About 250 kilo­me­ters south­west of Atlanta is a net­work of gorges and mas­sive ravines, gra­cious­ly called the “Lit­tle Grand Canyon” by the locals. Prov­i­dence Canyon is con­sid­ered one of the “sev­en nat­ur­al won­ders” of the state of Geor­gia, except that it actu­al­ly appeared not with­out human inter­ven­tion. These impres­sive canyons were not cre­at­ed by the action of nature over mil­lions of years. They were carved by rain­wa­ter runoff from agri­cul­tur­al fields in less than a cen­tu­ry.

providence canyon

Entry relat­ed to loca­tion: USA

Prov­i­dence Canyon began to take shape in the ear­ly 1800s due to poor farm­ing prac­tices that pre­vailed through­out the coun­try and espe­cial­ly in the south. In those ear­ly days of farm­ing, land was cheap, unlim­it­ed, and seem­ing­ly expend­able, giv­ing way to com­bi­na­tions of plan­ta­tions, small farms, and, ulti­mate­ly, equi­ty. Such a sys­tem not only degrad­ed the land, but also kept farm­ers in debt and hin­dered tech­no­log­i­cal progress.

canyons usa
The nat­ur­al for­est cov­er was cleared for large agri­cul­tur­al areas, and no mea­sures were tak­en to avoid soil ero­sion, result­ing in a mas­sive loss of top­soil. Small ravines began to form, which quick­ly became deep­er and more exten­sive until they were sev­er­al meters deep by the 1850s. These small chan­nels began to fur­ther con­cen­trate runoff, increas­ing the rate of ero­sion. Today, some of the ravines in Prov­i­dence Canyon are 50 meters deep. Despite its recent for­ma­tion, Prov­i­dence Canyon is a trea­sure trove for geol­o­gists and vis­i­tors. Ero­sion has exposed sev­er­al mil­lion years of geo­log­i­cal evi­dence with­in its walls, reveal­ing a wide range of min­er­al col­ors. In part, these lay­ers are sim­i­lar to the Grand Canyon and are of con­sid­er­able inter­est to geol­o­gists.

See also
The Unusual Columns of Crowley Lake

Prov­i­dence Canyon is in a region that was formed by the depo­si­tion of marine sed­i­ments about 74 mil­lion years ago. The soil in the upper part of the canyon appeared about 60–65 mil­lion years ago, imme­di­ate­ly after the advent of the dinosaurs. The rather rough, red­dish col­ored sand is caused by the pres­ence of iron oxide. Beneath this for­ma­tion lies what is known as the Prov­i­dence Sand, which makes up most of the canyon walls. The upper part of this lay­er is very fine sand mixed with white clay. The mid­dle lay­er is rough and brighter, inter­spersed with yel­low (limonite) and pur­ple (man­ganese) deposits. The low­est and old­est lay­er is black and yel­low mica clay. The canyon floor was deposit­ed about 70–74 mil­lion years ago and is orange in col­or but poor­ly exposed and over­grown with veg­e­ta­tion. And while Prov­i­dence Canyon con­tin­ues to erode, its bot­tom is more sta­ble, and the growth of pines, shrubs, and oth­er veg­e­ta­tion has helped sta­bi­lize the soil. In con­tin­u­a­tion of the top­ic, I advise you to also admire the largest canyons on Earth in a sep­a­rate selec­tion on Life­Globe.