Grand Canyon National Park, located in northwestern Arizona, protects a gorge of the Colorado River, which is often considered one of the Wonders of the World. The Grand Canyon was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979. In February of this year it celebrated 100th anniversary. The Grand Canyon, including its extensive system of tributary canyons, is valued for its combination of size, depth, and exposed layers of colorful rocks dating back to Precambrian times. The canyon itself was created by the incision of the Colorado River and its tributaries after the Colorado Plateau was uplifted, causing the Colorado River system to develop along its present path. The primary public areas of the park are the South and North Rims, and adjacent areas of the canyon itself. The rest of the park is extremely rugged and remote, although many places are accessible by pack trail and backcountry roads. About 90% of the visitors come to the South Rim (even if I personally think North Rim is more amazing).
Driving across Navajo Nation we cross into tiny (in comaprison) Hopi is a Native American reservation for the Hopi and Arizona Tewa people, surrounded entirely by the Navajo Nation.. The site in north-eastern Arizona has a land area of 6,557 sq km and a population of approx 7000. Until recently, the two nations shared the Navajo–Hopi Joint Use Area, though the partition of this area, commonly known as Black Mesa, by Acts of Congress in 1974 and 1996, has resulted in continuing controversy, as since the 1960s it has been strip mined for coal by the Peabody Western Coal Company, an act that is seen as violation of Mother Earth to native people. The system of villages unites three mesas in the pueblo style traditionally used by the Hopi. Walpi is the oldest village on First Mesa, having been established in 1690 after the villages at the foot of mesa Koechaptevela were abandoned for fear of Spanish reprisal after the 1680 Pueblo Revolt. The Tewa people live on First Mesa. Hopi also occupy the Second Mesa and Third Mesa. The Hopi Tribal Council is the local governing body consisting of elected officials from the various reservation villages. Its powers were given to it under the Hopi Tribal Constitution. We stop at Oraibi – a village belonging to the Hopi tribe that is found on the Third Mesa near the village of Kykotsmovi. Oraibi is cosidered to be the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in North America, having been established before the year 1100 CE. According to archeological speculation, the Hopi were forced to abandon some of their smaller villages in the area due to a series of severe droughts during the late 13th century. As a result, the Hopi were concentrated in a few population centers around the area. Oraibi is among the surviving settlements whose population grew making the place popular. Today only few native people inhabit small houses, but it is here where I buy my Katchina. Next we stop at Walpi, but it’s a day of ceremonies and no outsiders are allowed into the fortified clifftop village (on other occasions it can be visited, but only with a guide).
Last (but not least) we reach Petrified Forest National Park, which has been named for its large deposits of petrified wood. PPark covers about 600 sq km, encompassing semi-desert shrub steppe as well as highly eroded and colorful badlands. The Petrified Forest is known for its fossils, especially fallen trees that lived in the Late Triassic, about 225 million years ago. The sediments containing the fossilized logs are part of the widespread and colorful Chinle Formation, from which the Painted Desert gets its name. Beginning about 60 million years ago, the Colorado Plateau, of which the park is part, was pushed upwards by tectonic forces and exposed to increased erosion. All of the park’s rock layers above the Chinle, except geologically recent ones found in parts of the park, have been removed by wind and water. In addition to petrified logs, fossils found in the park have included Late Triassic ferns, cycads, ginkgoes, and many other plants as well as fauna including giant reptiles called phytosaurs, large amphibians, and early dinosaurs. Paleontologists have been unearthing and studying the park’s fossils since the early 20th century.