The Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park is an awesome gorge. It is so deep, so sheer and so narrow that very little sunlight penetrates it depths.
Driving to the rim, you have no indication of what awaits you; suddenly you are looking deep into a most magnificent chasm. A half mile down you see a narrow ribbon of shining silver. It is the Gunnison River
“Scary, ain’t it”. . These are typical comments you will overheard at the overlooks. You may get a slight touch of cliff-side vertigo as you look into its scary depths.
The Black Canyon
The Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park is a 13 miles long chasm cut though black granite walls. It is 2900 feet deep but only an extremely narrow 1300 feet wide. The canyon contains some of the oldest exposed rock on earth, 2 billion year old Precambrian.
For most visitors this is just a quick drive through park. It is worth more that just a quick look. Take you time and enjoy the park. Each overlook is unique and picturesque.
Tomichi Point Overlook is the first. It is what I call the introduction lookover. It is just a sampling of what is to come.
Gunnison Point near the visitor’s center is the most spectacular in the park. The canyon walls abruptly fall away- 2000 ft down. The view is amazing.
The visitors center at Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park is a new log structure housing the usual interpretive and orientation. It has a short movie and a helpfull park rangers with a canyon full of information.
Pulpit Rock Overlook– Here is the park’s hamburger stand and souvenir shop. From the overlook, it has the best upstream view of the river. The river, a half mile below, appears to be a tiny ribbon of silver.
Chasm View and The Painted Wall Overlooks are just upstream and around the bend from each other. The famous Painted Wall, the highest single cliff in Colorado, is 2250 feet tall-. It gets its name from the beautiful marbled pink and white streaks of pegmatite embedded in the granite.
Clinging to the guiderails, looking into the narrow depths, it is hard to believe that there was once a railroad tracks snaking along side the river. The Denver& Rio Grand Railroad hauled Coal, Cattle and other freight though the canyon from 1882 to 1949.
Many passengers believe the route though the canyon was unusally beautiful and scenic thus, it was advertised as, “The Scenic Line Of The world”.
Others did not agree. In 1889 Rudyard Kipling rode the rails thought the canyon and wrote:
“We entered a gorge, remote from the sun, where the rocks were two thousand feet sheer, and where a rock splintered river roared and howled ten feet below a track which seemed to have been built on the simple principle of dropping miscellaneous dirt into the river and pinning a few rails a-top. There was a glory and a wonder and a mystery about the mad ride, which I felt keenly…until I had to offer prayers for the safety of the train.”
The hidden secret to Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park lies across the canyon. Most visitors who make the effort consider the North Rim, the best of the park. It is remote, out of the way, and farther to drive on gravel roads. The views from the North rim are spectacular.
The best time, to see the park is late afternoon. At sunset the gorge shows off a lot of different personalities. The lenghting shadows add to the drama. The ever-changing canyon walls appear darker and deeper and more rugged. Then the light fades like slowly closing curtains on a nature’s light show.
The Black Canyon is so awesome in the afternoon that it may just turn you into a “canyon connoisseur” It will take your breath away.
The are 103 camp sites, first come, first served, at the park, They have with water but only pit toilets. The camping fee is $10.00
The best bet is to get a room in Montrose, it is only 10 miles west of the park. Montrose has large selection of hotels, good restaurants, and many other things to see and do in the evening.
Black Canyon of The Gunnison National Park
102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, Colorado 81230,