What is a Canyon Landform: Formation, Location, Examples and Facts


If you look out of your window, you’ll probably see buildings, trees, telephone poles and so on. The world we live in today has mostly been shaped by humans. However, it’s not only humans that are moving things and shaping the planet. Rain, wind, and other natural elements shape the earth all the time, leaving scintillating structures called landforms. These landforms are mainly formed due to the constant weathering and erosion by water and wind. While formation of landforms takes ages (making them hard to notice), it actually happens. Mountains are some of the most known kinds of landforms, but canyons have proved to be exhilarating and attractive over the years.

A canyon is a deep and narrow valley consisting of steep sides created by weathering and erosion by rivers, wind, rain and tectonic activity. Rivers have a natural capability to gorge through underlying surfaces, so they will ultimately weather and carry away rock layers. Over time, their bottom reach baseline elevation, which is, essentially, the same elevation as the water body that it would eventually drain into. This series of events leads up to the formation of a canyon.

When the topic of canyons comes up in a discussion, the Grand Canyon quickly springs to mind. The Grand Canyon is one of the most spectacular natural wonders of the world. It’s believed to have been carved by the Colorado River millions of years ago. It’s a great spectacle that overwhelms ours senses due to its sheer size.

The Grand Canyon is 277 miles (446 km) long, including the 60 miles (96 km) of Marble Canyon upstream. The depth of its main sections ranges between 3,000 and 6,000 feet (900 and 1,800 m); including the rim-to-rim width between 4 and 18 miles (6 and 29 km).The south rim of the park is open to the public all year round. It’s is a solid economic treasure as it attracts over 5 million visitors each year.

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Despite its glamour, it’s not the deepest canyon in the world.  The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon (or Tsangpo Canyon), along the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, is the deepest canyon on the globe, 5,500 m (18,000 ft) to put a figure on it. It considered slightly longer than the Grand Canyon.

How is a Canyon Formed?

Canyons are created by water and wind erosion over time after a huge plateau, mountain or hill is formed. These plateaus, mountains, and hills are formed due to tectonic movements. Over time, snow covers the peak of these landforms. The snow eventually melts and flow down the mountain pulling up in one area. Small rivers join up to make a larger one. Some pull up into lakes, while others change direction. This is exactly how the Colorado River was born.

This river is extraordinary because it drops 10 feet every mile it travels. While moving, it carries along about half a million tons of sediment (rock, sand, and silt) downstream each day. This sediment carrying river cuts the plateau just like a waterfall weathers a cliff. It cuts deep gorges like hot knife through butter. That’s exactly how the canyon gets deep. The big question is: how do canyons get so wide? Well, the force of gravity is the main cause. Rain and ice weather the canyon wall and carries the material downstream, leaving a wide canyon. Today, canyons are still continuing to get deeper and wider due to the erosional forces of rivers, rainfall, and ice.

Location of Canyons

Canyons exist in virtually every corner of the earth. Examples of countries that have canyons include China, United States, France, Italy, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, Canada, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Namibia, Mali, England, South Africa, New Zealand, Austria, Switzerland, Greece, England, Turkey, and Scotland.

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Examples of Canyon

  1. The Yarlung Tsangpo, Tibet/China

It’s considered the longest and deepest canyon in the world beating the Grand Canyon. It’s located between the Gyla Peri and Namcha Barwa mountain ranges. The Yarlung Tsangpo is about 16, 000 feet deep and it was named Yarlung Tsangpo “The Everest of Rivers” by boat explorers due to its narrowing conditions.

  1. The Grand Canyon

Located in northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon is, without doubt, the most famous canyon in the world. It boasts 5 million visitors each year. The south rim is responsible for most tourist attractions. The view from either rim is the most alluring and accessible on the globe. The visibility of 2 billion years of exposed geology by hiking the 4,400 feet from rim to river gives the Grand Canyon extra glamour.

  1. Verdon Gorge, France

The cool turquoise-green Verdon River snakes through the Verdon Gorge canyon. It’s considered Europe’s most scintillating canyon with a depth of 2,300 feet and length of 13 miles. Rock climbers have managed to create over 15, 000 routes throughout the limestone wall of the canyon. Verdon Gorge receives over 150, 000 visitors every year. Kayakers, hikers, and motorists form the bulk of visitors to this canyon.

  1. Copper Canyon, Mexico

The Copper Canyon is situated in Northern Mexico. It consists of a series of enormous canyons in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains. Its name was derived from the copper-green color of the canyon walls. The canyons were created by 6 rivers that empty the western part of the Sierra Tarahumara. The 6 rivers combine into the Rio Fuerte and drain into the Gulf of California.

  1. The Fish River Canyon

The Fish River Canyon is Africa’s largest Canyon and one of the top destinations for tourism in Namibia. Its panoramic view is simply superb and breathtaking. It consists of a huge ravine, approximately 100 miles long, more than 27 km wide and some sections are up to 550 meters deep. Because a huge dam has been built on the Fish River, it harbors a small amount of running water.

  1. Colca Canyon, Peru
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This canyon is 2 times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Some think it’s the deepest canyon in the world because of its 13,650 feet. Its glittering 45-mile length brims with cultural history, consisting of pre-Inca and Inca settlement and indigenous people who preserve ancestral traditions. The Andean condor is Colca Canyon’s greatest attraction spot, which frequently floats at thermals close to tourists.

Canyon Facts

  • Canyons have provided passage to geological researchers for many years due to their exposed rock.
  • Canyons are known by different names depending on the region you live. Canyon is a familiar name is North America. Canyons are normally called gorges or ravines in Europe.
  • The Grand Canyon is the most famous canyon in America. In fact, many see it as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
  • The Mariana Trench is the deepest underwater canyon. It’s found at a point where the Pacific plate slides under the Philippine Plate. It’s 35,827 feet deep, a stark contrast to the Grand Canyon, which is about 4000 feet.
  • The rock situated at the bottom of a canyon is extremely old. For, instance, scientists estimate the rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to be more than 2 billion years old. The rocks found at its rim are estimated to be 230 million years old.
  • A box canyon consists of 3, steep rocks walls wrapping around it, enabling access to it only through the mouth. These kinds of canyons were mainly used as corals in the Wild West in U.S. and to lure game into during hunting expeditions.
Photo by: PatternPictures

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