A Virtual Field Trip to the Grand Canyon

For decades, the Grand Canyon National Park has been a popular tourist attraction. In fact, millions (anywhere between 2 to 5 million) of people each year go and visit the Park.

A trip to the Grand Canyon is a lot of fun for the whole family. For kids, the National Park has designed three programs especially for them: the Junior Ranger Program, which is a very fun program that helps teach kids about the National Park (programs available for each age group); Camp Programs (that take youths on the hiking adventure of a lifetime); and Educational Programs (for kids and teachers, who may want to learn about the Grand Canyon).

The Grand Canyon National Park doesn’t stop there; it also offers schools the opportunity to receive lesson plans related to the Grand Canyon for professional development, and the chance to actually have a Park Ranger come and visit the school and classrooms. As a result, the programs offered by the Grand Canyon make the experience extra special for kids, even if it means taking a virtual trip there.

The U.S. National Park Service ( www.nps.gov/ ) is the best Web site to visit. It provides all of the basic information about all National Parks (including the Grand Canyon).

  • National Geographic – A great site for everyone (including kids) to know: How the Canyon came to be the Grand Canyon.
  • The American Southwest – A Web site for Arizona visitors. There’s information on the Grand Canyon National Park.
  • Map – Here’s a map of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Grand Canyon Facts

Kids, do you know the answers to these questions?

Q: Where is the Grand Canyon?

Answer: It sits on the Colorado Plateau in northwestern Arizona. It covers 1,218,375 acres of land.

Q: What river flows through the Grand Canyon?

Answer: The Colorado River. 

Q: The Grand Canyon has been home to what settlers?

Answer: Native Americans. It’s been their home for thousands of years.

Did you know that… The Grand Canyon has five life zones that show different vegetation and animal life: Lower Sonoran, Upper Sonoran, Transition, Canadian, and Hudsonian.

Also, did you know that within the sedimentary formations of the canyon are fossils and bones that can help trace the history of life on earth?

Amazing Fact! Inside the Park are over 1,500 plants, 355 birds, 89 mammalians, 47 reptiles, 9 amphibians, and 17 fish species. Yes, it’s true!

The amount of recorded archaeological resources: over 4,800 (only 3% of the park area).

The “SkyWalk” is a glass bridge (at the west rim of the Grand Canyon) that allows tourists to walk out over the edge and peek through the Canyon’s rim from a see-through surface beneath them. What a sight! Many tourists each year come to this part of the Canyon to look out over the edge and admire the amazing views.

Here are some basic facts about the Grand Canyon: 

  • River length: 277 miles
  • Canyon width: 10 miles (15 miles at its widest)
  • Canyon depth: 1 mile (average depth: 4,000 feet deep) (deepest point: 6,000 feet deep)

Also, the Grand Canyon extends north to the Kaibab Plateau and south to the Coconino Plateau.

Grand Canyon History

In 1893, the Grand Canyon was afforded federal protection as a Forest Reserve. In 1908, January 11, the Grand Canyon was designated a national monument. In 1916, the National Park Service (NPS) assumed administration of the park. In 1919, February 26, the Grand Canyon was designated as a National Park by President Woodrow Wilson. In 1979, the Grand Canyon National Park was selected as a World Heritage Site, which means it is now part of the cultural and natural heritage and is a sign that the World Heritage Committee considers the Park having outstanding universal value.

Grand Canyon Geology

For years, Grand Canyon’s geologic landscapes have been studied. Drainage systems that run through the rock have formed numerous deep canyons (hence its name, Grand Canyon). It’s well known for its geologic significance.

The Grand Canyon has the biggest and most spectacular gorge (which is a deep valley between cliffs often carved from the landscape by a river) in the world. In fact, the gorge is 1.5-kilometer (0.9 mile) deep and is about 500 m to 30 km wide (0.3 mile to 18.6 miles). The gorge formed by geologic activity and erosion by the Colorado River. The geologic boundaries of the Grand Canyon span in all four eras of the earth’s evolutionary history, from the Precambrian to the Cenozoic.

  • Grand Canyon Information – This is a great Web site containing Grand Canyon information as well as the geological history of the Park.
  • Grand Canyon Rocks – Here’s an excellent site that explains in-depth (but, easy to understand) the geology of the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon Biology

The biological province of the Grand Canyon: Rocky Mountains.

As mentioned before, the Grand Canyon has life zones which present biological attributes to the Park. Also, within the Park are several major ecosystems which include all of the living organisms (plants and animals) in a specific area, and forest and desert communities. Some of the ecosystems shown in the Park are rare. Be aware that many plants and animal species found in the Park are protected because threatened or endangered.

  • Center for Biological Diversity – Information on what is being done (and by whom) to protect the Grand Canyon (an example of recognizing the Grand Canyon Protection Act of 1992).

More Educational Resources

With so much to learn about the Grand Canyon, knowing where to look for various information is essential. Any search engine will turn up hundreds of sites on the Grand Canyon, but not all sites provide trusted and secure navigation or true information; therefore, look over the links already provided. Note: Of all of the educational sites on the Web, those that are more suitable for kids are…

  • Family Activities at the Grand Canyon – This site mentions the WebRanger program, a place to go online to share park stories and pictures with other kids. It also explains the Junior Ranger program. Both programs provide fun for both kids and adults.
  • Grand Canyon for Kids – The place to go to know more about the Junior Ranger programs (those for all age groups).

In summary, with all that has been mentioned about the Grand Canyon National Park, having only a virtual tour of it might not be enough; other options, include: Distance Learning Opportunities (one-hour distant learning programs via the Internet, provided by the Environmental Education Branch), or actually going there.

Lastly, kids are encouraged to check out the Grand Canyon’s Environmental Education (GCEE) Program. GCEE provides grants to kids to be able to go and visit the Park. The program will even provide gear for kids who need it.

  • Grand Canyon National Park – Not only a great site for information, but it contains many beautiful photographs of the Grand Canyon, as well as other things (like rocks containing fossils) found in the Park.
  • Grand Canyon Outdoor Education – A place that provides an educational experience for the Grand Canyon.
  • Grand Canyon Railway – Official site that instructs how-to and how much (rates) for a train ride that gets you to the Canyon and back.

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