The Canyon in 1887
The great river of Arizona is the Colorado, one of the broad water-ways of the continent which have their source in the Rocky Mountains and drain the whole country either into the Pacific Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. The Colorado rises in the State of that name and in its upper course is known as the Green River. In passing through the southeastern corner of Utah it is joined by the Grand River, the two forming the Colorado, a stream 1,500 miles in length, and navigable for over 600 miles from its mouth. This river drains the whole Territory of Arizona, every stream within its limits being tributary to it. The grand canon of the Colorado commences a few miles south of the point of the entrance of the river into this Territory and for a distance of over 400 hundred miles of its course it plunges through the most stupendous chasm on the face of the earth. The gorge is cut through the metamorphic rock of the elevated plateau by the water in its passage from the mountains to the sea. It varies in depth from 1,000 to 8,000 feet and in width from one to eighteen miles. It is impossible to present a word picture that will present anything like an adequate idea of the marvels of this canon, or rather group of canons, for within the gorge there are hundreds of other chasms, some of them thousands of feet in depth. So also are there mountains which rise from its bed to an enormous height, on the summits of which you look down from the walls of the great gorge. Standing on the cliffs of the marble canon, a name given to that portion immediately north of Flagstaff, the huge, turbulent stream at the bottom looks like a silver thread. You can travel down to it in a day’s journey on foot, but it is a long and tiresome day’s journey, and it will take you another course of the sun to climb back to the summit again. In some places it is so deep and abrupt that the stars glisten in all their nocturnal beauty at mid day, while not even a stray gleam of sunshine has ever penetrated the abyss. Think upon it! Miles upon miles of the grandest scenery in nature which has never seen a sunbeam, and into which the stars are continually peeping. But the sunshine can be seen gleaming afar off, making the distant crags look like burnished gold set with opals and diamonds. The lights and shadows creating strange architectural forms, palaces, cathedrals, obelisks and bold battlements, behind which Titans might have fought. Fantastic rocks take the form of huge cities with silent streets, on which there are no footfalls, and away beyond, with their shining towers piercing the azure vault of heaven, are the temples of the Gods. It is a land of dreams and wonder, and any attempt to describe it in sober matter-of-fact language would be out of place. The efforts to convey many idea of its lofty picturesque grandeur would be a waste of adjectives. It is undoubtedly the greatest wonder of nature to be found on earth and it must be seen before any comprehension can be had of its marvels. A visitor might spend months here and never tire of its ever varying beauty. Imagine, if you can, a huge cleft in this great Arizonian plateau longer than it is from New York to Pittsburg. In places nearly as wide as the sea which divides England from France; in other places so narrow that a rifle ball can be fired across it, and deeper than San Francisco Peak is above the town of Flagstaff or Pike’s Peak above Colorado Springs. But this only gives an idea of magnitude. Its myriad marvels and weird beauty are reserved for only those whose eyes are permitted to look upon this wonder land away below the crust of Mother Earth.
A Land of Sunshine: Flagstaff And Its Surroundings