"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Black Canyon of the Gunnison - CO

Gunnison, Colorado
Elk Creek Campground

Elk Creek Campground is on the north shore of Blue Mesa Reservoir and is Colorado's largest body of water. The campground is part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area and sits at an altitude of 7,540 feet.  It is located between the towns of Montrose and Gunnison.  The area is surrounded by sagebrush and trees are minimal because the reservoir gets less than 12 inches of rain a year.  
Since it was much warmer down here we had a site with electric hookups for $28.  It's a nice area and right on the lake.  We didn't get any kayaking time in but Hurley had fun swimming and fetching sticks.  Our main plan here was to take the Morrow Point River Boat ride down the famous Black Canyon of the Gunnison and visiting the National Park.

Elk Creek Campground.  Horrible cell service though so we kept our visit short.
I had some nice flowers growing that we blamed the deer for eating.  Turns out it was chipmunks.  We caught the little buggers sitting in the pots stripping the plants clean!
After we got settled in we took a ride into Gunnison to check out the river and bike trail.  We didn't get any bike rides or fishing in either, but both looked like fun. 

Cute, old barns everywhere.

The Gunnison River.

Carved statues out of stumps and part of the bike trail that runs along the river.

The next morning we headed out for our 1 1/2 hour morning boat tour.  It was $24 each and I'd recommend reservations.  From the Pine Creek Trail area, you walk down 232 stairs, then an easy 3/4-mile scenic walk along the old narrow-gauge rail bed before reaching the boat dock. 

Just a little workout.

Wish I'd thought to bring my fishing pole.

These guys weren't having any luck though.

We had a great tour guide that explained all of the interesting geology and animal life on the river.

Not a good picture, but a Bald Eagle in the dead tree.

 The Ute Indians had known about the canyon for a long time before the first Europeans saw it. They called the river "much rocks, big water," and avoided the canyon out of superstition.

The Black Swift nests behind this waterfall.

It was a nice ride down the river.  Not many entry points to get down into the canyon.

What's that pink thing?  A swimmer having fun at one of the few points you can access this nice cove.  It's a long hike down though and you have to carry your floaty with you!

Can you see the faces and animals in the rocks?  I see an Indian in the lower left and a monkey face in the middle with a ram's head on top of him.  Cookie Monster to the right of the monkey.

Very dramatic views.

On August 13, 1882, the first passenger train passed through the Black Canyon.  Hard to imagine anyone building a train route through this steep canyon.  By 1890, an alternate route through Glenwood Springs had been finished and the route through the Black Canyon, being more difficult to operate, lost importance for the train. The route was finally abandoned in 1955.  Nothing remains of the old tracks.

If you look at the pointy mountain in the background, you'll see that this is the exact spot they used for the advertising in the railroad sign you see above.

Another day we took a long drive around the lake and above the canyon walls.

On the way we saw this nice buck with a huge rack.

The greatest descent of the Gunnison River happens at Chasm View dropping 240 feet per mile. The Black Canyon is named due its steepness which makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate into the bottom. As a result, the canyon is often filled with shadow, causing the rocky walls to appear black. At its narrowest point the canyon is only 40 ft. wide. 

Here's a view looking down into the canyon.

Scary standing at the edges of these viewing platforms and looking straight down 2000 feet.
Very deep canyon!

I wouldn't want to stand on that outcropping.  Looks like it could drop off any time.

It's a beautiful canyon and being on the correct side of it during the correct part of the day really gets you better views and pictures.  It was late in the day by time we got there and I had a hard time fighting the sinking sun.
Next we meet up with some RV Friends in Ridgway.


  1. Wow, that is beautiful, Deb. My parents took me there when I was 6 years old, but I had totally forgotten about it. Time to make a return visit!

    1. We found it more impressive than others said. We did not get to drive to the southern rim, but enjoyed the north. It's a long day drive. We loved the boat ride too.

  2. OMG I love the picture of the flamingo floated. How absolutely awesome is that!!

    1. Since it was such a remote spot with tall cliffs, it was funny to see someone just floating around, until we spotted the little spot in the cove. Still. A it would be a crazy hike down 2000 ft to get there! It was a cute flamingo though.

  3. Breathtaking landscape. I could sit on those cliffs or float down that river and let days pass by. Did you scout out any dry camping sites in the area that would have worked if it had been a little cooler?

    1. There were a few other campgrounds by the same Dept but without hookups and only $10. There was some dispersed camping, but we didn't check most of them out. Very dusty roads that turned into deep mud pits when wet. Narrow roads and very small turnouts that were few and far between. The fairgrounds in Gunnison, turned out to be the best deal with W/E and nearby free dump station. We were the only ones. Not the absolute prettiest or private, but there was a strip of grass and trees.

  4. was there much hiking in the area, or more just viewpoints?

    1. Outside of the park there was some hiking. It was very hot when we were there and we were busy with other things. Within the park itself, mostly very long drive loops. One on each side of the canyon. There were some trails away from the canyon but they looked very boring. Not much to see but scrub. We did see a couple that went down in to the canyon, but we didn't know anything about them. At 2000 ft straight down, they didn't look too safe and were probably technical descents. But we only spent our time on one side of the canyon.


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