Canyons are deep narrow valleys in the Earth’s crust. Most canyons are formed by erosion and weathering. Wind and water erode the less resistant rock such as shale or limestone. The harder rock that is resistant to erosion and weathering form the cliffs in the sides of the canyon.
FACT 1: There are different kinds of canyons. Box Canyons are marked by cliffs on three sides. Slot Canyons are long, narrow corridors. Submarine Canyons are formed on the ocean floor, by ocean currents. The Great Bahama Canyon of the Atlantic Ocean is a Submarine Canyon. They are usually found where a large body of water enters an ocean e.g. the mouth of a river.
FACT 2: The word canyon comes from the Spanish word canon meaning tube. The word is used mostly in USA and Canada. It is also used in Africa. In Europe, Asia and Oceania the word gorge is used.
FACT 3: The world’s most famous canyon is the Grand Canyon in Arizona USA. It is 446 km long and more than 1,500 meters deep. It is 29 km across at its widest yawn. The Grand Canyon was carved by the River Colorado over a few million years. Its breath-taking beauty attracts 5 million visitors a year. Landscape painter Thomas Moran described it as ‘the most awfully grand and impressive scene I have ever yet seen.’
FACT 4: Defining the world’s deepest canyon is difficult as measurements differ at different points. According to some sources the distinction belongs to the Cotahuasi Canyon in Peru. It is cut by the River Cotahuasi, a tributary of the Rio Ocona. This canyon is approximately 3354 meters deep, over twice the depth of the Grand Canyon. However, tripline.net lists this canyon as the third deepest after the Yarlang Zangbo, Tibet, 6009 meters, and the Canon del Colca, Peru, 3501 meters. Some sources define the valley at the confluence of the River Gilgit and the River Indus, in the Himalaya as the Indus Gorge. This would make it the world’s deepest gorge at 7120 meters.
FACT 5: The Antelope Canyon in Arizona is a named for the antelope that used to run free here. However no antelope are to be seen here today. This canyon is a Slot Canyon, much visited for its deep gorgeous passageways. It is sacred to the Navajo.
FACT 6: The most unusual canyon is the horseshoe canyon in Arizona. It is called the Horseshoe Bend and as its name indicates it is shaped like a horseshoe.
FACT 7: Other famous canyons include the Tara River Gorge in Montenegro, Europe. It is a World Heritage Site. The Bicaz Canyon in Romania is dug by the Bicaz River. It has an 8 km stretch of road running through it. The Fjaorargljufur Canyon in Iceland, is formed by the flowing glacial waters of the Fjaora River.
FACT 8: The Copper Canyon in Mexico is formed by 6 rivers. It gets its name from the coppery green of the cliffs surrounding it. The Tarahumara tribes, renowned for their long distance running, live here.
FACT 9: The 12th century Gandikota Fort in India was built on the rim of the Pennar River Gorge. The gorge is 700 meters deep and 4 km long, making the fort almost unconquerable. Gondi means gorge in Telegu.
FACT 10: There is a Grand Canyon on Mars! The Valles Marineris Canyon System on Mars is 4000 km long, that is as long as the USA. Saturn’s Moon, Tethys, has a 100km deep canyon called the Ithaca Chasma. It is 2000 km long.