Black Canyon of the Gunnison

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On Saturday we drove up to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, just east of Montrose Colorado. The drive north was beautiful as 550 wound over and around the mountains clad in autumnal colors.

Mountains near Ouray

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison has some of the steepest cliffs in America and the Painted Wall is the steepest in Colorado at 2,722 feet.

Painted Wall

The Black Canyon gets it’s name not from stone, but from the fact that the walls are frequently in shadow due to the steepness.

Walls in shadow

The Gunnison River, though not as forbidding since being dammed, is still a wild river dropping an average of 95 feet per mile. It is navigable only by those who are highly experienced kayakers or by those with a deathwish.

Gunnison River

Hiking down into the canyon is allowed by permit, and I could see returning to do this. There is reportedly an abundance of poison ivy in the canyon (reaching five feet in height) along with a creative bear population, but it looks like a great place to get away from everything for a couple days.

Imagine spending a few days surrounded by this

Kathryn at the Canyon

After driving around the southern rim to enjoy the views, we turned southward again and enjoyed walking through Ouray. Like many of the smaller mountain towns that we’ve visited, the downtown area is dedicated primarily to serving tourists. We also find it interesting that the main street through town is often the only one that is paved, with the rest of the town having either gravel or dirt roads.

Ouray bills itself as the “Switzerland of America”, and it is indeed a lovely place. The town deserves a much longer visit that we were able to give it.

There are many abandoned mines in the area, though there is an ongoing reclamation process to remediate the environmental impact.

Mine outside of Ouray

Our time here in Colorado is coming to a close and we’re glad that we were able to spend another day driving around to see more before we head out, as we’ve only scratched the surface of this beautiful state.

One last shot of the mountains

 

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