celebrating grand canyon national park 100th anniversary centennial events

Celebrating the Grand Canyon National Park’s 100th Anniversary

The Grand Canyon may be 5 million years old with a human history stretching back over 12 millennia, but it wasn’t until 1869—just 150 years ago—when U.S. Army Major John Henry Powell led the first expedition through the canyon on the Colorado River that the Grand Canyon was first recognized for the tourist mecca it would eventually become.

In fact, when Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives completed his 1858 steamboat expedition just 11 years earlier, he claimed that “the region is, of course, altogether valueless […] It seems intended by nature that the Colorado river, along the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed”.

Fast forward to February 26, 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson officially designated the Grand Canyon a national park. 100 years later, the Grand Canyon National Park welcomes over 6 million visitors each year, and the canyon’s lonely and majestic allure is as solid as rock. If only Lt. Joseph Christmas Ives could see the Grand Canyon now!

100th Anniversary events

The Grand Canyon National Park is celebrating its 100th anniversary with a year-round calendar of events held at the National Park and across Arizona. Whether you plan your Grand Canyon vacation around these events, or simply join in when you visit, here’s how you can celebrate:

Desert View Cultural Demonstrations

Head to Desert View to interact and learn about the human cultures that have shaped the Grand Canyon for over 12,000 years. Check out demonstrations and learn about traditional crafts and the area’s human history from Desert View Cultural Demonstrators representing the Grand Canyon’s 11 traditionally associated tribes.

When
Where
Who
How much
Year roundDesert ViewOpen to the publicFree

100 Years of Grand

In partnership with ASU Library and Cline Library at Northern Arizona University, the Grand Canyon National Park’s Centennial Project, called “100 Years of Grand”, chronicles the area’s rich history through an extensive collection of high-quality, archival photographs, letters, postcards, and documents.

When
Where
Who
How much
Year roundOnlineOpen to the publicFree
EXPLORE THE ARCHIVES

Founder’s Day Centennial Celebration

Kick off the Grand Canyon’s 100th Anniversary with cultural demonstrators from traditionally associated tribes, a concert by the Flagstaff School District Choir, and speeches by the Grand Canyon Conservancy (formerly Grand Canyon Association) and NPS staff—and of course, cake!

When
Where
Who
How much
February 26, 2019
10:00 AM-4:00 PM
Grand Canyon Visitor Center Plaza
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

Mapping the Grand Canyon

This two-day program of map-based story telling, state-of-the-art geospatial and cartographic demonstrations, hands-on activities, and open dialogue will explore the art, science, and practice of Grand Canyon cartography. Learn more.

When
Where
Who
How much
February 28-March 1, 2019
8:00 AM
ASU
Tempe, AZ
Open to the publicFree

Tucson Symphony Presents “Grand Canyon State”

The Tucson Symphony presents a breathtaking film of the Grand Canyon set to Grofé’s score. For more information, visit the Tucson Symphony.

When
Where
Who
How much
March 2-3, 2019
4:00 PM, 2:00 PM
Tucson Music Hall
Tucson, AZ
Open to the publicTickets range from $30-$60 each

Grand Canyon: 100 Years of Stories

The Grand Canyon Conservancy is celebrating 100 years of heritage with five storytellers who will share true, first-person stories of adventure, conservation, and community.

When
Where
Who
How much
April 16, 2019Crescent Ballroom
Phoenix, AZ
Open to the publicTickets range from $8-$35
LEARN MORE & PURCHASE TICKETS

NPS Fee-Free Day, National Park Week

Explore the Grand Canyon for free on the first day of National Park Week. For a complete list of fee-free days, visit the National Park Service website.

When
Where
Who
How much
April 20, 2019Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
South and North Rim
Open to the publicFree

Earth Day Celebration

Celebrate the 49th Earth Day with demonstrations, games, and information on local and national environmental initiatives.

When
Where
Who
How much
April 20, 2019
10:00 AM-2:00 PM
Grand Canyon Visitor Center Plaza
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

The Cowboy President Evening Program with Michael Blake

Join two-time Emmy winner and historian Michael Blake to learn more about the role Theodore Roosevelt, the conservation president, played in creating the Grand Canyon National Park.

