Article Overview: Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts. Who’s ready for some amazing facts about Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park? It’s a park filled with beautiful landscapes and amazing stories.
More Than Just Parks is your one-stop-shop when it comes to learning everything you’ll need to know about America’s national parks. We’ve got expert guides, beautiful photos, helpful tips, breathtaking films and so much more.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind some of these natural wonders. Then I got to see them firsthand.
And now I’m sharing some of the incredible stories about these beautiful places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
To get you excited about planning your next visit, in this article we’re covering 10 fascinating facts about Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
Table Of Contents: Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
- Some Basic Facts About The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
- Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
- Top 5 Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
- 1. The Canyon Has Been A Mighty Barrier To Humans
- 2. Canyon Walls Are Often Shrouded In Shadows Making Them Appear Black
- 3. The Canyon Was Named After The Man Who Made The First Expedition There
- 4. Two Brothers, Who Invented Tourism Photography, Made A Historic Trip Through The Canyon
- 5. The Gunnison Tunnel Project Was An Engineering Marvel And It Transformed Western Colorado
- Top 10 Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
- 6. Black Canyon’s Painted Wall Is The Tallest Cliff In Colorado
- 7. Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Is A Great Place For Cross-Country Skiing
- 8. Tara National Park In Serbia Is The “Sister” Park Of The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
- 9. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Is Home to the Fastest Animal in the World
- 10. The Black Canyon Is Over 2,700 Feet Deep
- Map Of The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
- Top 5 Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
Facts About Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
Some Basic Facts About The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a national park located in the state of Colorado. The park covers an area of 30,750 acres and is known for its stunning views, deep canyons, and unique geological formations.
One of the main attractions of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is its stunning canyon landscape, with towering cliffs and deep, narrow gorges carved by the Gunnison River. The park is also home to a number of hiking trails, offering the opportunity to explore the park’s unique and varied terrain.
In addition to its natural beauty, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is also home to a number of cultural and historical sites, including the historic Gunnison Ranch and the visitor center, which offers exhibits and programs about the park’s natural and cultural history.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, offering a unique and unforgettable experience in one of the most stunning and rugged canyon landscapes in the United States.
Here Are Some Basic Facts About The Park:
- Location: Colorado
- Acreage: The encompasses roughly 30,750 acres of wilderness.
- Visitation: A total of 432,818 in 2019
- Elevation: From river to rim it stands 2250 feet
- Average annual precipitation: The average annual precipitation is 2.73 inches per year
- When Did It Become A National Park? The Black Canyon of the Gunnison was established as a national monument on March 2, 1933, and was re-designated a national park on October 21, 1999.
Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
Top 5 Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
1. The Canyon Has Been A Mighty Barrier To Humans
Here’s one of the most intriguing of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison has been a mighty barrier to humans.
Only its rims, never the gorge, show evidence of human occupation.
Members of the Ute Tribe were familiar with Black Canyon long before white explorers reached it, and while they called the area home for centuries, even they feared and avoided the Gunnison River far below, referring to it as “much rocks, big water.”
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2. Canyon Walls Are Often Shrouded In Shadows Making Them Appear Black
Another of the extraordinary Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts is that the appearance of the canyon’s walls is what gave this place its unusual name.
The Black Canyon, so named because the walls are often shrouded in shadows making them appear black, has some of the world’s oldest exposed rock — Precambrian or “basement” rock that is nearly 2 billion years old.
As a matter of fact, some parts of the gorge receive only 33 total minutes of sunlight per day, which adds to the blackness.
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3. The Canyon Was Named After The Man Who Made The First Expedition There
Now here’s another fascinating Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts about the man whom the canyon is named after. John Williams Gunnison was a West Point graduate. In 1853, he would lead an expedition into the canyon which became his claim to fame.
Gunnison spent much of his life exploring new lands. He and his survey crew mapped much of the border land and the shores of Lake Michigan. Later he explored and mapped the Great Salt Lake region and gathered scientific information about their surroundings.
According to the National Park Service, Lieutenant Gunnison was promoted to Captain on March 3, 1853 largely due to his successes in Utah and the Great Lakes region. Gunnison longed to begin a new adventure and to return to the Western United States that he had come to love. He would get his chance.
