The Grand Canyon is one of the oldest national parks in the country. This majestic canyon is millions of years old and is one of the most incredible tourist destinations of all time. Standing next to this striking natural wonder makes you realize how small you are in this world.
Most people have nothing but good stories about trips to the Grand Canyon, but most don’t realize how this United States treasure is also one of the deadliest parks in the country. Find out what lives at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, the most dangerous animals you may face, and what makes this canyon so treacherous.
What is the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon is a narrow valley with steep sides carved by the Colorado River. Located in Arizona, this canyon is 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and over a mile in depth. It may not be the largest canyon in the world, but it is the most intrinsic and colorful. The Colorado River has been cutting its way through these rocks for an incomprehensible amount of time, and you can see the geological history in every layer.
Native Americans have inhabited the Grand Canyon for thousands of years. They considered it a holy site and built settlements and pilgrimages in the canyons and caves. The first European to lay eyes on this beauty was a Spaniard in 1540. American exploration of the canyon didn’t begin until the early 1800s. President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument on January 11, 1908.
Today, the Grand Canyon attracts over five million visitors annually. The park offers exciting attractions like sightseeing, rafting, hiking, camping, mule rides, and helicopter tours. Has anyone been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon? What lives down there?
What Lives at the Bottom of the Grand Canyon?
The Havasupai people and numerous animals, including mammals, reptiles, birds, insects, and amphibians, live at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
A list of animals you might see at the bottom of the Grand Canyon:
- Desert bighorn sheep
- Mule deer
- Mountain lions
- Gray fox
- Bald eagles
- Black bears
The park is a semi-arid desert, but if you were to walk the entirety of the area, you would pass through five ecosystems. Above the canyon rim is the boreal forest, featuring mountain lions, mule deer, and long-tail voles. The Ponderosa pine is the next ecosystem found from the top of the canyon to around 6,500 feet. This area contains mountain lions, deer, and Kaibab squirrels.
From 4,200 to 2,000 feet is the desert scrub ecosystem, where you will find spotted skunks, chipmunks, and jackrabbits. The bottom of the canyon is a desert surrounded by riparian vegetation and animals like canyon tree frogs and red-spotted toads.
Deer are the most common animals people will spot when visiting the park, but that doesn’t mean you can’t come face to face with more dangerous creatures. What animals should you look out for?
The Havasupai People
The Havasupai are a Native American tribe that lives in the Grand Canyon. They inhabit an area known as Havasu Canyon and have been there for over 800 years. The Federal Government kept pushing these natives further and further to the brink, limiting their resources.
However, they regained 185,000 acres in 1975 after they fought back using the judicial system. Today, they use tourism as a means to survive by providing accommodations for visitors at the Havasupai Indian Reservation.
What are the Most Lethal Animals in the Grand Canyon?
You may think that the most dangerous animal in the Grand Canyon would be a bear or a charging moose, but in reality, it’s a squirrel. Rock squirrels are a large species of ground squirrels that work in teams and like to lure people in with their cute faces. Based on emergency room visits near the canyon, squirrel attacks are the most frequent. While most will leave you alone, signs on the trails urge people to avoid these ferocious creatures. Their bites are not deadly, but they can carry diseases.
While it’s true that mountain lions are more afraid of you than you of it, this doesn’t mean you are entirely safe. These big cats blend in with the environment and are likely to attack if they have cubs nearby. Your instincts may tell you to run, but that triggers their predator/prey instinct. The best way to handle these lions is to make yourself big by making noise, raising your arms, and maintaining eye contact. Also, keep small children by your side at all times.
Lurking underneath rocks and shrubs are Grand Canyon rattlesnakes. These reptiles blend in with their environment and will likely dig their fangs into you if they become startled. Their rattles warn intruders, but sometimes this alert can be hard to hear, especially if you are next to a waterfall or other loud feature. Their bites are highly venomous, and you must seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Bark scorpions hide underneath piles of wood, tree bark, and rocks. Their stings feel similar to a bee sting, but the pain grows in intensity over the next 24 to 72 hours. 85% of bark scorpion stings are nonlethal and will cause symptoms like tingling, numbness, nausea, and vomiting. However, small children and older adults are more susceptible to the venom and may need immediate medical care.
Why is the Grand Canyon the Most Dangerous National Park?
Over 900 people have died in the Grand Canyon. On average, park rangers see about 12 deaths per year. The leading causes of fatalities in the park are helicopter/plane crashes, falling from cliffs, drowning in the river, and environmental deaths, such as overheating.
Tips to Stay Safe
- Always stay on designated trails at least six feet from the edge. Do not climb over barriers.
- Keep an eye on everyone in your group and ensure small children stay close.
- Do not run or jump, and watch your foot placement at all times.
- Do not toss objects over the edge as it can hurt the hikers below.
- Be prepared for extreme weather and avoid hiking during thunderstorms or snow storms.
- Rest often, use sunscreen, and hydrate.
- Do not feed wildlife and keep 100 feet away.
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