Those who have mastered the wind can play amongst the canyon walls leaving the rest of us to only dream.

The Wind and Grand Canyon

Dec 20, 2012
To understand any environment on earth one must understand how the wind works its way through that environment because as the wind works its way through the environment it affects all things and in many ways. While the wind is often invisible, its effects are not; for example, it can scour away the soil from one place and deliver it to another. And this can dictate where various species of plants can live and cannot live. In turn, this will influence the forces of erosion and the behavior of predator and prey. With this in mind, we can see the effects of the wind in the Grand Canyon play out on a scale and complexity that is unique in the world. It is here that we can experience the grandeur of the earth and the infinite complexity of the wind such that one lifetime or one book is not sufficient to fully understand or convey the ways of the wind in the Grand Canyon. However, just recognizing some of the basics will give one a path to a deeper understanding of the Grand Canyon.
To start with, one of the most unique features of the Grand Canyon is the number and size of its vertical walls. And the fact that these cliffs are stair stepped and run in every possible direction has influence on the flow of the wind in ways that are simply fascinating. For example, in many places in the Grand Canyon you can be standing in a place where there’s little or no wind and yet only a few feet away you can experience a gale force wind. This is because these cliffs often force the wind into taking radical path around them. Another important attribute of this environment is the number of side canyons with vertical and overhanging cliffs that can create their own wind patterns by either heating or cooling the air that flows through them thus causing updrafts and down drafts that can be quite noticeable.
However, if you really want to learn about the wind in the Grand Canyon you must turn to those who have mastered it, and those of course, are the birds because the Grand Canyon is truly a paradise for birds as much of the terrestrial environment is accessible only to them. They are able to turn the complexity and power of the wind to their advantage. And so, to their students the invisible is made visible, the unknowable knowable in ways that are useful even to those who cannot fly. With this in mind we can see that birds come in a wide range of flight capabilities. On one end of the scale there is the condor with its great size and ability to glide so beautifully without effort but it has difficulty taking off under its own power.
Then, on the other end of the scale there is the hummingbird who seems to fly by power alone and the wind is a hindrance to it. Somewhere in the middle of all this there is the raven who can fly with power and strength or work the wind to glide thousands of feet straight up and sometimes it seems to do this for the sheer joy of flying itself.
However, when it comes to understanding the ways of wind in the Grand Canyon there might be more teachers than students. This may be that things that are invisible just don’t get noticed or perhaps because there are many other ways to understand the environment of the Grand Canyon such as its relationship with the sun and the moon or the river and time. However, one will find a certain poetic beauty in understanding the wind in the Grand Canyon. For it is a performance of the invisible and visible, movable and immovable played out like nowhere else on earth. And that is just the way of things in the Grand Canyon.