All News & Blogs
A new study published in the journal Science Thursday suggests the western Grand Canyon formed 70 million years ago, not 5 to 6 million years ago, as some scientists believe.
Jake Bacon/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Visit the Photo Place
Date published: 11/30/2012
Lead researcher Rebecca Flowers of the University of Colorado Boulder realizes not everyone will accept this alternative view, which minimizes the role of the Colorado River.
"Arguments will continue over the age of Grand Canyon, and I hope our study will stimulate more work to decipher the mysteries," Flowers said in an email.
It's not the first time that Flowers has dug up evidence for an older Grand Canyon. In 2008, she authored a study that suggested part of the eastern Grand Canyon, where most tourists go, formed 55 million years ago. Another study published that same year by a different group of researchers put the age of the western section at 17 million years old.
If the Grand Canyon truly existed before dinosaurs became extinct, it would have looked vastly different because the climate back then was more tropical. Dinosaurs that patrolled the American West then included smaller tyrannosaurs, horned and dome-headed dinosaurs and duckbills.
If they peered over the rim, it would not look like "the starkly beautiful desert of today, but an environment with more lush vegetation," said University of Maryland paleontologist Thomas Holtz.
Many scientists find it hard to imagine an ancient Grand Canyon since the oldest gravel and sediment that washed downstream date to about 6 million years ago and there are no signs of older deposits. And while they welcome advanced dating methods to decipher the canyon's age, Karlstrom of the University of New Mexico does not think the latest effort is very accurate.