. tall building. She hired Hopi craftsmen to build the tower and a Hopi artist, Fred Kabotie, to decorate the interior with traditional Hopi paintings.

The North and West Rims are not as developed as the South and East. The West Rim is part of the Hualapai (Native Americans) lands. To generate income for the “People of the Tall Pines,” they built the Skywalk, a glass walkway which extends into the Grand Canyon.

Because it is so much higher in elevation than the South Rim, the North Rim is closed due to snow October 16-May 14 each year.

California Condor in Flight

Back from the Brink of Extinction—With the Help of the Grand Canyon

The largest bird in North America—the California Condor—dwindled to a very small population of only nine (9) birds flying free in the wild by 1987, bringing the bird to the brink of extinction. We are happy to state that the Grand Canyon played a very important role in bringing these graceful, soaring birds back from the brink.

In pre-historic times, condors lived throughout North America from California to New York, Canada to Mexico.

About 10,000 years ago, the condor population collapsed when their main food sources became extinct.

Over the years, the condors’ situation worsened. Due to habit-incursion, cyanide and lead poisoning, their population continued to dwindle. In 1967, the California Condor was placed on the federal endangered species list. By 1982, the world’s wild population of condors numbered only 22 —making extinction was a very real possibility.

In 1983. the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service commenced a condor captive breeding program at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the Los Angeles Zoo. By 1987, when there were only 9 birds left in the wild, it was decided to add the last wild birds into the captive breeding program.

There were several obstacles to increasing the condor population: while it is wonderful that condors mate for life, they are not capable of reproducing until they are six years old and they produce only 1 egg every 12-24 months. Due to innovative techniques in the captive breeding program, the ornithologists were able to increase the number of eggs laid per pair which rebuilt the population faster.

The program is so successful that in January 1992, the first captive-bred condors were released into the California wild. In December 1996, six captive-bred condors was released 30 miles north of Grand Canyon National Park. As of 2013, 127 condors are flying free in California, while in the Grand Canyon, there were 73 condors, at least 5 mated pairs and 7 condors have been hatched in the wild. There were about 400 California Condors in the world, with more than half of those birds in the wild!

Though still endangered, California Condors are now soaring back from the brink of extinction—thanks to their home in the Grand Canyon.

Quick Facts:

  • The California Condor has the largest wingspan of any North American bird at 9.5 feet. In second place is the Golden Eagle has a 7.5 ft. wingspan.
  • There are three wild populations of the birds: California, Arizona/Utah, and Baja California (Mexico).
  • To protect themselves from predators, condors nest on ledges and in caves along the faces of the cliffs.
  • If a condor is not raising a chick, it may roost in a different location each night. (Unlike salesmen, they do not have territories. :-))
  • As scavengers, condors rely on their sense of vision to find food while vultures use their sense of smell.
  • Condors can soar on thermal updrafts, often covering hundreds of miles in one day.
  • Though condors become sexually mature at six years old, they often do not find a mate until they are several years older. When they do, they mate for life.
  • California Condors can live to be 60 years old—or older!