Grand Canyon Becomes National Monument

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• 20th Century American History

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The Grand Canyon became a national monument on January 11, 1908 as part of a declaration by President Theodore Roosevelt. A friend to the environment, Roosevelt had this to say about the natural wonder: "The ages had been at work on it, and man can only mar it."

The result of thousands of years of erosion and other natural craftmanship by the Colorado River, the Grand Canyon was home to Native Americans for hundreds of years before Europeans began exploring the area. The first European to gaze longingly at the vast crevasse was Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, who was on an expedition with Coronado, the Spanish explorer. This was in 1540.

The area stayed pristine for hundreds more years. American geologist John Wesley Powell led an expedition down the Colorado River in 1869. He and nine other men rafted down the tortuous river, braving its rapids and raging waters in spots. Remarkably, no one died.

Powell's expedition encouraged more people to explore, and people began to come to the Grand Canyon to observe its beauty and share its stunning views. To protect it from harm, Roosevelt made his announcement in 1908. Twenty-four years later, Congress declared the Grand Canyon a national park, banning private development.

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