In September 1540, under orders from the conquistador Francisco Vazquez de Coronado to search for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola, Captain Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, along with Hopi guides and a small group of Spanish soldiers, traveled to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon between Desert View and Moran Point. Pablo de Melgrossa, Juan Galeras, and a third soldier descended some one third of the way into the Canyon until they were forced to return because of lack of water. In their report, they noted that some of the rocks in the Canyon were “bigger than the great tower of Seville.” It is speculated that their Hopi guides must have been reluctant to lead them to the river, since they must have known routes to the canyon floor. Afterwards, no Europeans visited the Canyon for over two hundred years.
Fathers Francisco Atanasio Dom¡nguez and Silvestre Valez de Escalante were two Spanish Priests who, with a group of Spanish soldiers, explored southern Utah and traveled along the North Rim of the Canyon in Glen and Marble Canyons in search of a route from Santa Fe to California in 1776. They eventually found a crossing at present-day Lees Ferry.
Also in 1776, Fray Francisco Garces, a Franciscan missionary, spent a week near Havasupai, unsuccessfully attempting to convert a band of Indians. He described the Canyon as “profound”.
Jacob Hamblin (a Mormon missionary) was sent by Brigham Young in the 1850s to locate easy river crossing sites in the Canyon. Building good relations with local Native Americans and white settlers, he discovered Lee’s Ferry in 1858 and Pierce Ferry (later operated by, and named for, Harrison Pierce) – the only two sites suitable for ferry operation. He also acted as an advisor to John Wesely Powell before his second expedition to the Grand Canyon, acting as a diplomat between Powell and the local native tribes to ensure the safety of his party.
In 1857, the U.S. War Department asked Lieutenant Joseph Ives to lead an expedition to assess the feasibility of an up-river navigation from the Gulf of California. Also in a stern wheeler steamboat “Explorer”, after two months and 350 miles (560 km) of difficult navigation, his party reached Black Canyon some two months after George Johnson. The “Explorer” struck a rock and was abandoned. Ives led his party east into the Canyon – they were the first Europeans to travel the Diamond Creek drainage and traveled eastwards along the South Rim.
Weather in the Grand Canyon varies according to elevation. The forested rims are high enough to receive winter snowfall, but along the Colorado River in the Inner Gorge, temperatures are similar to those found in Tucson and other low elevation desert locations in Arizona. Conditions in the Grand Canyon region are generally dry, but substantial precipitation occurs twice annually, during seasonal pattern shifts in winter (when Pacific storms usually deliver widespread, moderate rain and high-elevation snow to the region from the west) and in late summer (a phenomenon known as the “monsoon”, which delivers waves of moisture from the southeast, causing dramatic, localized thunderstorms fueled by the heat of the day). Average annual precipitation on the South Rim is less than 16 inches (35 cm), with 60 inches (132 cm) of snow, the higher North Rim usually receives 27 inches (59 cm) of moisture, with a typical snowfall of 144 inches (317 cm), and Phantom Ranch, far below the Canyon’s rims along the Colorado River at 2,500 feet (762 m) gets just 8 inches (17.6 cm) of rain, and snow is a rarity.
Temperatures vary wildly throughout the year, with summer highs within the Inner Gorge commonly exceeding 100 øF (37.8 øC) and winter minimum temperatures sometimes falling below zero degrees Fahrenheit (-17.8 øC) along the canyon’s rims. Visitors are often surprised by these potentially extreme conditions, and this, along with the high altitude of the canyon’s rims, can lead to unpleasant side effects such as dehydration, sunburn, and hypothermia. Be prepared for a variety of potential weather conditions when visiting, and keep in mind the Grand Canyon is a rugged natural feature located in a remote area subject to a wide range of environmental hazards.
Weather conditions can greatly affect hiking and canyon exploration, and visitors should obtain accurate forecasts because of hazards posed by exposure to extreme temperatures, winter storms and late summer monsoons. While the park service posts weather information at gates and visitor centers, this is a rough approximation only, and should not be relied upon for trip planning. For accurate weather in the Canyon, hikers should consult the National Weather Service’s NOAA weather radio or the official NWS website.