A canyon is a deep steep-walled V-shaped valley cut by a river through resistant rock.
Such valleys often occur in the upper courses of rivers, where the stream has a strong swift current that digs its valley relatively rapidly.
A river bed will gradually reach a baseline elevation, which is the same elevation as the body of water into which the river drains.
Rivers have a natural tendency to cut through underlying surfaces, eventually wearing away rock layers as sediments are removed downstream.
Canyons exist in virtually every corner of the earth.
Usually, a river or stream carves out such splits between mountains.
Rivers that lie at the bottom of deep canyons are known as entrenched rivers. They are entrenched because, unlike rivers in wide, flat flood plains, they do not meander and change their course.
Slot canyons are very narrow canyons, often with smooth walls. Some slot canyons can measure less than one meter (3 feet) across at the top but drop more than 30 meters (100 feet) to the floor of the canyon. An example of a slot canyon is Antelope Canyon in Arizona.
Canyons within mountains, or gorges that have an opening on only one side, are called box canyons.
A submarine canyon is a steep-sided valley on the sea floor of the continental slope.
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 rim elevation).
The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon (or Tsangpo Canyon), along the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, is regarded by some as the deepest canyon in the world at 5,500 meters (18,000 feet). It is slightly longer than the Grand Canyon in the United States. Others consider the Kali Gandaki Gorge in midwest Nepal to be the deepest canyon, with a 6,400 meters (21,000 feet) difference between the level of the river and the peaks surrounding it.
The Grand Canyon of northern Arizona in the United States, with an average depth of 1,600 meters (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 worldwide poll. (Some referred to it as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world).
The Fish River Canyon is second only in grandeur to the Grand Canyon in Arizona and one of the top tourist attractions in Namibia. It is absolutely magnificent and breathtaking in its immensity. The canyon features a gigantic ravine, in total about 160 km (100 miles) long, up to 27 km (17 mi) wide and in places almost 550 meters (1,800 feet) deep.
Cotahuasi Canyon near the city of Arequipa in Peru, is one of the deepest canyons in the world. With a depth of approximately 3,354 metres (11,004 ft), it is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
The Gorge du Verdon is a river canyon in south-eastern France that is considered by many to be Europe’s most beautiful. The canyon is about 25 kilometers in length and rises a spectacular 700 meters (2,300 feet) from the Verdon river below. The river, which is named after its startling green emerald color, is one of the canyon’s most beautiful features.
Sometimes, entire civilizations can develop on and around these canyon ledges. Native American nations, such as the Hopi and Sinagua, made cliff dwellings. Cliff dwellings were apartment-style shelters that housed hundreds of people. The shaded, elevated ledges in Walnut Canyon and Canyon de Chelly, in Arizona, provided protection from hostile neighbors and the burning desert sun.
The term canyon is taken from the Spanish word cañón, meaning “tube.”