Study Defends Young Age of the Grand Canyon

Jul 28, 2015

New research supports the long-held hypothesis that the Grand Canyon is as young as six million years. That’s what geologists originally believed before a different study claimed it was tens of millions of years older.

The view from the south rim of the Grand Canyon.
Credit Melissa Sevigny

The study was conducted by geologists at Arizona State University. It compares the western Grand Canyon with the Grand Wash Cliffs. It found that the canyon is steeper than the cliffs, which suggests erosion started more recently.

“So our conclusion is that it’s younger than the activity on the Grand Wash Fault,” said Andrew Darling, lead author of the study. “If the canyon’s younger than the fault, that would be consistent with the six million year old canyon age.”  

A previous study in 2012 revitalized research and debate when it claimed the Grand Canyon might be as old as 70 million years. That study looked at the decay of radioactive elements in rocks. The ASU study looked at geomorphology, particularly erosion rates.