Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park.

Sheer walls of dark grey stone rise more than 2,700 feet above the swift and turbulent Gunnison River to create one of the most dramatic canyons in the country. Deeper than it is wide in some places, this great slit in the Earth is so narrow that sunlight penetrates to the bottom only at midday. The 30,750 acres park, established on 21 October 1999, protects the deepest, most thrilling 14 miles of the gorge, about 75 miles upstream of the Gunnison’s junction with the Colorado River. The metamorphic rocks exposed at the bottom of the canyon are nearly two billion years old, dating from the Precambrian or oldest era of the Earth. Here and there swirling pink veins of igneous pegmatite shoot through the walls, livening up the canyon’s somber appearance. Indians and white explorers generally avoided the formidable canyon up through the 19th century.

Rim drives and hikes offer plenty of opportunities for peering into the magnificent canyon and marvelling at its cliffs and towers of stone. Ravens, golden eagles, and peregrine falcons soar the great gulf of air out in front. On top grows a thick forest of Gambel oak and serviceberry, which provide cover for mule deer and black bears, while farther down the canyon Douglas firs thrive in the shade, and cottonwoods and box elders find footholds along the river. Summer is the most popular time to visit. But be prepared to perspire if you hike at midday on exposed trails, and bring lots of water. Crisp days in late spring and early fall make for excellent walks. Winter affords opportunities for backcountry camping, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. With the rim at 8,000 feet above sea level, winter can set in as early as November and last until April. Snow closes vehicle access to the North Rim; the South Rim road stays open as far as the second overlook year-round.

The South Rim is located 15 miles northeast of Montrose, via US 50 and Colo. 347. The North Rim is 80 miles by car from the South Rim, via US 50W and Colo. 92. Turn south off Colo. 92 onto the 15-mile North Rim Road, the first half of which is paved. Airports: Montrose and Gunnison. You can spend most of the day driving the seven-mile (one-way) South Rim and exploring its five or so miles of trails. But reserve the afternoon, or a second day, for a walk down to the canyon floor. If you have more time, visit the North Rim and its five-mile unpaved drive. Credit: National Geographic Society.

Read the National Park Service Information Here: