Grand Canyon National Park celebrates 94th birthday Feb. 26

Park Service to serve cake during small ceremony at Grand Canyon Visitor Center at 11 a.m., public welcome

Prehistoric granaries along the Colorado River above Nankoweap in Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park. Mark Lellouch/NPS

Prehistoric granaries along the Colorado River above Nankoweap in Marble Canyon, Grand Canyon National Park. Mark Lellouch/NPS

On Feb. 26, Grand Canyon National Park will celebrate the anniversary of its designation as a national park 94 years to the day after an act to establish the Grand Canyon National Park in the State of Arizona was signed into law.

"Protection of this spectacular landscape actually started long before Grand Canyon became a national park," Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said. "People started trying to protect the canyon as early as the 1880s; and its first official protection and recognition came in the 1890s when it was set aside as a national forest reserve by President Benjamin Harrison."

Harrison wasn't the only president to take an interest in the canyon's protection. In the early 1900s, after saying of the canyon, "Leave it as it is. You cannot improve on it. The ages have been at work on it and man can only mar it..." President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed Grand Canyon a national game preserve. Two years later, after passage of the Antiquities Act, he established it as Grand Canyon National Monument.

Arizona achieved statehood four years later in 1912, just five years before Grand Canyon was designated a national park in 1919.

"On Feb. 26, the National Park Service (NPS) will host the park's 94th birthday with cake and a small ceremony at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center," Uberuaga went on to say. "...But it might surprise people to know that for years, the U.S. Forest Service hosted Grand Canyon's birthday celebrations. The Forest Service administered Grand Canyon from the time it became a forest reserve until it became a national park. This place really does have a fascinating, and sometimes complicated, history."

The Park Service invites everyone to join in the park's birthday celebration where a small ceremony will be put on at the Grand Canyon Visitor Center on the South Rim of the canyon at 11 a.m. on Feb. 26. NPS will serve birthday cake immediately afterward. Verkamp's Visitor Center in Grand Canyon Village will also serve cake. Those who plan to attend might want to brush up on their Grand Canyon history, though.

"We'll have a contest of sorts to test people's knowledge of the Grand Canyon and its history," Uberuaga said. "I wouldn't be surprised if it got pretty competitive."

The Grand Canyon is 277 river miles long, averages 10 miles across, and its walls rise almost a mile above the Colorado River. Designated a national park on Feb. 26, 1919, Grand Canyon National Park is now a World Heritage Site. In 1919, park visitation was just less than 38,000 and in 2012 was almost 4.5 million. Grand Canyon National Park is one of 22 national park units in the state of Arizona, which collectively contribute more than $700 million in economic benefits to the state.

More facts about the Grand Canyon and its colorful history are available by visiting the park's website at www.nps.gov/grca and www.nps.gov/grca/historyculture/index.htm, or the Library of Congress website at: www.memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/feb26.html. More information on national parks in Arizona is available by visiting www.nps.gov/state/az/index.htm?program=all.

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