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Grand Canyon Forensics

Geologic map and cross-section in color with text. Shows strata for Bryce Canyon and Cedar Breaks Area, Zion Canyon Area, and Grand Canyon. Photo credit: National Park Service

[Originally published as Reverse Engineering the Grand Canyon]

When looking at the Grand Canyon and wondering about its formation, it is not readily clear that the erosion was actually just the last step of a multi-step process. By using reverse engineering, that is, by going back to the original state and then adding each consequential step, it becomes clear that water played a major role throughout the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Step 1. Remove all sedimentary layers and reverse all faults. Whatever the surface once looked like, it was somehow eroded smooth like a rock in a tumbler. Much of the granite bedrock was pulverized into grains of sand.

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Grand Canyon underwater with Noah's ark graphic
The global Flood offers the best explanation. If the subterranean reservoirs are what the Bible refers to as the fountains of the deep, then in one day, God caused them all to erupt as the Flood began. Whether the rushing water was subterranean or mighty waves from the disrupted oceans that God burst open, they nevertheless pulverized earth’s landmass into sand, clay, and silt.

graphic showing preflood reservoirs Although the pre-flood world was totally destroyed, some details can be inferred from God’s Word. Gold and other metals were available (Genesis 2:11–12). Large rivers and mist watered the land (Genesis 2:6,10). There must have been subterranean reservoirs of water fueling the rivers which then flowed downhill.

First flood layers graphicStep 2. Once the floodwaters could no longer carry the load of sand, the sediment was deposited in vast layers. Dissolved silica then cemented the sand grains into quartzite. The preserved ripple marks in this rock show how quickly these layers were laid down as the grains were carried along by globe-circling currents. Among the creatures living and being fossilized during this process were trilobites, crabs, crinoids, corals, and other invertebrate sea creatures.

Bedrock faulting with sand overtoppingStep 3. As earth’s remaining foundations broke up, the faulting of the granite left the surface rocks jagged. The currents once again ground the rock smooth. In many places, not only was all the previously laid sediment washed away to be laid again elsewhere, but more of the granite bedrock was also pulverized into sand.

All layers deposited graphicStep 4. The newly made sediment was again laid in layers beneath the flood waters. These layers entombed many of the sea creatures and the bones of dinosaurs that had sunk to the sea floor.

Step 5. As God raised the mountains, the sediment rushed off in great mudslides, creating more layers. The mountain chains then helped to hold the sediment in place and channelized the currents.

graphic of Grand Canyon layers with water draining throughStep 6. God raised the continents and lowered the sea floor. As the water rushed off the land, it carved canyons through the sedimentary layers. As the water level slowly lowered, benches were carved at each new level, just as rings are left on a bathtub if the water slowly drains.

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Grand Canyon from above. Photo credit: NASA

By switching to an aerial view, the vast amount of erosion is more evident. All the side canyons seem to show that the area was covered by deep water which was draining into the canyon as well as through the canyon. This is somewhat comparable to the erosion patterns left on a beach as water drains back into the ocean:

Beach sand showing water drainage erosional features

Carla Estell portrait

Written by Carla Estell

Carla Estell is a 1987 graduate of Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA. She has been involved in Christian education and her family's creation ministry which she and her husband Brian began in 1998. They traveled with their 6 homeschooled children through 48 states visiting geological sites, collecting fossils and sharing at camps, schools and churches. In 2016 they relocated to Illinois where Brian now works for Samaritan Ministries while Carla continues to homeschool, tutor and write. They are still available part time for seminars and VBS. More information about their ministry can be found at Stone’s True Story

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