CASE 17 THE GRAND CANYON RAILWAY
One interesting feature of the southwestern United States is the area known as the "Four Comers." the only place in the United States where four slates meet at one point. Within the 130,000 square miles of the Colorado Plateau in this region lie many wonders of nature. The plateau contains eight national parks, twenty national monuments, as well as numerous other nationally designated areas and huge tracts of national forests. This wealth of natural features and the cultures of the various Native American tribes in the region have made the area an important destination for tourists, especially those interested in natural history and culture. The "crown jewel" for this region is generally considered to be the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. This wonder of nature is 190 miles long, one mile deep, and between 4 and 18 miles wide. The Grand Canyon covers 1.900 square miles of the Colorado Plateau and is home to 1,000 species of plants 250 species of birds and 70 species of animals. A number of Native American tribes are found in the region of the Grand Canyon, including the Hualapai, Hopi. Navajo and Havasupai (who live on the floor of a side canyon) The principal attraction to visitors is the sheer size and beauty of the canyon itself. The walls of the Grand Canyon are made up of many layers of rock, with widely varying textures, colors, and hues. This panorama of nature changes by the season, weather, and time of day. Generally, the morning and late afternoon offer the most striking views for visitors to the canyon. The South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park (Grand Canyon NP) is open year-round, whereas the North Rim (also in the park) is closed in winter. In the summer months, Grand Canyon NP becomes quite crowded with visitors and motor vehicles. Consideration is being given by the National Park Service to ban vehicles from the park and move visitors around the park by shuffle buses. Williams, Arizona, serves as one important "jumping off" point for visitors traveling to Grand Canyon NP, with the South Rim of the canyon only fifty-nine miles north of the town. Williams is closely identified with travel to the canyon and has even registered the trademark "The Gateway to the Grand Canyon," which no others may use. At an elevation of 6,800 feet, Williams, by itself, has many attractions in the town and surrounding area such as lakes for swimming and fishing, horseback riding, and a downtown listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The surrounding Kaibab National Forest in the vicinity of Williams offers opportunities for camping, fishing, and hiking for both visitors and resident alike. The town has for many years been an important transportation hub for both rail and highway. Williams is closely identified with Route 66, also known as the "Mother Road,'' that connected Chicago, Illinois and Santa Monica, California, long before the interstate highway system was developed. Williams has the last stretch of the original Route 66 bypassed by the interstate system (in this case, 1-40). Even before highways became highly developed, Williams has served as a railroad terminal (since 1882) for the forerunners of the Atchison, Topeka, & the Santa Fe Railroad (Santa Fe) the latter continues to serve the town today with freight-only service. The most popular way for visitors to get from cither Williams or Flagstaff (thirty-two miles to the east) to Grand Canyon NP is by motor vehicle, although the pending restrictions on vehicles might be expected to change this somewhat. An attractive alternative for some visitors is to travel between Williams and the Grand Canyon by rail. The Grand Canyon Railway (GCRy) offers this option with one round-trip per day. This rail service, which operates purely as a tourist railroad, began operations in September 1989 and has provided daily service since that day (except for December 24 and 25). Historically, rail service on...
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