Today, marks the centennial celebration of the Grand Canyon as a national park. Last time I went to the Grand Canyon was several years ago, when I was expecting my first child. It was our last big trip before baby.
Without school age kids, we had a luxury of going in the “off-season.” We went in September and stayed right outside the park. While it wasn’t absolutely empty, the crowds weren’t nearly at the volumes it has during peak season.
Being seven months pregnant, I opted out of doing any serious hiking. Instead we strolled along the south rim, stopped a scenic overlooks and sat in on ranger talks. My favorite memory was waking up early and get a spot with other visitors to watch the sun rise over the canyon. It was a chilly morning. As the sun came up and its light hit the canyon walls, there were collecting oohs and ahhs, from all of us watching the rocks light show off their brilliant colors.
The Grand Canyon holds a special place in the American psyche. It’s a must do road trip for an American family, everyone from the Brady’s to the Simpsons has visited.
President Roosevelt established the park in 1906 as a National Game Preserve. The National Parks Association lobbied Congress to pass the Antiquities Act of 1906, which gave the president the power to create national monuments. Once passed, Roosevelt added the adjacent national forests renamed the area Grand Canyon National Monument. It not become a National Park until 1919 under President Woodrow Wilson. Along the way, efforts to make the monument into a park were blocked by opponents such as those that held mining claim holders.
It’s hard for someone like me to imagine the Grand Canyon as anything but a national park. While a 100-year anniversary is but a blip on the screen considering it’s been a formation for millions of years, it’s significant to us as a country. With people all around the world coming to visit, it’s more than a national park, it’s a national symbol.