Thunder River (Tapeats Creek tributary)

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Thunder River
Thunder River.jpg
Thunder River in the Grand Canyon National Park
USA Arizona location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of the mouth of Thunder River in Arizona
CountryUnited States
State Arizona
County Coconino
Physical characteristics
SourceThunder Springs [1]
  location Grand Canyon (North Rim)
  coordinates 36°23′45″N112°27′28″W / 36.3958°N 112.4578°W / 36.3958; -112.4578
Mouth Tapeats Creek [1]
Grand Canyon
36°23′31″N112°27′05″W / 36.3919°N 112.4513°W / 36.3919; -112.4513 Coordinates: 36°23′31″N112°27′05″W / 36.3919°N 112.4513°W / 36.3919; -112.4513
2,549 feet (777 m)

Thunder River is a river entirely within the Grand Canyon National Park. It flows southeast from its source near the North Rim of the canyon to Tapeats Creek. The 0.5-mile-long (0.80 km) river is one of the shortest in the United States, [lower-alpha 1] and drops approximately 1,200 feet (370 m) over a series of waterfalls, making it the steepest river in the country. [3] [4] [lower-alpha 2] It is also a rare instance where a river is a tributary of a creek. [3]



While Tapeats Creek was named by the second Powell Expedition in the winter of 1871–1872, the expedition did not discover Thunder River; European-American discovery of the river did not occur until 1904. [6] The river can be reached by Thunder River Trail from the North Rim, which is only accessible from mid-May to late October. The upper portions of the trail were originally built in 1876 when rumors of placer gold led speculators to need a way into the area. [7] Further trail work was performed beginning in 1925 under the US Forest Service and continued under the National Park Service with the final sections to Tapeats Creek completed in 1939. [8]


The creek is fed from Thunder Spring, the second-largest spring on the North Rim. Water emerges from the Muav Limestone in a deep cave system at approximately 54 °F (12 °C). Since the spring flows year round, the river is a perennial river. [3] [9] In 1970, the spring was estimated to discharge twenty-one million US gal (79,000,000 l; 17,000,000 imp gal) of water per day into the river. [10]


Common trees near the spring include Fremont's cottonwoods and white sumac. Along the river are willows, seepwillows, other shrubs, crimson monkeyflower, maidenhair fern and other riparian fauna. Common aquatic invertebrate found in the creek include stoneflies and caddisflies. [3]

See also


  1. Some sources claim it is the shortest river in the world. [2]
  2. The entire system of Thunder River and Tapeats Creek has sometimes been called Thunder River. [5]

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The Cambrian Tonto Group is the three-member sequence of geologic formations that represent the basal section of Paleozoic rocks in the Grand Canyon. The group is about 1,250 feet (381 m) thick. The base unit, the Cambrian Tapeats Sandstone was deposited upon the erosion surface of the Vishnu Basement Rocks, which is found in Granite Gorge. The erosion resistant Tapeats Sandstone forms the platform, called Tonto Platform, that the two less erosion resistant upper layers, the Bright Angel Shale and Muav Limestone, rest on.

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Silver Cord Cascade

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Hakatai Shale

The Hakatai Shale is a Mesoproterozoic rock formation that outcrops in the Grand Canyon, Coconino County, Arizona. It consists of colorful strata that exhibit colors that vary from purple to red to brilliant orange on outcrop. The colors are the result of the oxidation of iron-bearing minerals in the Hakatai Shale. It consists of lower and middle members that consist of bright-red, slope-forming, highly fractured, argillaceous mudstones and shale and an upper member composed of purple and red, cliff-forming, medium-grained sandstone. Its thickness, which apparently increases eastwards, varies form 137 to 300 m. In general, the Hakatai Shale and associated strata of the Unkar Group rocks dip northeast (10°-30°) toward normal faults that dip 60° or more toward the southwest. This can be seen at the Palisades fault in the eastern part of the main Unkar Group outcrop area. In addition, thick, prominent, and dark-colored basaltic sills and dikes cut across the purple to red to brilliant orange strata of the Hakatai Shale.

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Tapeats Creek creek in Arizona, USA

Tapeats Creek is a creek located entirely within the Grand Canyon National Park. It flows southwest from its source near the North Rim of the canyon to the Colorado River at the base of the canyon. It was named by the Second Powell Expedition in the winter of 1871–1872 for a Southern Paiute Indian who claimed ownership of the stream. It contributes the largest amount of water to the Colorado of any tributary on the north side within the Grand Canyon.


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  2. Grand Canyon National Park. Fodor's Travel. 2008. p. 79. ISBN   9781400007479 . Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "Thunder Springs and Thunder River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona". azheritagewaters. Northern Arizona University. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  4. MacDonald, Douglas (Feb 2007). "Hike to the Grand Canyon's North Rim Waterfalls". Backpacker. 35 (246): 31. Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  5. Granger, Byrd H. (1976). Grand Canyon Place Names. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. p. 23. ISBN   9780816505388 . Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  6. Anderson, Michael F. (1998). Living at the Edge: Explorers, Exploiters, and Settlers of the Grand Canyon Region. Grand Canyon Association. ISBN   9780938216551 . Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  7. Roos, Constance (2012). The Grand Canyon: with Bryce and Zion Canyons in America's South West. Cicerone Press Limited. ISBN   9781849656580.
  8. "Thunder River Trail". Archived from the original on 2017-04-04. Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  9. Brown, Bryan T.; Carothers, Steven W.; Johnson, R. Roy (1987). Grand Canyon Birds, Historical Notes, Natural History, and Ecology. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press. ISBN   0816509301 . Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  10. Watkins, Conor; Rogers, J. David. "Landsliding And Channel Blockages In Tapeats Creek". Missouri University of Science and Technology . Retrieved 30 April 2017.