When
Where
Who
How much
May 3, 2019McKee Amphitheater
Grand Canyon, AZ
Open to the publicFree

Railroad Day and Transcontinental Sesquicentennial

Learn about the important role the railroad played in the Grand Canyon’s history on the 150th anniversary of the transcontinental railroad.

When
Where
Who
How much
May 20, 2019Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

Powell Sesquicentennial Memorial Plaque Dedication

This commemorative event celebrates the 150th anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s 1896 expedition—the first significant geo-scientific survey of the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.

When
Where
Who
How much
May 19, 2019
1:00 PM
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

Grand Canyon Wildlife Day

Meet some of Arizona’s “grandest critters” and learn all about the wildlife that inhabits the Grand Canyon, as well as the work of a wildlife biologist.

When
Where
Who
How much
May 31-June 1, 2019Grand Canyon Visitor Center Plaza
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

Junior Ranger Day

Become a Junior Ranger, score some swag, and maybe even a replica of a ranger hat while you learn about the importance of national parks and how you can keep them healthy and prosperous.

When
Where
Who
How much
June 22, 2019
10:00 AM-4:00 PM
Grand Canyon Visitor Center Plaza
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

Centennial Summerfest

The Grand Canyon National Park is ringing in its 100th birthday with a week-long summer festival that will bring together park partners to highlight everything Arizona has to offer, from food and brews to cultural demonstrations and other activities.

When
Where
Who
How much
June 22-20, 2019
9:00 AM-5:00 PM
Grand Canyon Visitor Center Plaza
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

Grand Canyon Centennial Star Party

Explore the night sky with the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association on the South Rim, and the Saguaro Astronomy Club on the North Rim. Amateur astronomers will share their telescopes and their expertise, giving you a unique chance to spy planets, star clusters, nebulae, and galaxies.

When
Where
Who
How much
June 22-29, 2019
7:00 PM
Grand Canyon Visitor Center Plaza
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

Fourth of July Parade

Join Grand Canyon National Park park rangers and Grand Canyon Conservancy staff in Flagstaff as they parade over 100 floats, livestock, dancers, and a marching band through downtown Flagstaff. If you’re in Tusayan, stop by their 4th of July parade for food, music, raffles, and more.

When
Where
Who
How much
July 4, 2019
11:00 AM in Flagstaff, AZ
3:00 PM in Tusayan, AZ
Downtown Flagstaff, AZ
Tusayan, AZ
Open to the publicBoth events are free

Native American Heritage Days

Celebrate the rich diversity of the Colorado Plateau, Arizona Strip, and the Grand Canyon with special programs hosted by tribal members and non-tribal members addressing a variety of subjects, including ethno-botany, American Indian flute playing, and dance.

When
Where
Who
How much
August 8-9, 2019Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
North Rim
Open to the publicFree

11th Annual Celebration of Art

Now in its 11th year, the annual Celebration of Art provides a “vibrant experience for visitors, a venue for artists inspired by the canyon, and a successful fundraiser to benefit a dedicated art venue at the South Rim”.

When
Where
Who
How much
September 7-15, 2019Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
South Rim
Open to the publicFree

Fall Sustainability Fair

Enjoy family-friendly activities and learn about the ways you can travel green and do your part to preserve and protect the Grand Canyon.

When
Where
Who
How much
October 12, 2019Grand Canyon Visitor Center
South Rim
Open to the publicFree
VIEW COMPLETE LIST OF 100TH ANNIVERSARY EVENTS

Celebrate with Canyon Tours

In honour of the Grand Canyon National Park’s 100th anniversary, we’re launching our own historical archive—featuring you! Did your grandparents visit the Grand Canyon? Do you have fond childhood memories of a family road trip through the Southwest? We want to see them!

Dig up your old pics and share them with us on Facebook or Instagram. Be sure to tag us @canyontours and use hashtag #CanyonThrowback so we can share our favorites!

Learn more:

Featured image: Grand Canyon National Park via Flickr.