October 3rd, 2011 10:28:04 am
The known history of the Grand Canyon area stretches back 10,500 years, when the first evidence of human presence in the area is found. Native Americans have inhabited the Grand Canyon and the area now covered by Grand Canyon National Park for at least the last 4,000 of those years. Anasazi, first as the Basketmaker culture and later as the more familiar Puebloans, developed from the Desert Culture as they became less nomadic and more dependent on agriculture. A similar culture, the Cohonina, also lived in the canyon area. Drought in the late 13th century likely caused both groups to move on. Other peoples followed, including the Paiute, Cerbat, and the Navajo, only to be later forced onto reservations by the United States Government.
In September 1540, under direction by conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado to find the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas led a party of Spanish soldiers with Hopi guides to the Grand Canyon. More than 200 years passed before two Spanish priests became the second party of non-Native Americans to see the canyon. U.S. Army Major John Wesley Powell led the 1869 Powell Geographic Expedition through the canyon on the Colorado River. This and later study by geologists uncovered the geology of the Grand Canyon area and helped to advance that science. In the late 19th century, the promise of mineral resources—mainly copper and asbestos—renewed interest in the region. The first pioneer settlements along the rim came in the 1880s.
Early residents soon realized that tourism was destined to be more profitable than mining, and by the turn of the 20th century the Grand Canyon was a well-known tourist destination. Most visitors made the grueling trip from nearby towns to the South Rim by stagecoach. In 1901 the Grand Canyon Railway was opened from Williams, Arizona, to the South Rim, and the development of formal tourist facilities, especially at Grand Canyon Village, increased dramatically. The Fred Harvey Company developed many facilities at the Grand Canyon, including the luxury El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim in 1905 and Phantom Ranch in the Inner Gorge in 1922. Although first afforded federal protection in 1893 as a forest reserve and later as a U.S. National Monument, the Grand Canyon did not achieve U.S. National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today, Grand Canyon National Park receives about five million visitors each year, a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 in 1919.