The Colorado River has been at work on the Grand Canyon for about 17 million years, and has eroded a chasm 277 miles long, 18 miles wide and more than a mile deep. This part of northern Arizona was settled in about the 13th century BC by the Ancestral Puebloans, a Native American culture referred to by the present-day Navajo people as Anasazi or “Ancient Ones”. Several additional ancient native cultures migrated into the area between about 500 and 1500 AD. Several aboriginal nations were found when Europeans first arrived in the 15th century AD, chiefly the Navajo and also the Hopi, Havasupai, Halupai and Paiute.
Advance parties from the forces of Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado reached the Grand Canyon around 1450, looking for the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. They noted that some of the rocks in the canyon were “bigger than the great tower of Seville”, but found neither cities nor gold and returned to Mexico. The next European visitors were missionary Spanish priests in 1776, who also stayed for a short time and attempted without success to convert the natives to Christianity. American trappers and mountain men reached the area in 1826, and Mormons came around 1850 to scout for routes across the mountains. American explorers and geologists visited the area several times over the next decade, and Major John Wesley Powell of the U.S.
Geological Survey led expeditions in 1869 and 1871 that mapped the Colorado River and its “big canyon”, and gave it the name it has today, “grand canyon”. Periodic attempts were made in the 1880s and 1890s to mine and log the area and to raise cattle and sheep, but it was just too expensive and difficult to farm or extract resources. Tourism gradually became the main industry of the area, and visitors could take bone-rattling two- day journeys by buggy or stage coach to the canyon. A railroad spur was built from Williams in 1901, and tourists could thenceforth take a train direct to the canyon. Increasing competition between railroads, hotel operators and tour companies led to lawsuits, violence and increasingly disorderly development on the rim of the canyon. Because of growing concern about this, parts of the area were declared a Forest Reserve in 1893.
President Theodore Roosevelt visited the reserve in 1903, and established the canyon as a Game Preserve in 1906. Roosevelt was able to declare the area a National Monument in 1908, but it took until 1919 to get Congress to pass an act declaring the canyon the 17th U.S. National Park. Some 44,000 people visited the Grand Canyon in its first year as a national park, but the numbers soon began to climb toward the present total of about 5 million visitors annually.
In addition to the steadily rising tide of visitors, the canyon has been affected during the 20th Century by the increasing need to harness and use the water of the Colorado River, due to the doubling of the populations of Arizona and Southern California. The Glen Canyon Dam, built between 1956 and 1966, permanently changed the ecology of the canyon, and there has been continued water controversy between the park and adjoining tribal reservations. A series of forest fires, some of them unprecedentedly large, have also affected the park’s ecosystem in recent years. In order to restore as much of the canyon’s ecosystem as possible and to speed the recovery from forest fires, a large area of the canyon was flooded in 2008.
Getting to the Grand Canyon
Most Grand Canyon visitors come by air, and fly into Las Vegas, Phoenix or Flagstaff. There is limited service from Las Vegas to Grand Canyon Airport, 10 miles south of the canyon, and private planes can land there. Three airlines and three helicopter companies offer flights over the canyon from Grand Canyon Airport, and airplane and helicopter tours are also available from the Las Vegas, Phoenix and Flagstaff airports.
Train travel is still possible to the park: Amtrak stops at Flagstaff, and bus service is available to the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon Railway now operates the Santa Fe branch line from Williams that opened in 1901, and uses the original concrete depot in Williams and free-standing log station at the canyon. Diesel locomotives are generally used to pull vintage dining and observation cars, and on occasion steam power is used. Train and hotel packages recreate the railroad experience of a century ago at the Railway Hotel in Williams and the Maswick Lodge at the canyon, with accommodations also available for pets.
Most visitors come by car, and 90 per cent visit the South Rim, which has a full range of services and is open all year. This is 90 minutes from Flagstaff, Williams and Interstate 64, and a 4-hour drive from Phoenix. There is also bus service from Phoenix to Flagstaff, and shuttle service from Flagstaff to Grand Canyon Village. A shuttle operates once daily between the South and North Rims, and takes about 4 hours.
Only about 10 per cent of visitors go to the more remote North Rim, which has services open from May to October. The North Rim entrance is 30 miles south of Jacobs Lake, Arizona on state highway 89A, and the canyon is an additional 14 miles from the entrance. The North Rim is 275 miles from Las Vegas, 500 miles from Los Angeles, 392 miles from Salt Lake City, 690 miles from Denver and 467 miles from Albuquerque.
There is parking at the South Rim but it may be difficult to find in the summer; many visitors park in the gateway community of Tusayan. Four free shuttle routes operate between the parking areas and the Visitor Center, and are themselves good ways for visitors with limited time to see the canyon.
