For many years science has studied the formation of the Grand Canyon. No single event produced the carving of the canyon. The north rim is higher than the south rim because the whole area has been bowed into what is called a monocline. Such flexing weakens rock just as bending a stick will weaken it at the point of maximum bending. In addition to bending and cracks which weaken sections of rock, water in the area is flowing toward the sea. The Colorado River flows in a path that wanders and winds through the area scouring its bed as it goes. Streams flow into the Colorado flow along the faults through weakened rock materials carving deeper and deeper. All of these things contribute to the formation of the Grand Canyon.
Another obvious contributor is time. How much time did it take to carve the canyon? Some science books will point out that the Colorado River is currently eroding one-half foot of rock every 1,000 years. Then they suggest that if you take the 5,000 feet of vertical rock missing from the canyon and divide it by .5 feet, it would take 10,000 of the 1,000-year-periods. In other words, it would take 10,000,000 years to carve the canyon.
What is wrong with that estimate? Well, first of all, the river is in granite now, which is harder than the sedimentary rocks above it. More important is the assumption that the volume of water in the canyon has been constant. In the past, glaciers melted, producing massive volumes of water in the canyon. Today with the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell controlling the flow (except in a simulation of spring floods), no such volume takes place. Estimating the time required to carve the canyon based on present erosion rates is a self-evident case of bad science.
Another example of bad science comes from creationists who point to Mount St. Helens in the state of Washington as an indication of the time required. Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980 blowing out massive amounts of ash, scoria, pumice, and other extruded volcanic rocks. Erosion produced vast canyons on the flanks of the mountain in a few years. Those who say that proves large canyons can be carved in a short time are overlooking the fact that the volcanic rocks are relatively light, easy to erode, and highly porous. To make comparisons between the Grand Canyon and Mount St. Helens is like comparing butter with steel. (For more on this, click HERE.)
So how long did the formation of the Grand Canyon take? No one can answer that question, just as no one can tell you the date of Genesis 1:1. Only those willing to add to the Word of God will give a date. Many denominational creationists will do this to defend their human creeds and traditions, but I suggest that it is a dangerous thing to do.
What we see in the Grand Canyon is an incredible testimony to the power, patience, wisdom, and design of God. In His creation of the Earth, God has produced the elements He knew we would need. He has engineered a planet that processes and redistributes those materials in such a way that they are always available. The Grand Canyon gives us a glimpse of the inside workings of this great machine we call Earth. Genesis 1:1 tells us God created it, not how or when – or how it works. But God has given humans a curiosity, so we look for answers to the formation of the Grand Canyon. The important thing for us to remember is, “God saw all he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).
— John N. Clayton © 2019