Despite the searing summer temperatures, the desolate deserts, and the lack of water, people have been drawn to Arizona and the Grand Canyon for hundreds of years. In the 16th century, the Spanish came looking for gold but settled on saving souls. In the 19th century, despite frightful tales of spiny cactus forests, ranchers drove their cattle into the region and discovered that a few corners of the state actually had lush grasslands.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Arizona struck a new source of gold: sunshine. The railroads had made travel to the state easy, and word of the mild winter climate spread to colder corners of the nation. Today, the golden sun still lures people to Arizona.

But while the weather is a big draw, it's the Grand Canyon that attracts the most visitors to Arizona. A photograph of the Grand Canyon may tell a thousand words, but a thousand words don't even begin to tell the canyon's story, which spans almost 2 billion years.

This section's sections tell some of that story. "Looking Back" provides a brief history of Arizona and its Native American culture. "The Lay of the Land" discusses rock layers and how the canyon was carved. "The Flora" describes common plants, ranging from fir trees on the rims to barrel cacti on the canyon floor. "The Fauna" covers the creatures that flourish in the canyon's forbidding climes. Finally, "The Ecosystem" explores a very recent development -- humans' effects on the canyon's ecology.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.