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Discovery Magazine 8/1/2015

Directions: How to Carve the Grand Canyon

How do creationists explain the Grand Canyon? You might think two words sum it up: “the Flood.” But that is probably too simple of an explanation. Modern Creation scientists explain how the strata (the “cake layers”) of the Canyon were formed rapidly in the Flood, but the carving came later.

Geologists today explain that the floor of the Pacific Ocean (the ocean plate) is slowly diving (subducting) under the west coast of the United States (a continental plate), moving into the mantle. Creation scientists believe that at the beginning of the Flood, this movement occurred at much faster rates than today. That process would have caused large amounts of wet material (sediment) to pile up on the west coast, and areas of the west coast would have been pushed up (uplifted) as the ocean floor dove, including a huge, saucer-shaped area of land called the Colorado Plateau that is surrounded by mountains. Wet sediment sliding from these two places was probably responsible for some of the layers of the Grand Canyon, although some of the layers are made of material that had to have been transported from sources hundreds of miles away—proof that a major flood was needed to move the sediment that forms those layers.

After the layers were formed, something had to carve through them. Many geologists believe that the Colorado River was the culprit, carving it very slowly over 70 million years. But years ago, before the Glen Canyon Dam was built that slows the movement of the Colorado River through the Canyon, engineers found that the River was carrying 168 million tons of sediment out of the Canyon every year. Over 70 million years, 1.3 million cubic miles of sediment should have been carried to the delta at the end of the River—a volume 1,500 times that of the Grand Canyon. That sediment is not there, which proves that idea to be wrong.

Dry Falls: a result from the Ice Age dam breach of glacial Lake Missoula (Steven Pavlov) 2015 CC-by-sa-3.0

Creation scientists today believe that an Ice Age would have occurred after the Flood for several hundred years, due to warmer oceans, increased evaporation, and volcanic aerosols in the atmosphere that partially shielded the Earth from sunrays, which led to cooler summers and increased snowfall over the Earth. As the Earth gradually calmed down after the Flood, the ice that had formed over an estimated 30% of the Earth would have slowly melted, retreating towards the poles and leaving huge, icy lakes along the way. Many creationists believe at least three such lakes were left on the Colorado Plateau, and evidence supports that belief. As would be predicted from the nature of these lakes, the natural "dams" that held the water probably broke one-by-one as the ice melted, like dominoes, rapidly carving the Canyon.

Touchet Trench: This trench is located close to the Burlingame Canyon and looks very similar.

Is there evidence that water could rapidly carve through rock? In 1926, the Burlingame Canyon near Walla Walla, Washington was carved in less than six days when engineers tried to steer abnormally high amounts of water from a canal into Pine Creek. The Lake Missoula Flood is a well-documented flood from the Ice Age. Water breached an ice dam, and 500 cubic miles of water were released within two days, cutting hundreds of feet through solid rock, creating canyons, and carving 50 cubic miles of Earth. In June 1983, heavy snow fall caused engineers to divert water from Glen Canyon into dam spillways that caused chunks of three-foot-thick, steel-reinforced concrete to be torn out of the tunnel. Tens of thousands of cubic feet of concrete were needed to fill the holes. Water has no problem cutting through rock, if there’s enough of it and it’s moving fast enough.

Top Left: Glen Canyon spillway damage. Bottom Left: Glen Canyon Dam. Right: Glen Canyon.
Image credit top left: Glen Canyon Dam Failure. U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.

Contrary to what many geologists believe, the Grand Canyon can be explained well by young Earth creationists—even better than evolutionary theories. There is no reason to ever doubt what the Bible teaches about the history of the Earth. True science and Scripture will always agree.

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*Please keep in mind that Discovery articles are written for 3rd-6th graders.

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