Getting Into the Grand Canyon
The South Rim is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; the North Rim is open between May 15 and October 15. From October 15 to December 1, the North Rim is open during daylight hours, but services are minimal and the rim closes whenever snow closes Highway 67. A vehicle permit is $30, entry costs $25 on a motorcycle and an individual pass for visitors over 15 who enter by Grand Canyon Railway, raft, bicycle, shuttle bus or on foot is $15. A pass is good for 7 days. Permits can be bought at the entrance stations or in Flagstaff, Williams and the adjacent communities of Valle and Tusayan.
A Grand Canyon Annual Pass is $60, and the “America the Beautiful” Pass to all National Parks is $80 a year. These are $10 for those over 62 and free to military personnel and their families. Citizens or permanent residents who are disabled or volunteer 250 hours a year at parks and natural resources also get in free. Entrance is free to everyone on Martin Luther King Day, Presidents’ Weekend, the opening weekend of National Park Week in April, the birthday of the National Park Service (August 25), National Public Lands Day (September 26) and Veterans Day (November 11). Additional permits are needed for backcountry hiking, horseback riding, cross-country skiing, overnight camping and rafting on the Colorado River.
What to Do in the Grand Canyon
Visitors with only a few hours to spend may wish to take the Hermit Road or Kaibab shuttle bus. The Hermit Road, which follows the rim of the canyon for 7 miles west from the South Rim, is another easy way to see the canyon; it is only open to private vehicles in the winter, and walking, bicycling or taking the shuttle bus or a commercial bus tour are necessary the rest of the year. Desert View Drive travels for 25 miles to the east, is open to private vehicles and has food, gas and other services.
The Visitor Center has extensive historical exhibits, including the preserved Historic District where the early settlers started businesses and the Santa Fe Railroad built facilities to serve original visitors to the canyon. The Greenway Trail provides a safe route for walkers and bicyclists. The Yavapai Museum of Geology is devoted to the story of how the river carved the canyon.
The Desert View settlement 25 miles away has spectacular views of the Painted Desert and the northward turn of the river, and visibility on a clear day is over 100 miles. The Desert View Watchtower was built in 1932 and renovated in 2010, and evokes the towers built by the Anasazi. About 3.5 miles to the west is the 800-year old Tusayan ruin, and the Tusayan Museum is devoted to ancient pueblo life.
The higher North Rim (elevation 8,800 feet) has Bright Angel Point, with a steep but dramatic trail, and a scenic drive between Cape Royal, across the canyon from Desert View, and Point Imperial, where the narrow Marble Canyon opens up to become fully “grand”. It takes a morning or an afternoon to drive this route. The North Rim walks are rugged in places, and caution is recommended for visitors not used to high altitude or with respiratory or heart problems.
The mule rides into the canyon that attracted tourists over a century ago are still in operation from the South Rim, and take about 3 hours. There are also overnight rides, with a stay in the Phantom Ranch on the floor of the canyon. On the North Rim, there are hour-long mule rides and half-day trips on the Kaibab Trail. The Rim Trail from Grand Canyon Village is level, but day hiking and overnight backpacking is available on trails that definitely are not. Bicycles can be brought in or rented for rides or guided trips.
There are visitor centers at both rims with interactive exhibits, and famously friendly park rangers offer programs throughout the day. Whitewater rafting trips of 3 to 21 days are available, and the park lodges offer smooth water raft trips from Glen Canyon Dam to the pioneer settlement of Lees Ferry.
Eating, Drinking and Lodging at the Grand Canyon
The first hotels on the canyon rim were fairly rudimentary, but the El Tovar Hotel, built by the railroad and the Fred Harvey Company in 1905, is one of the historic luxury hotels of America and itself a National Historical Landmark. Celebrities from Albert Einstein to Sir Paul McCartney, and presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Bill Clinton, have stayed there. There are six hotels and motor lodges on the South Rim, and the Phantom Ranch is on the floor of the canyon and accessible only by mule, hike or raft.
The Grand Canyon Lodge on the North Rim, the only lodging there, is also a National Historical Landmark. There are two campgrounds and an RV facility on the South Rim, and a campground on the North Rim as well as opportunities for backcountry camping. There are 15 restaurants in nearby Tusayan, and each hotel and lodge has one or more restaurants and offers an outdoor cookout with entertainment. There are also stores and snack facilities in the Market District at Grand Canyon Village, on the Desert View and Hermit Ridge roads on the South Rim and at the Kaibab Lounge and Jacobs Lake Inn just outside the park to the north.
Teddy Roosevelt said in 1908 that “every American should see the Grand Canyon”, and visitors from around the world have taken him at his word as well. It is now possible to get there easily, stay quite comfortably and explore this great natural wonder in detail or at your leisure.How the Museum Started
Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum has been an iconic tourist attraction, first in France and then in London, since the end of the 18th century. Now a worldwide chain of 14 museums and growing, the museums are entitled Madame Tussauds without the apostrophe, and are part of Merlin Entertainments, the largest amusement company in the world except for Disney.
