Surprising facts about Arizona and the Grand Canyon

Arizona is a land of sights and unique landscapes: the Grand Canyon, the Saguaro Desert, ghost towns and Route 66 are just a few of them. But while much is known about Grand Canyon State in general, there are some unexpected things. The Arizona Office of Tourism presents surprising facts about the state that are new even to some locals.

The first wonder of the world

Most people think of the “new world wonders”, such as the Great Wall of China, or the “ancient wonders of the world” such as the Colossus of Rhodes or the still-preserved pyramids of Giza when they hear the term “world wonder”. But there is another list that identifies non-man-made wonders of the world. First place: The Grand Canyon! And rightly so. When the Rocky Mountains formed 80 million years ago, the Colorado River that ran there had to change its flow direction, dug its way through the rock and created the greatest natural wonder we know for millions of years. Incidentally, the Grand Canyon is the only wonder of the world in the USA.

Grand Canyon

Play of colors in the Grand Canyon (Photo: Rachel Simmons)

Grand Canyon is older than the dinosaurs

The sight of the iconic Grand Canyon is at least known from pictures, if you have not seen it with your own eyes. What you are not at first glance, however, is that the impressive rock formations contain a large variety of fossils. Fossils are the preserved remains of ancient life – such as bones, teeth, wood, and shells from previous residents. The sedimentary rocks that are exposed throughout the canyon are, for example, very rich in marine fossils, but scorpion and millipede prints are also easy to see. But what about dinosaur fossils? So far no traces of these creatures have been detected. The reason for this, according to experts, is that the Grand Canyon’s rocks are older than the oldest known dinosaurs! So if you wanted to search for traces of dinosaurs in the Grand Canyon, you will not find it there. The closest place where dinosaur tracks have been found is the nearby Navajo Reservation.

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Is it all just desert?

Many people think Arizona is a pure desert state. But that’s not true: around 15 percent of the state is covered in forests – some of them are among the largest national forests in the United States. The Tonto Forest is the largest and most diverse of Arizona’s six national forests, spanning from the cactus-covered Sonoran Desert around Phoenix to the pine-covered mountains along the Mogollon Rim.

Erster McDonalds Drive-Through

Even though Arizona offers a variety of exquisite restaurants with various local dishes and specialties, fast food is of course also part of the culinary scene. In 1975, the world’s first McDonalds drive-through opened in Arizona in the city of Sierra Vista to support soldiers who at the time were not allowed to get out of their cars in uniform.

Grand Canyon McDonaldsGrand Canyon McDonalds

Advertising poster for the first McDonalds drive-thru (Source: Sierra Vista Office of Tourism)

Cactus protection is very important

The Sonoran Desert is the only place in the world where the saguaro cactus grows. The huge cacti with their sweeping arms are probably the symbol of the American West. They can live up to 250 years and the saguaro flower is even the state flower of Arizona! However, very few people know that these majestic plants are under particularly strict protection. If someone steals a cactus, or even removes or damages part of it, this is punishable by heavy fines or even imprisonment.

Cacti in ArizonaCacti in Arizona

Cactus landscape in Arizona (Photo: Lonna Tucker for Experience Scottsdale)

Arizona’s gems

In Arizona, however, not only do impressive cacti grow, but even more valuable natural treasures! The Arizona amethyst is mined in the four summit mountains of the Mazatzal Mountains. The Arizona Four Peaks Amethyst Mine is the only amethyst mine in the United States. The royal purple color of the Arizona amethyst is considered to be one of the most beautiful and high quality in the world.

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