The Grand Canyon National Park

03.18.2021 - By PlanetGeo: The Geology Podcast

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“Crying: acceptable at funerals and the Grand Canyon” - Ron Swanson

Today, we talk about the Grand Canyon.  The scenery and geology combine to create one of the Natural Wonders of the World.  If you are planning a trip, or would like to learn more about this spectacular location, listen to this episode! 

It’s hard to show the principles of stratigraphy better than what’s on display in the Grand Canyon.  Each layer gives clues to the environment of deposition and what the Earth was like at the time the sediment was laid down.  It’s one of the best example of the geological Laws of Superposition and Original Horizontality on the planet.  Other relative dating principles, that are also amazing textbook examples, include the principles of lateral continuity and cross cutting relations.

In this episode you will learn about the three main groups of rock formations on display in the Canyon. Really the only way to talk about them is from oldest to youngest - start at the beginning and work to last page in the book.  The three formations are: 1- The Metamorphic Basement Rocks (up to 1.7 BILLION years old!) 2- The Precambrian Grand Canyon Supergroup - all sedimentary rocks with a billion years of missing time.  3- Paleozoic Strata -  a continuous record of Earth for ~300 million years.  The bottom line is that the rocks are old, and the canyon is young.  We end this podcast with a discussion of the very young volcanic rocks around the Grand Canyon like Sunset Crater, and we also discuss some scientific ideas about how the Canyon formed, a process that started about five million years ago.  

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