Grand Canyon National Park Formation and the River Corridor

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Grand Canyon National Park Formation and the River Corridor


President Theodore Roosevelt, by presidential proclamation, reserved land in the Grand Canyon of Arizona as Grand Canyon National Monument on January 11, 1908. President Roosevelt stated in the proclamation that the Grand Canyon of Arizona “is an object of unusual scientific interest, being the greatest eroded canyon in the United States, and it appears that the public interest would be prompted by reserving it as a National Monument.”

Grand Canyon National Park (“Grand Canyon”) was established on February 26, 1919.

Over the years the park has been enlarged and its boundaries revised. Congress has recognized that the Grand Canyon “is a natural feature of national and international significance . . . [and] recognized the need for ‘further protection and interpretation of the Grand Canyon in accordance with its true significance.”

The Grand Canyon is indeed an “outstanding national treasure.” In designating the Grand Canyon, “Congress gave protection to the most complete record of geologic history to be found anywhere in the world, and to the Colorado River – the most challenging whitewater river in the United States.” “As well as being a natural phenomenon, the Grand Canyon is also a unique in its cultural resources; the area has been trod by human feet for the past 4,000 years, and contains more than 2,000 known archaeological sites. The park’s more than one million acres harbors over a thousand plant species and 400 species of wildlife.”

The Grand Canyon “is to be managed to preserve and protect its natural and cultural resources and ecological processes, as well as its scenic, aesthetic, and scientific values [and] provide opportunities for visitors to experience and understand the environmental interrelationships, resources, and values of the Grand Canyon without impairing the resource.”

On October 26, 1979, Grand Canyon National Park was listed as a World Heritage Site because it is considered “an area of outstanding scenic, cultural, biological, and recreational resources . . .a natural wonder which is probably visited by more people from all over the world than any other single place in the United States.” As a World Heritage Site, the Grand Canyon joins “the priceless trust of universal treasures by the World Heritage Program.”

The Grand Canyon, a natural marvel of immense canyons and the world renowned Colorado River, is the largest and possibly most diverse wilderness on the Colorado Plateau.


The Colorado River in Grand Canyon provides a unique combination of thrilling whitewater adventure and magnificent vistas of a remarkable geologic landscape, including remote and intimate side canyons.

The 277-mile river corridor is home to unique and abundant natural and cultural resources, including diverse wildlife, threatened and endangered species, hundreds of archaeological sites, caves, and natural soundscapes. For these reasons, a river trip through the Grand Canyon is one of the most sought after backcountry experiences in the country, and nearly 22,000 visitors run the river annually.

In 1970, “as required by the Wilderness Act of 1964, the [Grand Canyon] submitted a Preliminary Wilderness Study Report that recommended that the Colorado River be included [as wilderness] and the use of motors phased out.”

Click here to go to the next section of this history, called River Management 1970-1980, Strong on Wilderness.

Click here to return to The Politics of River Running in Grand Canyon page.