The Grand Canyon may be younger than most people expect it to be. The world famous site, which snakes through the American State of Arizona, only took its present form relatively recently.
New research suggests that most of it was put in place just five to six million years ago per BBC news.
Earlier studies had suggested that the canyon was perhaps up to 70 million years old.
The latest investigation, published in journal Nature Geoscience, agrees that while some segments are in fact very ancient, the full system is young.
“The ‘old canyon model’ has argued that the Grand Canyon was carved 70 million years ago in the same place and to nearly the same depth as the modern canyon. We are refuting that,” said Prof Karl Karlstrom from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
“We are also refuting the ‘young canyon model’, which claims the canyon was cut entirely in the last six million years. Instead, we show that the Colorado River used some old segments as it found its path from the Rockies to the Gulf of California in the past six million years.”
Whether Kalstrom’s and his colleagues’ paper will actually ended the debate that has been going on for 140 years remains to be seen. What is certain, is people are fascinated by the Grand Canyon and its splendor.
Running for almost 450km and to a depth of 1,8000m, it is simply too large for the five million visitors who came to visit the National Park each year to fully see. Often times many will take a plane or helicopter ride through the deep incision, which records nearly two billion years of Earth history.
That large scale has also been problematic for scientists who have had to gather data from many different parts of the canyon in an attempt to gauge its true age.