GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 75-11
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


RANNEY, Wayne, 628 N. Apollo Way, Flagstaff, AZ 86001

When visitors arrive at the edge of Grand Canyon, the earth opens beneath their feet and they are filled with awe – and questions. Besides the all-to-common, “Where is the bathroom?” and “Can we visit the glass sidewalk?” the next obvious question is, “How did this happen? One long-used answer, “The Colorado River did it,” is often vague, even confusing, to those who have never thought about deep time or landscape evolution. In coming to terms with such immense time and space, more suitable answers may exist. I have spent 44 years immersed in Grand Canyon’s geologic story – both scientifically and literally – beginning a career in geology while working as a backcountry ranger in the bottom of the canyon and working as a river and trail guide. As such, I continue to experiment with techniques that can make sense of this complex topic for non-professionals.

One method involves sharing aspects of the nearly 480-year-long Euro-American relationship with the canyon. In short, for 318 years the reaction to the canyon was exclusively negative. However, in 1857-58, John Strong Newberry became the first geologist to see the canyon and since then, near universal praise has come from a host of 19th through 21st century geologists, who continue to proclaim its world-class significance. Using the intersection of a strictly human story with aspects of the canyon’s geology can be a compelling way to make geologic concepts more readily grasped and internalized. In this Pardee Symposium talk, I will share parts of this Euro-American history at Grand Canyon and some of the historical ideas regarding the canyon’s formation. Attendees may also access these methods by reviewing my two books, “Carving Grand Canyon” and “Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau,” which are uniquely aimed at professionals and non-professionals alike. These two books are the direct result of a life-long passion for sharing the geology of the Grand Canyon with varied audiences.

  • Ranney GSA 2019.pptx (47.2 MB)