The National Park Service is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon today as they dedicate a new trail that has been hundreds of millions of years in the making. The official ceremony will take place at 2:30 PM local time, with an informal hike along the trail taking place between 3:00 and 5:00 PM. The event is part of the park’s celebration of Earth Science Week.
The new path has been dubbed the “Trail of Time” and it is designed to be an interpretive walk that focuses on the amazing geologic processes that are on display in and around the Grand Canyon. The new exhibit follows an existing trail, but incorporates some interesting new elements that help to define the magnitude of the natural forces that are on display to visitors. For instance, there are now brass markers every meter along the route, with each of those markers representing 1 million years of geologic history. Viewing tubes have also been added which help to put into context where certain visible rocks fall along the Earth’s historical timeline.
The Trail of Time can be hiked in two different directions. If visitors start at the Yavapai Geology Museum they can walk backwards in time, slowly approaching the oldest rock in the park, the Elves Canyon gneiss. This ancient formation is more than 1.8 billion years old. On the other hand, hikers who begin at the Verkamp’s Visitor Center will actually move forward in time, approaching the youngest rock in the Grand Canyon the Kaibab Limestone, which is a mere 270 million years old.
The Grand Canyon is one of the best places on Earth to view first hand the impressive geological processes that go on around us on a daily basis. Those processes are so small that their effects can only be seen over the course of millions of years, but in the Canyon, more than a billion years of Earth history is open to examination, giving a all a very humbling glimpse into the powerful forces that are in play on our planet.
For more information on this fun and educational new trail, check out the virtual Trail of Time by clicking here.
[Photo credit: Micahel Quinn of the NPS]