America's Southwest Canyons Trivia
Do you know the age of the oldest rocks found in the Grand Canyon? Any idea which national park once held the largest sand dunes ever known on Earth, or where you'll find the world's largest collection of hoodoos? Take our quiz below to put your knowledge to the test, then share it with your family and friends to see who knows the most about the history and geology of America's Southwest canyonlands! When you're finished, scroll down to reveal the correct answers and explanations.
The oldest rocks found in the Grand Canyon are:
Correct Answer: 1.8 billion years old
Explanation: Though the Grand Canyon is only 6 million years old, the erosive action of the Colorado River has exposed 40 different sedimentary layers, including rocks that are 1.8 billion years old!
The largest sand dunes ever known on earth were in what is now:
Correct Answer: Zion National Park
Explanation: Zion National Park was once both a saltwater sea and a desert of towering sand dunes. Movements in the earth’s crust cause the world’s largest sand dunes to sink below sea level. Covered by a shallow sea, the sand mixed with minerals and calcium carbonate from the shells of sea animals, cementing to form sandstone. The earth’s movement then caused the land to uplift and drain the sea away, and rivers began to carve the sandstone, forming the deep canyons found in Zion National Park.
Almost 12,000 years ago, Zion’s first peoples tracked animals across southern Utah. What was one animal they did NOT hunt?
Correct Answer: Giant lemur
Explanation: Prehistoric humans hunted mammoth, giant sloth and camelops in North America. These animals died out 8,000 years ago due to climate change and overhunting. Giant lemurs, some the size of gorillas, existed on the island of Madagascar but also went extinct for the aforementioned reasons.
Which park has the world's largest collection of hoodoos?
Correct Answer: Bryce Canyon National Park
Explanation: Bryce Amphitheater is home to the largest concentration of hoodoos on Earth.
The Paiute people had a belief that hoodoos were:
Correct Answer: People turned to stone
Explanation: The Paiute people moved to the Bryce Canyon area in 1200 A.D. and developed a mythology surrounding the hoodoos. These unique and mystical towers represented their ancestors, known as the Legend People. So, the story goes, the Legend People ate all the pine nuts and drank all the water in the area, leaving none for the animals. Angered by their greed, the trickster god Coyote invited the Legend People to a grand feast at the bottom of the canyon, then cursed them, turning them to stone.
Approximately how many native plant species can be found in Zion?
Correct Answer: 800
Explanation: Wildflowers such as wild snapdragon, sacred datura, Indian paintbrush and sunflowers grow in the meadows. In hot, dry areas of the park, desert plants such as cactus, yucca and sagebrush can be found. Trees such as cottonwoods, velvet ash and box elder grow along rivers and streams. Piñon pines and juniper cover the sunny slopes, while ponderosa pine, aspens and fir trees are found at higher altitudes. Dripping springs uncover “hanging gardens” where ferns and grasses grow.
The Grand Canyon is the most visited national park in the United States.
Correct Answer: False
Explanation: The Grand Canyon is the nation’s second-most visited national park. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, located along the Tennessee–North Carolina border, is the most visited park in America. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Which national park is home to the world’s largest protected population of Utah prairie dogs?
Correct Answer: Bryce Canyon National Park
Explanation: The Utah Prairie dog is a keystone species—their colonies create islands of habitats that benefit about 150 species. Prairie dogs aerate and fertilize the soil and are a food source for coyotes, eagles and other predators. These burrowing rodents were placed on the endangered species list in 1973 and were reintroduced to Bryce Canyon National Park thereafter.
Theodore Roosevelt created the Grand Canyon Game Preserve in 1906, citing his desire to protect which animal?
Correct Answer: Mule deer
Explanation: President Benjamin Harrison created the Grand Canyon Forest Reserve in 1893. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established the Grand Canyon Game Preserve in order to protect the mule deer population. The Grand Canyon was officially designated a national park in 1919.
Fun Fact: The pronghorn is North America’s fastest land mammal.
Which bird found in the canyonlands is the largest land bird in North America?
Correct Answer: California condor
Explanation: The carrion-feeding California condor is the largest land bird in North America, with a wingspan reaching 10 feet long, while the golden eagle’s 6- to 7-foot wingspan makes it the largest predatory bird in North America. Mexican spotted owls are the fifth largest owl in North America, with an average wingspan of 3.5 feet. The wingspan of the western bluebird is approximately 13.5 inches.
The Colorado River, which flows through the Grand Canyon, is shrinking due to a number of factors. Which of the following is NOT one of them?
Correct Answer: Monsoons
Explanation: The Colorado River is shrinking due to damming, unsustainable water management practices, less snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains (a result of climate change) and drought. Due to these factors, the river no longer regularly reaches the sea.
Along with providing habitats for plants and wildlife, humans rely upon the Colorado River for freshwater, floodplain agriculture, fish stocks and recreational purposes. WWF is helping preserve free-flowing rivers by:
Correct Answer: All of the above
Explanation: WWF is helping preserve free-flowing rivers by stopping dams and reconnecting rivers through dam removal, strengthening and promoting laws that protect rivers, and encouraging leaders at the local level to make better decisions about water management.