On September 7th, 1853, the Gunnison Expedition first glimpsed the relatively tame section of the Black Canyon at Lake Fork. The report of the expedition described the area as “a stream imbedded in [a] narrow and sinuous canyon, resembling a huge snake in motion.”
The report continues, “To look down over…the canyon below, it seems easy to construct a railroad; but immense amounts of cutting, filling and masonry would be required.”
Gunnison Made The Ultimate Sacrifice
Gunnison and his men continued their explorations through the canyon. According to the National Park Service, they decided to navigate around what is now known as the Black Canyon and follow an easier route west through the present day town of Montrose.
When the expedition finally reached Utah, Gunnison witnessed the destruction left by Paiute Indian raids on Mormon settlements.
Local residents told the expedition that the attacks were not a serious threat because peace talks had just taken place. After a trip for provisions to the town of Fillmore, Gunnison divided the troops to make up for lost time.
He went ahead with a crew of soldiers and guides on October 25. His party camped along the bank of the Sevier River. The attack came during the early hours of the next morning. Only four men of his party survived.
John W. Gunnison never returned home to his family.
4. Two Brothers, Who Invented Tourism Photography, Made A Historic Trip Through The Canyon
When it comes to Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts, as someone who has two sons who are themselves, this is the one which hits closest to home.
In 1902, two intrepid brothers named Ellsworth and Emery Kolb became full-time residents of the Grand Canyon. They spent their days trekking, exploring, and documenting everything with photographs.
Ellsworth and Emery established themselves as both photographers and adventurers during the next 12 years. Their photographs of visitors and lesser-known areas of the canyon supported their chosen career path.
In the process, the Kolb Brothers basically invented tourism photography.
Ellsworth and Emery Kolb bought a photography studio in Williams, Arizona for $425; Emery operated it for a year, mainly photographing saloon girls.
They understood the new demand for tourist photographs while people visited the canyon so they moved the studio there.
One Of The Kolb Brothers Leads An Expedition Through The Black Canyon
The first person who came to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for a lengthy recreational trip was Ellsworth Kolb.
According to the National Park Service, in 1916, Kolb met up with two of his three partners on the Lake Fork of the Gunnison River near Lake City in July. He oriented them to the photographic equipment, including his cineometograph, and to the canvas boats that were to take them down the river.
After running the Lake Fork they met Julius Stone, financier for many of the Kolb’s trips, at Cimarron .
Kolb set out, with cameras ready. Nearly out of sight of the crowd was a large “pinwheel” rapid, or a perpendicular whirlpool. Running the rapid like “a bronc at the end of a lasso,” he stayed with it, until the river turned him over. Likewise for the second boat and a small life-raft they had brought along.
Kolb’s Persistence Pays Off
Kolb and his companions would not complete their expedition on this day, but he would return. On his second attempt, he injured his knee and was unable to complete the journey.
National Parks can offer challenges to the human spirit, and like earlier explorers, Kolb found the Black Canyon to be full of barriers.
Undaunted, however, Ellsworth Kolb made successive attempts and finally succeeded in completing his journey.
As an interesting side note, prior to his expeditions along the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Ellsworth Kolb, along with his brother Emery, became just the eighth expedition to successfully run the rapids of the Grand Canyon.
While doing so, the brothers made what became the longest-running documentary in film history.
RELATED: 16+FASCINATING Grand Canyon Facts
5. The Gunnison Tunnel Project Was An Engineering Marvel And It Transformed Western Colorado
Arguably the most important resource in the development and expansion of the West was water. Without it, there could be no life.
As families moved into the valleys of western Colorado in the 1880s, they found the nearby streams to be unreliable sources of irrigation for their fields. Without water, the land held no value for them.
This led to an ambitious plan to divert the Black Canyon of the Gunnison’s water so that the land would sustain life. To do this would require a tunnel.
Beginning in 1894, surveys revealed the locations for both ends of a tunnel that would divert the water.
Frank Lauzon’s Dream
Frank Lauzon, a miner and prospector in Colorado and Utah, had the idea for a tunnel that would bring water from the Gunnison River to the valley.
He had a dream about it and was plagued by worries about making ends meet. Initial plans for the tunnel were at The Narrows, but an alternate site was selected three miles upriver due to lower construction costs.
Work began in 1904 and by 1909, workers digging from both ends met in the middle.
