This painting is inspired by the view artist Thomas Moran (1837-1926) saw from Powell's Plateau--a northwestern Grand Canyon summit--which he visited in 1873 as part of an exploratory survey with Major John Wesley Powell. The painting was based upon Moran's preparatory sketches and photographs but completed upon Moran's return to his New Jersey studio. This monumental painting depicts a landscape with a canyon, pinnacles, and rocky plateaus. In the foreground at the edges are low-lying shrubs and grasses. The central portion of the foreground is a precipice overlooking a deep canyon. The canyon scene extends to the horizon. An otherwise predominantly fair, clear sky has dark sinuous clouds at the top left, indicative of a passing storm and creating the dramatic filtered lighting in the scene.
The piece was exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., in 1874 and purchased thereafter by the U.S. federal government from Moran for $10,000 and moved into the Senate lobby to hang with Moran's earlier 1872 painting, "Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone."