Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison


Before leaving SW Colorado on a holiday trip, my husband and I took a side trip to West Central Colorado, to see the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  We entered through its main entrance, five miles northeast of Montrose, via US 50 and CO 347.  I had heard that this canyon is one of our country's most breathtaking sights to see, and I was soon to learn that fact was not an exaggeration!


The day we drove into the park, in late November, it was overcast and misty, and cold enough for snow flurries. We knew that the park was already basically closed for winter, as the weather can be severe here, as the top rim of the canyon is over 8,000 feet elevation.  The south rim's visitors center is open year round, however, and we were excited to see as much as we could of the park.


The first point we reached along the south rim road was Tomichi Point overlook.  Tomichi is the Native American name for the Gunnison River below. There you can see this map of the park--please click on the photo to enlarge.  There are eleven viewpoints along the road from here to High Point, 6 miles away, but only this one and the next were open.


Here, we had our first look at the immensity of the canyon!


Sheer walls of stone rise from 2,000 to 2,722 feet above the swift and turbulent Gunnison River below.  Deeper than it is wide, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison has been carved out over 2 billion years of water erosion by the turbulent Gunnison River. The canyon is so narrow as to allow only the midday sun to reach the bottom, for about 30 minutes a day, thus giving it a dark black appearance.


Next stop was the park's visitor's center at Gunnison Point.  The park protects the deepest 14 miles of the Black Canyon gorge, about 75 miles upstream from the Gunnison's junction with the Colorado River.


Once we walked outside the park's visitor's center we were met by more spectacular views.


The viewing platforms were full of snow and ice, so we gingerly walked around them on a trail.


The weather was improving and the canyon began to glow as the sunlight hit its walls.


Click to enlarge this photo of an informational placard about the geological formation of theses canyon walls over a million years ago.


The metamorphic rocks exposed at the bottom of the canyon are nearly two billion years old! They date from the Precambrian, or oldest, era of the earth. At its widest the canyon is 9 miles across, but only 40 feet wide at its narrowest.


Seeing the high peaks of mountains in the distance made me realize what a high elevation we were standing at as we looked down the canyon gorge.


Light and shadows danced among the walls.


It really was an amazing sight to see! The thought that the river carved only one inch a century through this rock is mind boggling as the bottom of the canyon is some of the oldest exposed rock on earth! To see a list of the rocks and minerals that make up the canyon, click on this NSP link.  The greatest descent of the Gunnison River, in feet per mile, is 240 miles as it flows through the park. The Gunnison's average drop as it flows through the park is 95 feet per mile.


Please click to enlarge


We returned to the visitor center where we enjoyed seeing exhibits and a movie about the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and the history of the explorers and attempts to navigate the Gunnison River and build a railroad at the bottom.



We hiked the relatively easy, one mile loop Rim Rock Nature Trail that follows along a rim of the canyon, not far from the visitors center.  There we could hear the river below and saw sagebrush, Gambel oaks, pinyon pines and Utah junipers.


There are unmaintained hiking trails on the north and south rims of the canyon, which take about two hours to hike down, and four hours to hike back up. All inner canyon descents are strenuous and require Class 3 climbing and basic route finding skills., plus an official permit. Most visitors to the park view the canyon by the various scenic overlooks.  In winter, snowshoeing and cross country skiing trips along the canyon rim are conducted by the rangers.



The short  YouTube video above will give you an overview of what the canyon looks like in summer, and the various viewpoints that were closed for winter during our visit.


The Black Canyon of the Gunnison was declared our country's 55th National Park in 1999.  It is definitely worth a visit to view this magnificent feature of nature and one of the marvels of Colorado, and our country.  I hope to visit the park again sometime in the future, when all the viewpoints are open for the season.  I hope you will also put it on your list of National Parks you'd also like to visit.  A good resource as to what to see and do and where to stay when visiting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison can be found on this link.


Only 26 days till Spring! We have had some unusually warm weather this past week on the Front Range of Colorado. We broke a record at 73 degrees in Denver one day! I know that winter weather will return soon, but it has been nice to have a break. How has the weather been in your area this winter?

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49 comments:

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Pat, thank you so much for showing your beautiful photos of the Black Canyon! What a magnificent place. I will put this on my list to visit. That list is long, but there is so much beauty on this earth that astounds me! ♥

Linda W. said...

