Natural Features & Ecosystems
The entire park area is considered to be semi-arid desert, but distinct habitats are located at different elevations along the 8,000 foot elevation gradient. Near the Colorado River, riparian vegetation and sandy beaches prevail. Just above the river corridor a desert scrub community exists complete with a wide variety of cacti and warm desert scrub species. A pinyon pine and juniper forest grows above the desert scrub up to 6,200 feet, while between 6,200 feet and 8,200 feet ponderosa pine is abundant. On the North Rim at elevations above 8,200 feet, a spruce-fir forest tops out the park.
As in all natural habitats, the type and abundance of organisms is directly related to the presence or absence of water. The Colorado River and its tributaries, as well as springs, seeps, stock tanks and ephemeral pools provide oases to flora and fauna in this semi-arid southwest desert area.
The arid climate has been a benefit to the Paleontological resources of the park. The dry climate has been instrumental in preserving many prehistoric fossils deep within caves in Grand Canyon's geologic formations.
Grand Canyon is the result of a distinct and ordered combination of geologic events. Through this virtual experience you will be able to travel into this great chasm and unfold the chapters in Grand Canyon's geologic history. Learn more...
The Grand Canyon truly is a special place. Life abounds within the canyon, in the Colorado River, and even along the rims.
Even humans have inhabited this area for at least the past couple thousand years. Learn more...
Did You Know?
The impacts caused by tamarisk within the Grand Canyon are well documented. These prolific non-native shrubs displace native vegetation and animals, alter soil salinity, and increase fire frequency. What is park management doing about this exotic plant? More...