A Grand Canyon as Old as the Dinosaurs?

A longstanding geological fight over the age of one of the most iconic landscapes in the United States — Arizona’s Grand Canyon — may finally be over. This explanation aims to reconcile a flurry of seemingly contradictory findings that enlivened discussion about when the canyon was carved. He and his colleagues describe the findings today in Nature Geoscience 1. Geologists agree that the colorful layers of rock that make up the canyon walls are ancient, dating back as much as 1. The debate focuses on a different number — when exactly the Colorado River began cutting through those layered rocks, forming the three-dimensional chasm that tourists swarm to today. But over the past few years, several studies have marshalled a range of geologic evidence to suggest that the canyon could be tens of millions of years old 2 , 3. Karlstrom and his team find that parts of the canyon could be tens of millions of years old, but that the canyon as a whole is much younger. Scientists can date a canyon’s formation with geochemical techniques that measure the temperature of rocks over time. The deeper a rock is buried, the warmer it is.

Grand Canyon

Figure 1. Grand Canyon National Park preserves an iconic geologic landscape and resources ranging from 1, to million years old, including diverse paleontological resources; unconsolidated surface deposits; a complex tectonic and erosion history; and Pliocene to Holocene volcanic deposits. The Colorado River established its course through the canyon about six million years ago, and likely evolved from pre-existing drainages to its current course.

The most powerful force to have an impact on the Grand Canyon is erosion, By dating the fossils found in the rock of the Kaibab Limestone, geologists have.

September 30, by Beth Geiger. Dinosaurs disappeared about 65 million years ago. That corn cob found in an ancient Native American fire pit is 1, years old. How do scientists actually know these ages? Geologic age dating—assigning an age to materials—is an entire discipline of its own. In a way this field, called geochronology, is some of the purest detective work earth scientists do.

There are two basic approaches: relative age dating, and absolute age dating. Here is an easy-to understand analogy for your students: relative age dating is like saying that your grandfather is older than you. Absolute age dating is like saying you are 15 years old and your grandfather is 77 years old. To determine the relative age of different rocks, geologists start with the assumption that unless something has happened, in a sequence of sedimentary rock layers, the newer rock layers will be on top of older ones.

This is called the Rule of Superposition. This rule is common sense, but it serves as a powerful reference point. Relative age dating also means paying attention to crosscutting relationships. Say for example that a volcanic dike, or a fault, cuts across several sedimentary layers, or maybe through another volcanic rock type.

Dating the Rocks of the Grand Canyon (Old Earth vs. Young Earth)

Slopes of Dox Formation near Unkar Creek. How was it formed? The truth is that no one knows for sure though there are some pretty good guesses. The chances are that a number of processes combined to create the views that you see in todays Grand Canyon.

How the Grand Canyon was carved has been a topic of scientific Now, using a radiometric dating method called uranium-thorium-helium.

Visit our Grand Canyon Slideshow. Photo of the Grand Canyon courtesy of Carol M. Until recently, the Grand Canyon , one of the most spectacular and mysterious natural wonders of the world, was thought to be about six million years old. With improved dating techniques, geologists now believe that it actually started to form some 17 million years ago. Geologists estimated the Grand Canyon’s age at six million years by using a technique called uranium-lead dating.

The Grand Canyon walls are lined with a sedimentary rock called Redwall Limestone.

Fallen Boulder Reveals 313 Million-Year-Old Fossil Footprints At Grand Canyon

President Theodore Roosevelt was a major proponent of preservation of the Grand Canyon area and visited it on numerous occasions to hunt and enjoy the scenery. Nearly two billion years of Earth’s geological history have been exposed as the Colorado River and its tributaries cut their channels through layer after layer of rock while the Colorado Plateau was uplifted. For thousands of years, the area has been continuously inhabited by Native Americans , who built settlements within the canyon and its many caves.

Teddy Roosevelt called the Grand Canyon one of the great sights that The canyon, with roots dating back billions of years, might shrug off.

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New research suggests Grand Canyon is ‘younger’ rather than ‘older’

Now, with new geochronologic data from the canyon and surrounding plateaus, geologists from the California Institute of Technology present significant evidence that the canyon formed nearly 50 million years earlier than previously thought. The team studied the sedimentary rock layers, or strata, of both the canyon and a large area of the surrounding plateaus.

These strata were deposited near sea level sometime in the Paleozoic era million years ago and were subsequently uplifted and eroded to form the canyon. But questions like when and why the canyon itself formed have remained open.

The Grand Canyon is a rich, geologic landscape formed over millions of However, recent advances in dating techniques have upended the.

There are a number of lava flows on the plateau that the canyon is cut into yellow in Figure 1, above. These lava flows are Cenozoic in age, and some of them spill into the canyon. The walls of the canyon are mostly cut into horizontal rock layers of Paleozoic age green in Figure 1, above. There is an angular unconformity at the bottom of the Paleozoic layers. An angular unconformity is the result of tilting and eroding of the lower layers before the upper ones are deposited.

