The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania

The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania

When you hear the name “Grand Canyon,” you usually think of Arizona. I have been to the bottom of the Arizona canyon and taken several boat trips down the Colorado River. As a result, I have nothing but good memories of that majestic canyon. Recently I had a chance to visit Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

As a person trained in geology and an admirer of Earth’s beauty and history, I was amazed at how much I could see in this canyon. It’s 1000 feet deep and stretches for 47 miles through northern Pennsylvania. Because it is an erosional formation, it mainly consists of sedimentary rocks. Glaciers went through that flat area and created a lake. Eventually, the natural dam holding back the lake eroded, and the water escaped, gradually forming the canyon. As a result, glacial erratics made of all kinds of rocks, some as big as a house, are scattered all around the area.

The rocks that make up the Allegheny Plateau tell a history of change. Limestone layers form when water is still, and minerals can come together to produce the rock. A flood never produces limestone, and many of the limestone rocks contain marine fossils. Rapidly moving water produces gravel which becomes a rock known as conglomerate. Shale is mud turned into rock, and sandstone can be a beach deposit left by moving water or blown by the wind. None of the sandstone in the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is wind-blown.

The 1000-foot canyon has all of these rock types in various layers. It is evident that at times an ocean covered this area, and other times glaciers deposited boulders, cobbles, and gravel. In addition, the existence of a lake laid down some layers, and occasional coal seams tell us of ancient swamp conditions. Therefore, it is not surprising that the first oil well was produced near this area.

What do places like the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania tell us about God? God is not a magician and does not try to deceive us. Understanding how God made the land on which we live is a testimony to His wisdom and power and the fact that time is not an issue for God. The flood of Noah cannot explain the Grand Canyon of Arizona or the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. We can see clear evidence of a gradual process and claiming that God miraculously zapped all of this into existence without a process over time puts God in the role of being a deliberate deceiver. Because most of these rocks are not flood deposits, neither a flood nor intentional deception is an acceptable explanation for these beautiful canyons. Science and faith are friends, and the scientific evidence of how canyons like this were formed gives evidence of the patience, design, and purposes of God.

— John N. Clayton © 2022