Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a place we recently learned about. It is not one of the better known national parks. That said, it is pretty spectacular. The Gunnison River runs from south to north through a steep and narrow canyon that the river carved through some very dark rock. There is the south rim of the canyon where most visit, and then there is the north rim which is harder to get to, and there is no road directly connecting the two rims. We visited the south rim as it was more visited and we have learned that this probably means it is the better side to visit. I don't know for sure in this case but I would select the side with paved roads rather than dirt roads.
After the day before we arrived, they did not allow campground reservations, so we decided to show up and there was no problem finding a camp site for the two nights we were there. The campground was almost full in the B loop where we stayed and that was probably due to its being best for RVs as they provided electric connection which is always nice. Water is trucked in from the valley below so there were no hookups or provision to put water in our trailer but we had planned for that. We knew we had plenty of tank capacity and that we were staying after this in an RV park with hookups so we were going to be fine. And we were.
The only problem was that the first spot we selected did not have working electric. We noticed that the power pedestal was leaning, and we guessed that someone backed into it and therefore broke the connections. The site next to it was quite acceptable and its power worked so that became our camp site. I recently read about the value in checking your electric before plugging in your RV or unhooking, and this advice proved its worth at this campsite. This was the second time in two years that we ran into a power problem at a camp site so I will continue to follow Mike Sokol's advice that I read in RV Travel newsletter.
Now back to the fun stuff. We started driving around the South Rim Road and stopping at the view points. In a way, it is similar to Colorado National Monument with a rim road and viewpoints but the scenery couldn't be more different. The canyon is very steep and narrow - and the stone walls were not black but certainly very dark. The canyon is a real geology lesson with all the mixed rock formations. They were not really layers but one mineral that squeezed into another where it had cracked giving the rocks a striped appearance.
The canyon is up to 2,700 feet deep and at its narrowest point, the width at the river is 40 feet (and 1,100 feet wide at the top). That's pretty darn narrow and steep as many parts of the canyon wall seem straight down.
After viewing the canyon from the south rim road, we took the East Portal Road which drops to the river. The road is steep and narrow with 16% grades and a maximum vehicle length of 22 feet due to the narrow road and tight switchbacks. At the bottom, we learned about the tunnel that had been bored to divert water to a neighboring valley for irrigation, turning a dry valley into farming land. Of course, they had to build three dams upstream and all this has permanently changed how the river flows. This is a problem here and wherever dams are built as they change the flow from seasonal to very consistent. That's good for water management but bad for the river's natural ways.
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Retirement is great. We bought a travel trailer and are exploring National Parks. (Actually, we bought one and sold it and bought a second one better suited to us. It happens...) And I have time to do some woodworking projects and things around the house. And now I have gotten interested in ham radio so there goes any free time.