These tilted and eroded layers are Precambrian in age blue in Figure 1, above. The geological relationships of the various formations are quite clear. The lava flows which spill into the canyon must be younger than the canyon. The canyon must be younger than the rock layers that it cuts into. The sediments above the angular unconformity must be younger than the sediments below it.

Even young-earth creationists would agree with this relative sequencing of events.

How to Date the Grand Canyon: Go With the Flow

Nicolaus Steno introduced basic principles of stratigraphy , the study of layered rocks, in William Smith , working with the strata of English coal Former swamp-derived plant material that is part of the rock record. The figure of this geologic time scale shows the names of the units and subunits. Using this time scale, geologists can place all events of Earth history in order without ever knowing their numerical ages.

For geologists, the Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural of rivers to erode landscapes, the walls of the canyon reveal rock strata that date from.

When asked to imagine the biggest, deepest, longest canyon one can imagine, an image of the Grand Canyon will often pop into a person’s mind. The Grand Canyon is a site of almost unfathomable grandeur, which inspires awe in anyone who sees it. Lately, however, the canyon has also inspired controversy, specifically over its origins. It is generally held by the scientific community that the Grand Canyon formed by the slow erosion of the Colorado River over millions of years.

Steve Austin, however, has proposed an entirely different theory on the age and formation of the canyon and wrote a book explaining his theories titled Grand Canyon: Monument to Catastrophe. Austin believes that the canyon was formed extremely rapidly during the period immediately following the global flood of Noah in the biblical book of Genesis. Austin proposed that the canyon is thousands, not millions of years old.

This fits into the larger field of Creation Science, in which people try to prove with scientific evidence that the world is only 6, years old. This paper will summarize Dr. Austin’s claims and delve into the evidence he uses to support them by examining his book. Austin supports his claim with theories of rapid erosion and Flood deposition of fossils.

Geologic Age Dating Explained

The canyon itself is made up of rock layers that are millions and, in some cases, billions of years old, with each layer representing a different geological time period. But the actual carving of the canyon and when it began to resemble the Grand Canyon as we know it today is a bit harder to pin down. One thing geologists can agree on is the age of the layers of rock that make up the walls of the Grand Canyon. The youngest layer of the canyon—the Kaibab—is million years old, while the oldest layers date back as far as 1.

This may seem like a long time ago, but it is actually quite recent if you consider the full timeline of the Grand Canyon.


Its banded walls make up one of the most magnificent landscapes on Earth. And yet it seems the only time reporters bother to mention its geology is when they are writing about creationists and their bogus claims that the Grand Canyon formed a few thousand years ago. It’s a shame, because the real story of the Grand Canyon is a riveting epic. Even its scientific history is fascinating: Figuring out just how old the Grand Canyon is has challenged geologists for years.

And just this week, the mystery may be solved. Creationists would have you believe that the Grand Canyon formed in Noah’s flood. They offer raft trips down the Colorado River where they explain how this supposedly happened. The book appeared in the park stores in , whereupon National Park Service geologists went ballistic.

Module 9 Assignment

Dating the Rocks of The Grand Canyon old earth vs. When looking at the Grand Canyon, there are essentially two sides, the South side and the North side also known as Rims. Young Earth Dating the rocks of the Grand Canyon is a scientific way to find out the age of this mysterious landmark.

This scenario is consistent with the dating of the onset of erosion by the Colorado River in the western part of the Grand Canyon. Luchitta () shows that this.

Relative dating is the process of determining if one rock or geologic event is older or younger than another, without knowing their specific ages—i. The principles of relative time are simple, even obvious now, but were not generally accepted by scholars until the scientific revolution of the 17th and 18th centuries [ 3 ]. James Hutton see Chapter 1 realized geologic processes are slow and his ideas on uniformitarianism i.

Stratigraphy is the study of layered sedimentary rocks. This section discusses principles of relative time used in all of geology, but are especially useful in stratigraphy. Principle of Superposition: In an otherwise undisturbed sequence of sedimentary strata, or rock layers, the layers on the bottom are the oldest and layers above them are younger.

Principle of Original Horizontality: Layers of rocks deposited from above, such as sediments and lava flows, are originally laid down horizontally. The exception to this principle is at the margins of basins, where the strata can slope slightly downward into the basin. Principle of Lateral Continuity: Within the depositional basin, strata are continuous in all directions until they thin out at the edge of that basin.

Of course, all strata eventually end, either by hitting a geographic barrier, such as a ridge, or when the depositional process extends too far from its source, either a sediment source or a volcano. Strata that are cut by a canyon later remain continuous on either side of the canyon. Principle of Cross-Cutting Relationships: Deformation events like folds, faults and igneous intrusions that cut across rocks are younger than the rocks they cut across.

Why Dating Methods Can Date Nothing