Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Trip Start May 06, 2010
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Trip End Oct 14, 2010


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Where I stayed
Blue Sky Inn

Flag of United States  , Colorado
Sunday, September 12, 2010

I left my hotel in Montrose and drove to the southern entrance to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  The canyon cuts through the middle of the park and most visitors go to the southern part.  It's roughly 100 miles to get from the southern entrance to the northern entrance.

The park is relatively unspoiled.  It was made a National Monument in 1933 and a National Park in 1999 so it has been protected for a long time but the main reason it is unspoiled is the geography.  At one point someone tried to put a railroad through the bottom of the canyon.  The railroad was completed to the east of the park but they gave up when they got to the portion of the canyon in the park.  The canyon is the steepest large canyon in the US.  It's over 2,000 feet from the rims of the canyon down to the Gunnison River.  One wall of the canyon is the highest wall in Colorado at 2,250 feet.  The sides of the canyon are far steeper than other large canyons such as the Grand Canyon or the Snake River Canyon.  You can easily look across the canyon and see the people on the other side.  In many places the other side of the canyon seems to be closer than the river at the bottom.

My first stop was the Visitor Center where I talked to the rangers and watched the movie about the park.  I then went and visited dozen overlooks on the south rim.  They're all quite impressive.  It's a bit of a hike to get to most of the overlooks so visiting all of them took most of the day.  I then drove down to the East Portal, which is a spot on the river where a dam was built and a six-mile long irrigation tunnel was bored through the mountain from 1905 to 1909.  The irrigation tunnel is still in use.

I plan on making the 100-mile trip to the north rim tomorrow. 
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