Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
The lighter rocks are magma that filled the fractures in the black granite
We have visited the vast majority of American national parks; from Acadia NP in Maine to the National Park of American Samoa (where park rangers wear lava lava skirts), and from the Virgin Islands NP to Denali NP in Alaska; but we had never visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP here in our own state of Colorado. One reason is that this park has never been on our way to other parks, as we always took the northern route across Colorado to Arches and Canyonlands NPs in Utah, or the southern route to the Great Sand Dunes and Mesa Verde NPs. Secondly, the drive to Gunnison is at the furthest extent for a day trip...215 miles or four hours drive from our home and the same distance back; making for a long day. But the park was always near the top of our bucket list, if we could ever find the right weekend.
15 May 2018 Saturday. We awoke early prepared to spend the morning at the Keep Woodland Park Beautiful Cleanup Day, which was to start at 8:45 AM. We drove to the rendezvous point and no one was there...a mix up with my calendar with the
Monarch Pass Continental Divide
Bonnie in the front window of my car
event scheduled for the following Saturday. So Linda says "Let's drive out onto the eastern plains." I thought how boring and countered with " How about the Black Canyon of the Gunnison," which fortuitously was within driving distance given how early we were up. Linda asked how far, and I guessed at three hours to get there...wrong! Anyway, we were off.
Our first stop was at a Thai restaurant at the intersection of US50 and US 285 in Ponca Springs. We've stopped there before...many years before, but the cook recognized me as soon as I started ordering in Thai. Linda wanted take out so that we could eat at a scenic spot along the way. So the next stop was a few miles west at Monarch Pass (11,712 ft elevation), where we crossed the Continental Divide. I ate the mangoes and sticky rice and Linda ate the chicken satay, saving the rest for dinner that evening. We then continued west, following the streams and rivers to the Pacific, where I had been the week end before.
We passed the Curicante National Recreation Area on the way and finally arrived at the Black Canyon about 2 PM...more than the
Curicante National Recreation Area
The lake is formed by a dam of the Gunnison River, the same river that formed the Black Canyon
three hours I had estimated. Linda asked if there was another way back home, but every alternative would be hours longer. We stopped at the first overlook and were totally in awe of the view down the Black Canyon. It is called black because it is so deep, so sheer, and so narrow that little sunlight can penetrate. Fortunately we arrived at the time of day where sunlight reached its depths.
The canyon was formed over a period of 2 million years by the Gunnison River cutting through a gradually rising granite dome called the Gunnison Uplift. The water cut rock faster that the dome rose as the flow was very rapid, losing more elevation in 48 miles than the Mississippi River does in 1500 miles. We continued to the visitor center where we walked out to Gunnison Point. Upon returning to the car we discovered that our dog, Bonnie, had eaten the rest of our Thai food. Bad dog! We threw the remnants into a garbage can and continued to other overlooks.
We finished about 4 PM and headed back home; stopping for fast food in the town of Gunnison. After a long and rewarding day we
returned home about 8 PM; a very fortuitous day when everything came together.
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