The first Tussaud wax exhibits opened in Paris in 1795 and moved to London in 1802; in addition to the London museum, the Tussauds group has opened museums in Amsterdam, Bangkok, Berlin, Blackpool, Hollywood, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, New York City, Shanghai, Sydney, Vienna, Washington, D.C., Wuhan, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing, Prague, Singapore, Orlando, San Francisco. The Tussauds portfolio includes about 50 other attractions, including Legoland, Sea Life Centers, Gardaland in Italy, The Dungeons, The London and Orlando Eye rides and Alton Towers, Thorpe Park, and Chessington World of Adventures in Britain.
The wax museum was begun by Marie Grosholtz, who learned the art of wax modeling from Dr. Phillipe Curtius in Switzerland and eventually inherited his vast collection of wax figures. She was appointed art tutor to the sister of King Louis XVI, became noted for making death masks and was engaged during the French Revolution to model. She modelled Voltaire, Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin from life. She exhibited wax figures throughout Europe and opened a gallery in Paris with her husband, François Tussaud.
Invited to London by Paul Philidor, the inventor of the Magic Lantern, the Tussauds exhibited at the Lyceum Theater and after 1831 opened a museum on Baker Street. In 1836 the museum acquired a permanent home there and began to show exhibits related to celebrated murders and criminal trials. After 1843 she advertised this with great success as “The Chamber of Horrors”. The museum then began to display the likenesses of famous people, some of which like Madame DuBarry, Robespierre and King George III still exist. Madame Tussaud created a self-portrait in 1842, which still stands at the entrance to the museum.
After her death in 1850, the Tussaud family continued to operate the museum, moving to its present location on Marylebone Road in 1884. After a period of financial turmoil, a group of businessmen bought the museum and operated it through the 20th century. The collection came to include almost all the British royals, ten depictions of Winston Churchill through his life and figures from contemporary culture; many but not all of the original models were lost in a fire in 1925 and during bombing raids in 1941. The museum came to be featured in Gilbert and Sullivan operas, Sherlock Holmes stories, the novel The Scarlet Pimpernel, Alfred Hitchcock films and the Doctor Who series as well as many popular songs.
Museums outside London
International expansion began with the opening of a New York branch in 2000, and branches were subsequently added in Europe, Asia and Australia. There are many figures depicted in multiple museums who are known throughout the world, including Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II and sports and entertainment figures. Each museum also displays cultural and historical figures and scenes specific to that city and country, such as Mozart and Sigmund Freud in Vienna, past and present Australian prime ministers in Sydney, scenes from Chinese opera in Beijing and in the American branches, sports legends in Las Vegas and all the American presidents, even the short-timers like John Tyler and Chester A. Arthur, in Washington.
The focus is on entertainment and enjoyment, and problematic historical figures are relatively few. The biggest problem has been with the figure of Adolf Hitler, which was first made for the London museum in 1933 and was frequently vandalized and had to be replaced in 1936. The Berlin Hitler kept company with Otto von Bismarck, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein and Ann Frank as well as present-day democratic German politicians, and reflected a desire to display historical figures who had affected the city’s history for better or worse. In 2008 the statue was decapitated by a protester and had to be repaired, after which the attacker admitted that this had been done on a bet.
Most of the branch museums are chiefly oriented toward local history and culture: in Amsterdam, for example, you can create artwork along with Rembrandt and other masters, while visitors in San Francisco can be part of famous film scenes from nearby Hollywood and in Blackpool the focus is on the entertainment for which the resort has long been famous as well as British TV, music and football. The New York experience combines traditional historical wax figures, the New York theatrical and entertainment scene, the Spirit of New York as expressed in film and television and great American sports traditions.
The London Museum Today
The London museum also housed the London Planetarium and its astronomy shows from 1958 to 2006; from 2006 to 2010 planetary shows were given in the Star Dome. The dome is still an indispensable part of the museum’s profile, but since 2010 it has housed the Marvel Superheroes 4D attraction. Another Tussauds tradition is still going strong, however: the Chamber of Horrors continues to alarm visitors in their millions. Now under the rubric of “Scream!” and employing loud sound effects, strobe lights and live actors, the descendant of the original chamber depicts a maximum-security prison that has been taken over by its criminally insane inmates.
While connected in many ways to the famous London institution of the 19th century, Madame Tussauds continues to change with the times. The first trans gendered statue, depicting Laverne Cox, star of the television series “Orange is the New Black”, has just been unveiled, to the delight of the honoree. It has long been considered a high achievement to be given a place at Madame Tussauds: the comic novelist P.G. Wodehouse wrote that the highlight of his life came when a Tussauds sculptor came to New York to model him, bringing along a case of artificial eyes to match to Wodehouse’s own.
Queen Elizabeth’s butler has recorded that the monarch spent an evening contemplating a new statue of her that was brought for her approval. Betty White, Jimmy Fallon and Taylor Swift are only a few of the celebrities who have lately posed happily with their Madame Tussauds image. It is likely that the culture of this century will continue to be depicted along with those of the 19th and 20th in the original London museum and its 20 branches.