Sunday, June 17, 2012

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

This morning we toured the South Rim Overlooks.

The Black Canyon is not the deepest....
It is not the steepest...
Nor is it the narrowest..

It is however the most impressive Canyon in North America that combines all
of these characteristics.

It is about 2,500 feet deep, 3/4 mile wide at its narrowest point.
Grand Canyon for comparison is 5,000' deep and up to 20+ miles wide.

Unlike Grand Canyon which has mostly sedimentary rock, the Black Canyon
is Igneous (Volcanic) rock and is very hard.

This hardness of the rock is why the river cuts basically straight down.

Looking at these pictures remember that you could stack two
Empire State Buildings..  one of top of the other..
from the river to the canyon rim.

The stripes in the canyon wall behind us were formed from the continuous
volcanic activity that formed all the rock of the canyon.
Molten rock was forced in cracks in the rock creating the patterns.

At one of our stops we ran across this little guy...
He quickly retreated into the bush.

After a stop back at the coach to drop off the Doods, get some lunch and chill
for a bit, we hit the road for the East Portal Road.

In the beginning of the 1900's the US Government formed the Bureau of Reclamation.
The Bureau's task was to assist in the "taming" of the West.
In the West - water is life, yet little of it is to be found.

By taming and damming the rivers, water could be stored & diverted
for farming and human consumption.

The Bureau's first major project was the construction of the Gunnison Tunnel.
The tunnel is a 5.8 mile bore that was made thru the canyon wall that diverts part of
the Gunnison River into the Umcompahgre Valley of Colorado.

With the US Land Act (there were many) The US government became one of the very
few governments in the history of the world that actually gave 
free land to its citizens.

All of the west was settled thanks to these land acts.

For the land to have any value however, there had to be a way to farm or ranch it.
Without water, this is impossible as you cannot rely on rain in this dry climate.

Thanks to the tunnel, a once barren valley is now habitable and productive. 

To construct the tunnel, a road had to be constructed to bring the equipment down
to the floor of the canyon by the river.
The East Portal Road was constructed for this purpose.

It was blasted into the sheer rock sides, and consists of extremely steep (16%) grades,
numerous switchbacks, and steep drop offs as it winds its way down to the canyon floor.

The road descends over 2,500' in just a few miles.

At the bottom is a small diversion dam for the tunnel.

A fisherman enjoys a quiet pool in search of a Rainbow Trout for Dinner.

Alas... what goes down must go up... so after we enjoyed an afternoon along the
River at the bottom of the canyon, we headed back up the East
Portal Road and settled back into our home away from home.

Our campground is loaded with Mule Deer...
They walk by our camper on a regular basis feeding on the oaks...
For those of you from the East...  a mule deer is a regular deer on steroids.
Kinda like Danny Devito next to ARNOLD!

Which brings us up to now...

It's 5:30pm on Sunday 6/17/2012.
I'm sitting here blogging with a G&T, a hand full of mixed nuts...
Kates got TCM on and is watching Father of the Bride with Spencer Tracy...
The Doods are still sleeping...  (how rare)

The sun is streaming in thru the windows, and the
beautiful blue Colorado sky outside is mixing with the green of the Oaks and the
Pinion Pines....

Jean... just call this a double red banner day!

Till next time...


  1. Hi Greg,

    I've been following your posts since Ljubia and I camped next to you in Red Canyon. You do a great job! Your posts are very interesting. I especially like the historical insights.

    We're back home now but hope to be on the road to Oregon by the first of July. This will be our last major trip out for the summer. Ljuba has to be back to class at the end of July. Keep up the good work and enjoy!!

    Lew, Ljuba and Boo

  2. What do the doodles think about the mule deer? And that snake did not look so little, it looked kind of pretty, as pretty as a snake can look :/ Kim

  3. Greg:

    What kind of snake? Any idea??

    You are close to where my mother and brother live (Grand Junction).

    Pretty area - which way are you going from there?


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