Black Canyon of the Gunnison

In western Colorado is a river carved canyon which cuts through the hard rock core of the Gunnison Uplift.  It took the river 2 million years at a speed of 12000 cubic feet per second to create this gorge that is 2772 feet at its deepest point.  It was called “Black” because it is so deep and narrow that little light penetrates it.  Lobbying began in the 1930’s to include in the National Park system, it was declared a national monument in 1933 and a national park in 1999.

We first travelled to the park in March 2005 but didn’t get to travel beyond the visitor center since most of the roads are closed in winter.

Gunnison visitor center in winter


There was no snow this time and all the roads were open including the East Portal Road which takes you down to the river level of the canyon.  Vehicles longer than 22′ are prohibited because of the hairpin turns and the 16% grade, no that is not a typo, it is 16% which is why I wouldn’t let Ernie drive it.

The river now runs much slower through the canyon due to the construction of dams upstream but it still contains Class V rapids and some sections that are considered ‘unrunnable’.  Kayaking is allowed at your own risk but should be attempted by only the most experienced since rescue in some places is impossible.  We didn’t see anyone attempting to run it.

There are 3 pet friendly trails in the park so the girls were able to get out and enjoy the view.  Varel also became extremely frustrated when K’Ehleyr prematurely scared away the deer that were walking into our camp that she was patiently waiting for.

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