Friday, September 02, 2011

Black Canyon of the Gunnision

After the Sierras we made a stop in Carson City for resupply before heading east towards Colorado. Not being in a hurry, we like to travel around 350 miles a day, so we took two days to reach Montrose, Colorado. On night was spent in Wells, Nevada. We had friends whose son was a Nevada Highway Patrolmen and he was stationed in Wells. His wife hated it, so we stopped to see why. After settling into an RV park, we took a drive around town. After 5 minutes we were done. Not much going on in Wells, lots of closed business in a pretty desolate part of the country. We’re told the winters a brutal with the cold and wind. Can hardly blame the wife for wanted out of Wells. We left the next morning as one night was enough for us.

After another one night stop in Green River, Utah, another garden spot, we pulled into the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The Gunnison River cut this narrow deep gorge through solid rock over time. Forty-eight miles long and 2,772 feet deep at its deepest, it is so sheer and narrow that very little sunlight can penetrate it. Hiking into the bottom of the gorge it not really hiking, but more like rock climbing, with some routes requiring repelling, so we didn’t go. We also didn’t consider a kayak trip down the river in our inflatable kayak as the park brochure describes the rapids as Class V to Unnavigable.



We did manage a couple of hikes along the rim or just below it. On one such hike in the early morning, we happened upon a bobcat in the trail. Cathie thinking it was a mountain lion started making a bunch of noise and waving her hands, which was successful in scaring the cat. By the time I got the camera out, it had disappeared into brush.

The Gunnison River in this area cut through the rock for 50 some odd miles. Most of the river has been dammed and only a relatively small portion has been left in its natural state. That is the portion inside the national park. The upper stretches have been flooded by three dams, the Crystal Dam, Morrow Point Dam and Blue Mesa Dam. The reservoirs behind the first two dams are very narrow, filling the confines of the canyon with its steep walls.

We took the park service tour on a boat on the Morrow Point Reservoir for a guided tour of the upper reaches of the lake. Still within a narrow canyon, you have to walk about a mile to the boat dock. Down 232 steps, then along an old rail bed which parallels the river (lake) to the boat dock. The 1.5 hour boat ride through the canyon was really beautiful with the high canyon walls. We did manage to spy a bald eagle in a tree high up the canyon cliff. The only downside to the tour was the walk back to the trailhead and up the 232 steps.


We are now in the Rocky Mountains about 50 miles south of Leadville.  We are in an RV park for the Labor Day Weekend, and plan on doing some hiking in the mountains nearby.  The park is full and trying to find any other place this weekend would be impossible, so we'll stay put.

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