A gorge or canyon (cañon, Spanish spelling occasionally still used) is a deep ravine between pairs of escarpments or cliffs and is the most often carved landscape by the erosive activity of a river over geologic timescales. Rivers have a natural tendency to cut through underlying surfaces so will eventually wear away rock layers to lessen their own pitch slowing their waters; given enough time, their bottoms will gradually reach a baseline elevation—which is the same elevation as the body of water it will eventually drain into. This action, when the river source and mouth are at much different base elevations will form a canyon, particularly through regions where softer rock layers are intermingled with harder layers more resistant to weathering.
A canyon may also refer to a rift between two mountain peaks, such as those in ranges including the Rocky Mountains, the Alps, the Himalayas or the Andes. Usually a river or stream and erosion carve out such splits between mountains. Examples of mountain-type canyons are Provo Canyon in Utah or Yosemite National Park in California's Sierra Nevada. Canyons within mountains, or gorges that have an opening on only one side are called box canyons. Slot canyons are very narrow canyons, often with smooth walls.
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