A canyon (Spanish: cañón; archaic
British English spelling:
cañon) or gorge is a deep cleft between escarpments or cliffs
resulting from weathering and the erosive activity of a river over
geologic timescales. Rivers have a natural tendency to cut through
underlying surfaces, eventually wearing away rock layers as sediments
are removed downstream. A river bed will gradually reach a baseline
elevation, which is the same elevation as the body of water into which
the river drains. The processes of weathering and erosion will form
canyons when the river's headwaters and estuary are at significantly
different elevations, particularly through regions where softer
rock layers are intermingled with harder layers more resistant to
A canyon may also refer to a rift between two mountain peaks, such as
those in ranges including the Rocky Mountains, the Alps, the Himalayas
or the Andes. Usually a river or stream and erosion carve out such
splits between mountains. Examples of mountain-type canyons are Provo
Yosemite Valley in California's Sierra Nevada.
Canyons within mountains, or gorges that have an opening on only one
side, are called box canyons. Slot canyons are very narrow canyons
that often have smooth walls.
Steep-sided valleys in the seabed of the continental slope are
referred to as submarine canyons. Unlike canyons on land, submarine
canyons are thought to be formed by turbidity currents and landslides.
2.1 Box canyon
3 Largest canyons
4 Cultural significance
5 Notable examples
5.1.2 South Africa
5.2.7 United States
5.5.2 New Zealand
6 Canyons on other planetary bodies
7 See also
9 External links
Sumidero Canyon, Mexico
The word canyon is Spanish in origin (cañón,
pronounced [kaˈɲon]), with the same meaning. The word canyon is
generally used in
North America while the words gorge and ravine are
Europe and Oceania, though gorge and ravine are also used in
some parts of North America. In the United States, place names
generally use canyon in the southwest and gorge in the northeast, with
the rest of the country graduating between these two according to
geography. In Canada, a gorge is usually narrow while a ravine is more
open and often wooded. The military-derived word defile is
occasionally used in the United Kingdom.
Most canyons were formed by a process of long-time erosion from a
plateau or table-land level. The cliffs form because harder rock
strata that are resistant to erosion and weathering remain exposed on
the valley walls.
Canyons are much more common in arid than in wet areas because
physical weathering has a more localized effect in arid zones. The
wind and water from the river combine to erode and cut away less
resistant materials such as shales. The freezing and expansion of
water also serves to help form canyons. Water seeps into cracks
between the rocks and freezes, pushing the rocks apart and eventually
causing large chunks to break off the canyon walls, in a process known
as frost wedging.
Canyon walls are often formed of resistant
sandstones or granite.
River Canyon, Idaho
Sometimes large rivers run through canyons as the result of gradual
geological uplift. These are called entrenched rivers, because they
are unable to easily alter their course. In the United States, the
Colorado River in the Southwest and the Snake
River in the Northwest
are two examples of tectonic uplift.
Canyons often form in areas of limestone rock. As limestone is soluble
to a certain extent, cave systems form in the rock. When these
collapse, a canyon is left, as in the
Mendip Hills in
Yorkshire Dales in Yorkshire, England.
For the Colorado canyon, see Box Canyon, Colorado.
A box canyon is a small canyon that is generally shorter and narrower
than a river canyon, with steep walls on three sides, allowing access
and egress only through the mouth of the canyon. Box canyons were
frequently used in the western
United States as convenient corrals,
with their entrances fenced.
The definition of "largest canyon" is imprecise, because a canyon can
be large by its depth, its length, or the total area of the canyon
system. Also, the inaccessibility of the major canyons in the Himalaya
contributes to their not being regarded as candidates for the biggest
canyon. The definition of "deepest canyon" is similarly imprecise,
especially if one includes mountain canyons as well as canyons cut
through relatively flat plateaus (which have a somewhat well-defined
The Yarlung Tsangpo
Grand Canyon (or Tsangpo Canyon), along the
River in Tibet, is regarded by some as the deepest
canyon in the world at 5,500 m (18,000 ft). It is slightly
longer than the
Grand Canyon in the United States. Others consider
Kali Gandaki Gorge
Kali Gandaki Gorge in midwest Nepal to be the deepest canyon, with
a 6400 m (21,000 ft) difference between the level of the
river and the peaks surrounding it.
Vying for deepest canyon in the Americas are the
Cotahuasi Canyon and
Colca Canyon, in southern Peru. Both have been measured at over
3500 m (12,000 ft) deep.
Grand Canyon of northern
Arizona in the United States, with an
average depth of 1,600 m (one mile) and a volume of 4.17 trillion
cubic metres, is one of the world's largest canyons. It was among
the 28 finalists of the
New7Wonders of Nature
New7Wonders of Nature worldwide poll. (Some
referred to it as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world.)
Copper Canyon in Chihuahua,
Mexico is deeper and longer than the Grand
The largest canyon in Africa is the Fish
Canyon in Namibia.
In August 2013, the discovery of Greenland's
Grand Canyon was
reported, based on the analysis of data from Operation IceBridge. It
is located under an ice sheet. At 750 kilometres (466 mi) long, it is
believed to be the longest canyon in the world.
Capertee Valley in Australia is commonly reported as being the
second largest (in terms of width) canyon in the world.
Panoramic view of the
Capertee Valley in Australia, the second largest
(in terms of width) of any canyon in the world
Some canyons have notable cultural significance. Evidence of early
humanoids has been discovered in Africa's Olduvai Gorge. In the
southwestern United States, canyons are important archeologically
because of the many cliff-dwellings built in such areas, largely by
the ancient Pueblo people who were their first inhabitants.
The following list includes only the most notable canyons of the
world, arranged by continent and then country.
For a more complete list, see List of canyons.
River Canyon, Namibia
River Canyon, Mpumalanga
Oribi Gorge, Kwa-Zulu Natal
Atuel Canyon, Mendoza Province
Itaimbezinho Canyon, Brazil
Itaimbezinho Canyon, Rio Grande do Sul
Grand Canyon of the Stikine, British Columbia
Horseshoe Canyon, Alberta
Niagara Gorge, Ontario
Ouimet Canyon, Ontario
Chicamocha Canyon, Santander Department
Copper Canyon, Chihuahua
Sumidero Canyon, Chiapas
Colca Canyon, Arequipa
Cotahuasi Canyon, Arequipa
River overlook, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado
Canyon de Chelly, Arizona
Canyonlands National Park, canyons of the
Colorado River and its main
tributary the Green River, Utah
River Gorge, Washington and Oregon
Utah and Arizona
Glenwood Canyon, Colorado
Grand Canyon, Arizona
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Wyoming
Hells Canyon, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington
Palo Duro Canyon, Texas
Rio Grande Gorge, New Mexico
River Canyon, Idaho
Waimea Canyon, Hawaii
Zion Canyon, Utah
One of the
Three Gorges of the
Yangtze river, China
Three Gorges, Chongqing
Tiger Leaping Gorge, Yunnan
Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, Tibet Autonomous Region
Gandikota, Kadapa District, Andhra Pradesh
Raneh Falls, Chhatarpur district, Madhya Pradesh
Nepal—Kali Gandaki Gorge
River Gorge through the Himalaya
Cheddar Gorge, England
Avon Gorge, Bristol
Cheddar Gorge, Somerset
Ardèche Gorges, Rhône-Alpes
Daluis Gorge, Provence
Gorges du Tarn
Verdon Gorge, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Aare Gorge, Switzerland
Greenland—Greenland's Grand Canyon
Joffre Gorge, Karijini National Park, Australia
Joffre Gorge, Karijini National Park, Western Australia
Katherine Gorge, Northern Territory
Kings Canyon, Northern Territory
River Gorge, Western Australia
Manawatu Gorge, North Island
Skippers Canyon, South Island
Canyons on other planetary bodies
Ithaca Chasma on Saturn's moon Tethys
Valles Marineris on Mars, the largest known canyon in the solar system
Vid Flumina on Saturn's largest moon Titan is the only known
liquid-floored canyon in the solar system besides Earth
Venus has many craters and canyons on its surface. The troughs on the
planet are part of a system of canyons that is more than
6 400 km long.
Antecedent drainage stream
^ "canon". archaic spelling of canyon
^ Society, National Geographic (20 May 2011). "canyon". National
^ Ward Cameron. "Understanding
^ Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Canyon". Encyclopædia Britannica
(11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
^ "The Geology of the Grand Canyon". Retrieved 2015-10-01.
^ "box canyon". Encarta World English Dictionary. 2009. Archived from
the original on 2009-10-31. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
^ "China Virtual Museums: Canyon". Kepu.net.
^ "Park Statistics". National Park Service. USA.
^ Truong, Alice (1 July 2011). "Everything About the Grand Canyon".
Discovery Communications. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
^ Cohen, Callan; Spottiswoode, Claire & Rossouw, Jonathan (2006).
Southern African Birdfinder. p. 210.
Grand Canyon of Greenland Discovered under Ice".
^ Fitzsimons, David (14 December 2015). "Capertee Valley: Australia's
own Grand Canyon". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved March 28, 2016.
^ Kruszelnicki, Dr. Karl S. (22 May 2012). "
Grand Canyon is not so
grand › Dr Karl's Great Moments In Science". ABC Science. Retrieved
March 28, 2016.
^ Valerio Poggiali, Marco Mastrogiuseppe, Alexander G. Hayes, Roberto
Seu, Samuel P. D. Birch, Ralph Lorenz, Cyril Grima, Jason D.
Hofgartner, "Liquid-filled Canyons on Titan", 9 August 2016,
Look up canyon in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Media related to Canyons at Wikimedia Commons
Drainage system (geomorphology)
Strahler number (stream order)
Bar (river morphology)
River channel migration
Erosion and tectonics