How Old is the Grand Canyon?

Study by the Univ. of CO and the CA Institute of Technology aims to debunk previous research that the canyon is only five to 6 million years old.
Author:
Updated:
Original:
Sunset at Bright Angel Point on the North Rim. Photo by Whit Richardson

Sunset at Bright Angel Point on the North Rim. Photo by Whit Richardson

Parts may not be as old as previously thought

Could previous scientists estimating the age of the Grand Canyon be more than 60 million years off? A new joint study by the University of Colorado Boulder and the California Institute of Technology contend that the Grand Canyon is roughly 70 million years old, whereas previous research has stated that the Colorado River eroded the walls away between 5 million and 6 million years ago.

A new study

A study published online in the renowned journal Science, states that a river other than the Colorado chiseled away the land to form the canyon. Researchers believe that this ancient river flowed east, contrary to the Colorado's west-running water.

The study's lead researcher Rebecca Flowers knows that her group's results are controversial.

"Arguments will continue over the age of Grand Canyon," she told the Ahwatukee Foothills News in an email. "I hope our study will stimulate more work to decipher the mysteries."

Flowers is certainly right about the ensuing arguments. Geologist Karl Karlstrom of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque calls the results "ludicrous."

Karlstrom points out that the oldest gravel and sediment that washed downstream date back only 6 million years. No older deposits have been found. He also believes it unlikely that this older Grand Canyon was not further eroded over those millennia since its formation.

Both old and newer

Utah State University geologist Joel Pederson says that both hypotheses could be correct if small, older rivers did in fact cut out portions of the Grand Canyon long ago, and then the Colorado River came through and "finished the job."

Via ScienceMag.org and Ahwatukee.com

Related

The view of Desert View Point from high up in the Desert View Watchtower on the South Rim. Photo by Grant Ordelheide

6 Hazards to Avoid in the Grand Canyon

Follow these tips about viewpoints on the edge, floods, heat and dehydration to enjoy a safe and fantastic Grand Canyon trip.

Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter going over blueprints for one of her buildings in the Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon Throughout Time

Travel back in time with a history lesson on the Grand Canyon

Location of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, U.S.

Where is the Grand Canyon?

The canyon was carved out by the Colorado RiverĀ in northern Arizona from Lake Powell at the Arizona-Utah border to Lake Mead at the Arizona-Nevada border.

Grand Canyon View

Grand Canyon Among the Seven Natural Wonders of the World

Considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the canyon stretches an impressive 227 miles long and averages over ten miles wide.

Lees Ferry - Mile 0 for rafting in the Grand Canyon

Legendary Grand Canyon Boatman - Martin Litton

In the Grand Canyon, 296 miles of the Colorado River runs free, largely because of Martin Litton. He was a Grand Canyon river runner and environmental activist.

Indian Garden and Three-mile Resthouse from Bright Angel Trail.

Grand Canyon Becomes a National Forest

Creating Grand Canyon National Forest

Early Tourists of Grand Canyon

Early Tourists of the Grand Canyon

The first people to come to sightsee were transcontinental travelers, who disembarked in Williams or Flagstaff and came to the canyon via stagecoach

Shuttle bus area, South Rim, Grand Canyon. Photo by Whit Richardson

Grand Canyon Hours of Operation

Be sure to check weather and hours before departing on your adventure to the Grand Canyon.