A national park I'd love to visit someday. Thanks for the tour!

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Spectacular photos. I thought I seen the area before but your photos convinced I had not. What a sight.

Pondside said...

What a fabulous place, Pat. It is like something out of a fantasy film. You two were brave to go with the threat of bad weather. I think I'd have turned back and missed the wonders. You two are certainly taking your new state to your hearts!

Roses, Lace and Brocante said...

What an incredible country you live in!
Beautiful mountain scenery.
Shane

aginglikeafinewine.com said...

I would love to visit Colorado one day! Will have to add this to my bucket list. Thank you for sharing it.

SmilingSally said...

Hi Pat,

What a thrilling place to explore! I've always loved the Grand Canyon, but I did not know about this wonderful place. Thanks for sharing.

Have a Happy Blue Monday!

The Furry Gnome said...

What an amazing place! I've herd of it before, but never seen pictures. Thanks!

Linda Kay said...

Pat, what a spectacular place to visit!

Travelogue for the Universe said...

Stunning Photos! Thank your for the tour and history lesson :)

Tamar SB said...

What an amazing place to visit!

podso said...

Such amazing views, Pat. You have given me so many interesting places to visit the next time we go to Colorado. Hope you have a wonderful week.

eileeninmd said...

Hello Pat, gorgeous views and an awesome park. The views of the gorge are amazing. Colorado scenery is just beautiful. Great post! Happy Monday, enjoy your new week!

Pat @ bringingfrenchcountryhome said...

Hi Pat, Just discovered your blog and guess what? We're neighbors. I live in Denver and it looks like you're just down the road. I've been wanting to meet some Colorado bloggers and would love to meet you in person. My email is pshipley27@gmail.com if you'd like to meet for coffee sometime. I'm going to enjoy reading all your back stories about Colorado!

Barb said...

Dear Pat, I see you're counting the days until spring! I think the Front Range is due a snow storm today - I know it's supposed to snow here in the mts. I haven't visited the Black Canyon for several years. Your shots take me back to that beautiful place.

Pamela Gordon said...

Thank you for sharing your visit to this magnificent canyon. There is so much to see there and the geology of the land is so interesting to me. It really is beautiful. Have a great week Pat.

Christine E-E said...

Thanks for the tour of Gunnison NP. I've yet to visit this one, but it's on my list. the sheer beauty of the mountains, snow and skylines makes me feel like I was along for your ride.

Lyn Lindfield said...

We have been to the canyon in summer. It is amazing how different it looks with snow all around.

Jeanne said...

Hello Pat, This is a very informative post on the Black Canyon Nat'l Park. We have not visited this canyon but I feel like I have been there after reading your post. Nice work and great photos as well. Thank you for sharing your experience there.

Our weather is still rainy and not much sun. It is a bit warmer though. We can still have more freezing weather. I am looking forward to Spring.

Have a wonderful week.
Hugs,
Jeanne

jeannettestgermain said...

Hello Pat, wow -this is my kind of Park! Amazing captures:)
Please add my new meme SEASONS to your list (starting this week from Mon- Wed 8 am Pacific time)!Thank you - have a happy week!

Andrea said...

It really is amazingly spectacular. I think this is the first time i see this in blogs, the Grand Canyon that is not black is the usual site they visit. It is also beyond my imagination in learning that erosion only takes 1 inch per century and the age of those sites. Oh how wonderful.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I had never heard of this park Pat, until your post. Wow, what a spectacular site, and geologic history. I love how you and Vinny are always on the lookout for new adventures.

elizabeth said...

This is the first I've ever heard of this place. It's amazing!

NC Sue said...

Gorgeous photos here. I love them!
Thanks for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/02/every-10-minutes-someone-in-us-dies-of.html

Rhonda Albom said...

I never heard of this park before. It is lovely.

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
La Petite Gallery said...

Awesome, It's wonderful you both share these adventures together.
One good point about being Young GrandParents, Energy.. yvonne

happywonderer.com said...

Colorado tourism should be thanking you for all these great posts on this great state! Beautiful photos Pat!

carol l mckenna said...

Really grand photography and what a great time you are having in CO ~

Happy Week to you ~ ^_^

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

This one is on my list. I watched the video you posted at the end and was in awe all the time.

bettyl-NZ said...

