Anyone confronted with the Grand Canyon for the first (or fiftieth) time can’t help but wonder, “How did this marvel get here?” There are a surprising number of formation theories floating about. Most sane adults agree that the Canyon is an erosional feature. That is to say that existing rock was eroded and removed by water and wind. Beyond this general consensus, things get pretty interesting (if not testy); even among otherwise like-minded geologists.
A geology symposium at Grand Canyon National Park in 2000 gathered scientists together for the first time in decades to discuss the matter. As one involved in the event, my impression was that most attendees left even more polarized than when they arrived. It’s enough to embrace the cleverest theory I have overheard to date (uttered by an impatient parent to an over-inquisitive boy), “It was dug by little boys that ask too many questions!”
A new book by geologist Wayne Ranney tackles this topic head-on. In Carving Grand Canyon: Evidence, Theories, and Mystery, published by Grand Canyon Association, Ranney details the various explanations for the presence of the worlds-most famous chasm. It’s a wonderful resource for inquiring minds (and it sure beats digging).