García López de Cárdenas

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García López de Cárdenas, (fl. 16th century), is the European man known to have discovered the Grand Canyon. Cárdenas is a historical figure in American Literature.


Cárdenas was born in Llerena, Spain, son to Alonso de Cárdenas y doña Elvira de Figueroa and Maria García Osorio. He was the comendador of Caravaca.

López de Cárdenas was a conquistador attached to the exploits of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado. Expeditions, including one led by Pedro de Tobar, had heard reports of a large river north of Cíbola (Zuñi). Cárdenas was dispatched in September 1540 by the general stationed in Cíbola with the express mission of locating such a river and returning within 80 days. Pedro de Sotomayor accompanied him to record the event as a cronista. After some twenty days of marching in a northerly direction, he was successful; but his band found difficulties in reaching the river (called the River Tizon), owing to the sheer vertical distance down from their position. They were standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. After several days of failed attempts to descend to the water (his men were suffering from thirst), his party was forced to return to Cíbola.

View of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim

Popular Culture[edit]

Cárdenas was featured on the 2014 PSAT/NMSQT in an article discussing the raw beauty of the Grand Canyon as he experienced it with comparison to the disappointment that occurs when the actual sight of the Grand Canyon does not live up to the expectations an individual may produce in response to an image of the sight.


  • Winship, George Parker. (1990) The Journey of Coronado, 1540-1542 (Fulcrum Series in American History). p. 12. ISBN 1-55591-066-1.