What a fantastic place. I love the mountains.

Willow said...

Wow! This park needs to go on my bucket list!
You live in an amazing place!

Rambling Woods said...

Hi Pat...I love the photos and I watched the video as I love learning about the National Parks.Thank goodness we preserved these areas .. amazing views.... Michelle

Ida said...

Wow! What a gorgeous place. Your photos were just fantastic. I've never been here so seeing your photos makes me want to visit for sure.

Susan Anderson said...

Wow! Some stupendous views here. My husband and I are going to have to visit this one!

=)

Crochet Hooks said...

beautiful! love the photography and the views are awesome! Just imagine how it would look in all the other seasons!

Jim said...

Thank you, Pat. This is so very interesting as we like Colorado and have visited quite a few times. Once before thr park was designated we traveled through Gunnison with a group consisting of our Youth Choir from the Baptiist Church in Friendswood, Texas. We were going to Crested Butte for skiing during the kid's spring break, singing for our room and board as we traveled. A person would have no idea that the beauty you showed was there under our noses.
Asking about our Winter, here along the Golf Coast of Texas, we have not had our usual freezing weather spells. This may be our warmest year on record, I am sure it is a sign of our world 'climate change' well into fruition. Like the inch a century of your canyon's erosion, that was more than the going rate of rise of the oceans. But the last century it rose eight inches and is predicted to be about twelve this century.
I wonder which part of Italy your hubby is from? We have traveled most all of Italy, even have spent two weeks in Sicily. It and France are in a tie for most traveled for our travels. BTW, I had a cousin who lived in Longmont but he died about three years ago.
..

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

We went to Gunnison in late summer ... It is awe-inspiring. It seemed to us to be a sadly underused NP, but maybe we were just there on a quiet day. On the other hand, until we were in the area, we'd never even heard of it.. So maybe it just doesn't get enough press. Your beautiful post should help increase the visitor count!

Su-sieee! Mac said...

Spectacular! I've never heard of Gunnison. I'm going to make sure I see it in person should I go that way again. Thanks for sharing.

thehiddenpanorama.com said...

i enjoyed the virtual tour, i really love these kind of scenery. thanks

Felicia said...

It is an amazing place. I don't think the visitor center was there when we visited.

ladyfi said...

The scenery is truly majestic!

Vicky Bastedo said...

Very gorgeous and crisp, I could almost smell the snowy air and feel the firm parking lot beneath my feet. Beautiful photos!

Art and Sand said...

Thank you for this lovely visit to Black Canyon. I have only visited Colorado once to ski at Keystone, but I think we need to make another visit.

Thanks for sharing at SYC.

Kelly @ Homespuns 'n Hayfields said...

Hi, I'm visiting from Have a Daily Cup of Mrs. Olson.

I visited here a few years ago, it really is breathtaking isn't it? Thank you so much for the tour, I really enjoyed it. Colorado is such a beautiful state.

Have a great weekend, Kelly.

Betty said...

That certainly is beautiful. I couldn't help but think how different it is from NYC. Do you ever miss NYC or are you too busy with grandchildren to miss it? Betty

Annesphamily said...

Colorado has many hidden gems. There is so much to see and do here. I never tire of my beautiful home state. My oldest brother attended college at Gunnison's Western State so I always enjoyed wonderful trips with dad at the wheel and taking us on some terrific trips. When I was much younger we skied at Monarch and Creste Butte, so different from the overpriced, over exaggerated ski resorts near Aspen and Vail! Plus at Monarch they never use the artificial snow so the skiing conditions are so much safer. That part of the state is simply beautiful and still so filled with so much natural beauty. I dislike all the commercialism in the bigger ski resort areas.
Your photos are wonderful as usual. Have a nice weekend,xo Anne

At Rivercrest Cottage said...

Thank you for the tour of the canyon. I hate heights, so would never have had the opportunity to enjoy the view.

Jenny said...

Pat!

Pat!!!

PAT!!!!!!

I'm so glad to see you!

Absolutely so glad.

Grinning like a nut case here.

I love your tour and I see that, as always, you are embracing where you live with curiosity and enthusiasm.

This looks like a place we would love to explore.

I always love the way so many rock formations look like castles!

Still grinning to see you linked to week 15, Miss Pat.

You have most definitely warmed my heart.

Thank you.

XoXOXOXOXO