An experimental virtual tour through the Grand Canyon

The Arizona Geological Survey is experimenting with new ways of communicating geology and geologic stories to Arizonans and K-12 educators.

AZGS has produced its first-ever map story which follows geologist Steve Rauzi and a team of geoscientists as they raft through Grand Canyon.

“In a sequence of 29 captioned images, you’ll see Grand Canyon and some of its tributary canyons as a geologist sees them. Rauzi fingers individual rock units and puts a face – of sorts – to the names of famous rock formations: Devil’s Ramp and Vulcan’s Forge – products of the Pleistocene Uinkaret volcanic field, Kiabab Limestone, Coconino, Tapeats and Muav Sandstone, Bright Angel and Hermit Shale, the Redwall, Temple Butte, and Bass Limestone, and the Vishnu Schist.

Steve and his companions ramble across ancient stromatolite beds – some of Earth’s earliest life forms, bushwhack across faults and massive rockfall deposits, and close in on the Vishnu Schist (river-mile 78), Arizona’s oldest rock formation, at the bottom of Grand Canyon’s inner gorge. At river mile 98, you’ll see a dory run Crystal Rapid, and at river mile 179 scout Lava Falls Rapids from a beach safely upstream.”

You can begin the journey here: A Geologist in Grand Canyon – Map Story. The graphic below shows the main page and the third image. Mousing over the inset on the right allows you to expand the image. Clicking the “x” on the bottom right of the expanded image returns you to the main page.


Here is the third image expanded. The caption reads “Peering upriver of Vasey’s Paradise. Springs flow from the Mississippian Redwall Limestone. The overlying cliffs are formed of Permian Supai Group, Hermit Shale, Coconino Sandstone, Toroweap Formation, and Kaibab Limestone.” The boats provide a sense of scale.


AZGS is soliciting comments from the public on improving the model. Comments may be sent to Mike Conway ( | 520.209.4146)

I learned something from this tour. I didn’t know that the Grand Canyon contains stromatolite beds (image 5) which are fossils of the earliest known life form on Earth.

Check it out. You may learn some geology and, if nothing else, there is some great scenery.