President William Howard Taft was invited to dedicate the tunnel and a gala event was held on September 23, 1909 to celebrate the occasion. Taft pressed a button at the West Portal and water began flowing into the valley.
Top 10 Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
6. Black Canyon’s Painted Wall Is The Tallest Cliff In Colorado
Just when you thought we couldn’t come up with any more unbelievable Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts we’ve come up with another one. Black Canyon’s Painted Wall is the tallest cliff in Colorado and the third tallest in the continental United States, after El Capitan and Notch Peak.
It stands at 2,250 feet tall from the river to the rim.
If you’re looking to compare, the mighty Empire State Building in New York City stands at a mere 1,250 feet.
7. Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Is A Great Place For Cross-Country Skiing
If you’re looking for long stretches of cross-country ski trails with gorgeous views then you’ll be hard pressed to find a better national park than Black Canyon of the Gunnison.
In winter, the South Rim Drive is closed to vehicles beyond Gunnison Point. Rangers groom the remainder of the road for cross-country skiing (skate and classic) and snowshoeing.
The Rim Rock Trail is an excellent trek for snowshoeing. The upper part of the Oak Flat Loop Trail is also recommended. However, the lower part of the Oak Flat Loop Trail drops approximately 400 feet into the canyon and is particularly difficult in the winter with the elevation change and some steep sections with no switchbacks.
If you decide to do the lower portion of the trail, consider snowshoeing it in a clockwise direction (as displayed on the park map) as the descent will be primarily on switchbacks and the very steep ascent has no switchbacks.
8. Tara National Park In Serbia Is The “Sister” Park Of The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
I found this to be among the most unusual of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts. Not every national park has what’s called a “sister” park, but the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park does. It’s Tara National Park in Serbia.
So, how does this program work? According to the National Park Service, to develop a Sister Park relationship, park managers must first decide whether they and their staff have the time to dedicate themselves to managing a relationship and a commitment to collaborating.
Once a national park has an interest in establishing a sister park arrangement, and a potential sister park has been identified, a dialogue needs to begin. The Office of International Affairs typically assists the park in making the initial contacts or the park itself can begin the conversation.
If both parks decide to move forward, then a non-binding agreement detailing how the relationship will work should be signed between both parties.
On July 12, 2017, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Superintendent Bruce Noble signed a Sister Park Agreement with Tara National Park in Serbia.
9. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Is Home to the Fastest Animal in the World
The peregrine falcon is able to reach speeds of up to 240 miles per hour when it makes its dives.
This incredible speed makes it both the world’s fastest bird and the world’s fastest animal.
On average, the falcon boasts a wingspan of 4 feet across and flies between 40 and 60 miles per hour.
Visitors are more likely to spot these incredible birds in the spring and early summer near the Painted Wall section of the park.
10. The Black Canyon Is Over 2,700 Feet Deep
Among the most unusual of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison Facts is that, at its deepest, the canyon is 2,722 feet deep at Warner Point, followed by 1,840 feet at Gunnison Point and 1,820 feet at Chasm View.
Is it the deepest canyon in North America? No. That honor goes to Hells Canyon in Idaho and Oregon which comes in at just over 8,000 feet
Black Canyon, however, is unique because it’s much narrower, ranging from 1,000 feet to as narrow as 40 feet.
Map Of The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
List Of Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Facts
- The Canyon Has Been A Mighty Barrier To Humans
- Canyon Walls Are Often Shrouded In Shadows Making Them Appear Black
- The Canyon Was Named After The Man Who Made The First Expedition There
- Two Brothers, Who Invented Tourism Photography, Made A Historic Trip Through The Canyon
- The Gunnison Tunnel Project Was An Engineering Marvel And It Transformed Western Colorado
- Black Canyon’s Painted Wall Is The Tallest Cliff In Colorado
- Black Canyon Of The Gunnison Is A Great Place For Cross-Country Skiing
- Tara National Park In Serbia Is The “Sister” Park Of The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison
- Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Is Home to the Fastest Animal in the World
- The Black Canyon Is Over 2,700 Feet Deep
About The People Behind More Than Just Parks
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. My sons have spent their entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
As for me, I’m a retired lifelong educator and proud dad of these two guys hopelessly obsessed with the national parks.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
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