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5 totally amazing facts about the Grand Canyon

Mike Kline (notkalvin)/Getty Images

On a hot, sunny day last April, 11-year-old Helene Prestandrea gazed out over the vast landscape of the Grand Canyon. She couldn’t believe her eyes.

“I had seen photos, but actually being there was totally different,” Helene recalls. “I was in awe of how beautiful it was.”

About 6 million people visit the landmark in northern Arizona each year. That number is expected to go up this year, as Grand Canyon National Park celebrates its 100th birthday.

On February 26, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson signed a law creating the national park. That means much of the canyon will be protected for generations of visitors like Helene.

Here are five things to know about this natural wonder.

1. It’s been around a lot longer than 100 years.

Jim McMahon/Mapman®

But no one knows exactly how long. Most experts say the Colorado River began to carve out the canyon about 6 million years ago. Others think it may have started as a series of smaller canyons about 70 million years ago. Either way, the Grand Canyon is considered one of the world’s most spectacular examples of erosion.

2. It’s so huge, astronauts can see it from space.

The sprawling canyon is bigger than the state of Rhode Island. Driving from the canyon’s South Rim to the North Rim takes about five hours.

3. The world’s tallest buildings could easily fit inside it.

ZOONAR GMBH LBRF/AGE Fotostock (Grand Canyon height); PixelSquid3d/ (Empire State Building)

The canyon is about a mile deep on average. Brave visitors can hike down into the canyon over rough, steep terrain. But park rangers warn against trying to make the trip all the way down and back in one day. Don’t want to walk? No problem! You can ride a mule along the winding trails instead.

4. Beware of snakes!

Pete Oxford/Minden Pictures

The Grand Canyon is home to six species of venomous rattlesnakes. That includes the Grand Canyon pink rattlesnake (right), which isn’t found anywhere else on Earth.

5. There’s a place to walk on air . . . sort of.

John Burcham/National Geographic Magazines/Getty Images

The U-shaped Grand Canyon Skywalk has a see-through glass bottom. It juts out past the edge of the canyon, giving visitors the thrill of looking straight down to the canyon floor. The Skywalk is located outside the park in nearby lands that belong to the Hualapai (WAHL-uh-pie) Tribe, Native people who have lived in the region for centuries.

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