"Our loyalties are to the species and the planet. We speak for Earth. Our obligation to survive and flourish is owed not just to ourselves, but also to that Cosmos, ancient and vast, from which we spring." - Carl Sagan
Grand Canyon’s Horseshoe Bend
There cannot be enough said about a canyon so massive that it can be seen from space; whose cliffs are so deep that it takes hours to hike down, either by foot or mule. The Grand Canyon has taken 3 – 6 million years to form and it is still at the grip of natural erosion. At the eastern end of the canyon, near Page, Arizona lays Horseshoe Bend. This uniquely shaped section of the Grand Canyon was originally part of North America’s largest network of sand dunes that existed nearly 200 million years ago. These sand dune systems, called ergs, eventually hardened over time and created deep layers of sandstone. Eventually, additional layers of mudstone and other sedimentary layers were formed and packed on top.
If you look closely into the hardened canyon walls, you can see wavy and diagonal stripes carved into their sides. These ridges are actually the different layers of the sand dunes as they became petrified by calcite over the course of about 20 million years. Eventually the Colorado River carved its way through the sandstone and created this river path that completes a 270̊ turn over the distance of nearly 4.5 kilometers (≈2.75 miles), known as Horseshoe Bend. From the base of the canyon, the surrounding walls stand a staggering 305 meters (≈1,000 ft) tall almost completely vertical and in them you can see the different layers of rock that formed over time.
As one of the seven natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon has well earned its name. Despite how awe-inspiring and profoundly beautiful as Horseshoe Bend may look here, pictures cannot do the area its true deserved justice. It is only when you are standing on the cliff’s edge, and all you can hear is the movement of the river 300+ meters below you that you can appreciate Horseshoe Bend and the Grand Canyon for what they truly are.
Image credit: Massimo Tava