Centennial Minute: Grand Canyon

February 07, 2012

This month, Arizona turns 100. KJZZ is marking the centennial each week in February with stories of our state’s history, people and places. We're calling it the Centennial Minute. This morning, authors and Arizona residents Fred DuVal and Lisa Schnebly Heidinger tell us about the early days of the state's most iconic natural landmark. The Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon The Grand Canyon became a national park in 1919. (Photo by Peter O'Dowd - KJZZ)

FRED DUVAL: The Grand Canyon has always been Arizona’s wonder of the world.

We don’t know who first saw it…

We do know people lived within its walls 10 thousand years ago, and left salt caves and split twig figures.

One explorer, Joseph Christmas Ives, in 1858, didn’t see the Canyon’s beauty. He said, "Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality.”

 LISA SCHNEBLY HEIDINGER: But a one-armed Civil War hero, Major John Wesley Powell, saw it differently from the kitchen chair he lashed to the top of a rowboat.

Powell described exploring the unknown Colorado River in 1869 with nine men. Some of his men feared the river would disappear underground and left the expedition at what Powell would name Separation Canyon. They were thought killed by Paiute Indians. His journals of boats smashed in rapids as they explored the uncharted waters -- and also sites of incomparable beauty -- fired the country’s imagination.

 By the time it became a national park in 1919, virtually everyone approved.

 DUVAL: Today almost 5 million people a year gaze in wonder at what Major Powell saw. But it wasn’t till last year we finally, officially became the Grand Canyon State.

 Fred DuVal and Lisa Schnebly Heidinger are co-authors of “Calling Arizona Home.”

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