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What, then, is this Grand Canyon?
(Travel & Leisure)
By: Geoffrey Sweeney

What, then, is this Grand Canyon, for which its friends dare to make so large and bold a claim?

It is a portion--a very small portion--of the waterway of the Colorado River, and it is so named to differentiate it from the other canyons of the same river. The canyon system of the Colorado River is as vast in its extent as is the Grand Canyon in its quality of sublimity. For it consists of such a maze of canyons--the main canyons through which the river itself runs; the canyons through which its tributaries run; the numberless canyons tributary to the tributary canyons; the canyons within canyons, that, upon the word of no less an authority than Major Powell, I assert that if these canyons were placed end for end in a straight line they would reach over twenty thousand miles! Is it possible for the human mind to conceive a canyon system so vast that, if it were so placed, it would nearly belt the habitable globe?

Impression on Beholders. And the principal member of this great system has been named The Grand Canyon, as a conscious and meaningful tribute to its vastness, its sublimity, its grandeur and its awesomeness. It is unique; it stands alone. Though only two hundred and seventeen miles long, it expresses within that distance more than any one human mind yet has been able to comprehend or interpret to the world. Famous word-masters have attempted it, great canvas and colormasters have tried it, but all alike have failed. It is one of the few things that man is utterly unable to imagine until he comes in actual contact with it. A strange being, a strange flower, an unknown reptile, a unique machine, or a strange and unknown anything, almost, within the ken of man, can be explained to another so that he will reasonably comprehend it; but not so with the Grand Canyon. I had an illustration of this but a few days ago. A member of my own household, keenly intelligent and well-read, who had heard my own descriptions a thousand and one times, and had seen photographs and paintings, without number, of the Canyon, came with me on her first visit to the camp where I am now writing. As the carriage approached the rim at Hotouta Amphitheatre and gave her the first glimpse of the Canyon, she drew back terrified, appalled, horror-stricken. Subsequent analysis of her emotions and the results of that first glimpse revealed a state of mind so overpowered with the sublimity, vastness, depth and power of the scene, that her impressions were totally inadequate, altogether lacking in detail and accuracy, and at complete variance with her habitual observations.

The Grand Canyon - How to See It

This article was posted on Aug 5, 2005

About The Author
Geoffrey Sweeney

Article submitted by Geoff Sweeney from From the Book "The Grand Canyon and How to See it" Available at

                                 Other Articles By Geoffrey Sweeney


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