This my friends is a really exciting National Park visit for me. Not only is it the third (of four) National Parks I have visited in the state of Colorado, but more importantly to me, is the fact that it is also the halfway point on my Bucket List for all 58 of the U.S. National Parks. I have now visited 29 U.S. National Parks leaving 29 still left to visit.
If you are wondering what other parks there are that I have already visited in Colorado; they are Mesa Verde National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The only one left in Colorado now that I have not visited is the Great Sandunes National Park.
But getting back to this particular blog post, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison's unique and spectacular landscape was formed slowly by the action of water and rock scouring down through hard Proterozoic crystalline rock.
No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. And as you can see from these pictures I have posted here, it is a really spectacular park. In fact I wondered why I have not heard much abotu this park. I am sure there are a couple of reasons for that.
One reason is probably that it is not all that easy to get to and there don't seem to be many large towns (and airports) around it. But the biggest part may be that in the age of National Parks, this is a relatively new one. In fact it was only upgraded to a National Park in October of 1999. So I guess the word has not yet gotten out? But this place was spectacular in my opinion.
The Gunnison River through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park drops at an average of 95 feet per mile. By comparison, the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile.
While the people of the Ute bands knew of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, it was an obscure geographic feature to explorers for hundreds of years. The Spanish were the first Europeans to canvas western Colorado with two expeditions, one led by Juan Rivera in 1765, and the other by Fathers Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. Both were looking for passage to the California coast, and both passed by the canyon.
Fur trappers of the early 1800s undoubtedly knew of the canyon in their search for beaver pelts. They left no written record of the canyon, though, probably because they couldn't, in fact, read or write.
By the middle of the century, exploration of the American west had captured the nation's attention. In turn expeditions came to the Black Canyon searching for railroad passageways, mineral wealth, or in a quest for water. Eventually explorers came to see the canyon, not for commercial wealth, but for the renewal and recreation that it offered.
Today, you can walk in the footsteps of some of these hardy and inquisitive forebearers. The canyon still offers a rugged and demanding experience, even as it did more than a hundred of years ago. This point was made when a hiker at the visitor center asked if he needed to check in and they told him; "no not really!" As I looked as those sheer cliffs of granet going down into that canyon I thought... "good luck buddy!"
I would rate this National Park as one of my Top 10 U.S. National Parks becuase of its ravishing natural beauty. Yet another example of the beauty that God has created for us all to enjoy. "The canyon has been a mighty barrier to humans. Only its rims, never the gorge, show evidence of human occupation – not even by Ute Indians living in the area since written history began."
~ Left by the Kolb Expedition of 1916.