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Weird place Wednesday: Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

The aptly named Painted wall's veins run deep in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. At over two thousand feet deep, a high running Gunnison river can still be heard roaring below.

The aptly named Painted wall’s veins run deep in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. At over two thousand feet deep, a high running Gunnison river can still be heard roaring below.

It is one of the newest National Parks, officially receiving the status in 1999 and is one of the deepest, most dramatic canyons in North America. This week’s Weird place Wednesday is Black Canyon of the Gunnison!

It becomes abundantly clear when you visit, how Black Canyon got its name. It is so narrow and deep that light does not penetrate the deepest reaches of the canyon until mid-day, which makes it a particularly challenging photo opportunity. If heights aren’t for you, Black Canyon may be your nightmare. While some of the more developed overlooks have sturdy steel railing, there are many places to take in the views with nothing between you and a raging Gunnison river below but two thousand feet of air! Some of the more popular points in the park tell the story well: “Devil’s Lookout, Exclamation Point and Chasm View” to name a few. The deepest point in the canyon can be seen from Warner point at just over 2,700ft. deep.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is located roughly 15 miles to the east of Montrose, CO or about 64 miles to the west of Gunnison, CO. off of U.S. Hwy 50. Like the Grand Canyon, Black Canyon has a north and south rim with the south rim more developed and accessible. The main ranger station, as well as the visitors center is located on the south rim and it takes very little time to get to from Hwy 50. The much less visited north rim takes much more time to get to and has more primitive accommodations. I will include directions that will show the milage and time in a map below. Both rims of Black Canyon have camping but again, the north rim is much more primitive and spaces are limited as well as water and resources (or a cell phone signal). If you visit the north rim, even though there is some water available, it has to be trucked in so I would highly recommend taking plenty of your own, especially if you are thinking of doing some hiking.

Hiking in the park is available and there are trails that run safely along the rim on both sides of the park that take you to less crowded views. There are also trails (I use that word loosely) that take you to the bottom of the canyon. Some of the names of the trails suggest the severity of the hike such as “S.O.B. draw.” Reading about the difficulty of hiking to bottom of Black Canyon and the epic poison ivy you will most likely encounter, I have not yet convinced myself to head down.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison map.

Areas to visit in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

The town of Gunnison to the south rim visitors center of Black Canyon.

The drive to the north rim, although longer, really is a beautiful drive. The route on the map is the only way to the north rim and there are signs along the way. If you go off exploring from the route on the map, there is a lot of private land with gated dirt roads that will not lead you back to Hwy 92. Many GPS devices including my own may make you think these roads are a quicker way back to the highway, but don’t be fooled. The GPS coordinates for the north rim ranger station are: (for Google Maps)

38 35 12.22 -107 42 17.08

The town of Gunnison to the north rim of Black Canyon.

If you want to see some of the Black Canyon from the bottom, the National Parks Service does run a boat tour within the east end of the canyon on the Gunnison river. Believe it or not, Black Canyon has a long exploration history. The river bottom was first successfully explored on rubber mattresses and there was once a railroad that ran through the canyon. Remnants of the tracks and railroad bed can still be seen on the tour.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a breathtaking place and by National Park standards, it does not receive a lot of visitors at a little under 200,000/yr. The waters to the east of Black Canyon such as Blue Mesa Reservoir within the Curecanti Recreation Area, is not only the largest body of water in Colorado but also offers gold medal fishing.

Have fun out there, and if you have any questions, feel free to email me or comment below.

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