Lesson 902: The Depths of the Canyon and its Offspring

Phantom Ranch, midway through the Grand Canyon and accessible only by trail, is the sole permanent settlement within the canyon. From there west, the canyon narrows and darkens as the Colorado River relentlessly carves its way through rock that is the oldest in the Southwest. From the north and south sides, canyons so narrow they are known as “slots” reach the churning river. Finally, the canyon—the world’s greatest geological wonder—ends and the tamed river meets the placid waters beyond. Water experts give their take on the river and what it and its waters mean.

Learning Objective

Students will learn about the geology and importance of the Colorado River and Grand Canyon.

Social Studies Standards

People, Places & Environments: E, F, J

Discussion Prompts

  • Would you want to hike in Slot Canyon with David Yetman and team? What geological features would you see up close that you might not otherwise? Does it look safe? Why or why not?
  • How does water form designs on rock over the years? Do you consider this beauty in nature to be a form of art? Explain your reasoning.
  • Many of the natural elements in this area have names such as Deer Creek and Havasu Canyon. Select five natural features from the video and come up with your own name for each that is suitable for the landscape or place.
  • The 1.8 billion year old rock in the Southwest is referred to as a geological record. How do geologists know the age of the rock and what else can they discover from looking at the rocks?

Lesson Activities

  • Conduct research on American geologist John Wesley Powell. Write five questions for a partner to answer that focuses on his historical influence and the impact he made for future generations. Then switch and answer your partner’s questions.
  • Create a trifold for a career fair that shares three different careers that center around water, rivers and canyons. For each career, add visuals and descriptions that help students understand the day-to-day tasks of each job.
  • A uranium mining company would like to expand into the Grand Canyon. You know from past experience that this may result in water contamination. Write a letter to the president of the company explaining why you will not allow the company to mine in this area.
  • In the video, the Grand Canyon is referred to as beautiful, special, magical, inspiring, transformative, sacred, and a gift. Create a photo essay that captures these sentiments about the Grand Canyon in photos and words.


  • contamination
  • cultural genocide
  • excruciatingly
  • gorge
  • hearty
  • incalculable
  • miraculously
  • ominous
  • prospectors
  • worrisome


In the Americas Season 9 Lesson Episode 2