North Rim - Kaibab Plateau and Unkar Delta

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“The Colorado River curves in a broad arc as it turns west into the high Kaibab Plateau (where this viewpoint is located). In doing so, it has created both the Grand Canyon and an enduring geologic puzzle. The plateau rises thousands of feet above the lowlands to the east. Why didn’t the Colorado simply avoid this plateau? Geologists have puzzled over this question for more than a century. The evidence shows the plateau rose millions of years before the canyon was cut. Although geologists are uncertain how, erosion had shaped the plateau’s landscape so the Colorado River could make its grand entrance. Continued erosion, however, destroyed many decisive clues that would explain how the river did it. Geologists are still trying to fit the puzzle pieces together, but one thing is certain. Without the unexpected turn in the Colorado’s course, there would be no Grand Canyon.” (quote and photo below from sign at this viewpoint)


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(click once on any photo below to start slideshow)


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(photo from sign at this viewpoint)

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"From the North Rim, the Colorado River and the Unkar Delta below seem distant, yet ancestral Puebloan farmers (the Kayenta Anasazi) 1100 to 800 years ago made the journey from river to rim on a routine basis, spending summers on the rim and most of the remainder of the year within the Canyon. In the winter months, the cold and snow on the rim forced them to inhabit places like the sandy delta of Unkar Creek, where they could continue to farm. During the summer, however, some of the people moved up to the rim to live in seasonal farming communities. For nearly five generations (about 100 years) farmers moved between Unkar Delta and Walhalla Glades, their summer home (across the road behind this viewpoint). They successfully planted crops along the river, near water sources in side canyons, and on the North Rim. Corn, beans, and squash were their principle crops, but they also supplemented their diet with wild game, leafy plants, roots, nuts, and berries. The stone foundations of their dwellings along with the artifacts left behind, tell stories of vibrant communities living in the harsh canyon environment.

"Archaeologists have identified more than 300 prehistoric sites on this plateau, most of them close to the rim. These ancient farmers took advantage of the warm air rising from the Canyon that provided a longer growing season here than farther back in the higher elevation, spruce-fir forests. About 1150 A.D. these people left the Canyon, possibly because of a decline in rainfall which discouraged farming.” (quote and photo from signs at this viewpoint)


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