After our beautiful drive on the Silver Thread Scenic Byway, we wound up in Montrose, Colorado. We had booked a room at the Best Western Red Arrow and were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. Our plan was to stay there that night and the next, while we visited the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is stunning. It's about a half-mile deep at its deepest. At one point, the two rims are only 1100 feet apart, but the canyon at that point is 2700 feet deep. Of course, it's not easy to capture the drama of this kind of scenery in a photograph, but that didn't keep me from trying.
By 1900, residents of the nearby Uncompahgre Valley wanted river water for irrigation, so five of them hazarded an exploratory float of the river but gave up after a month. Then, in 1901, Abraham Lincoln Fellows and William Torrence floated it on a rubber mattress - 33 miles in nine days - and said an irrigation tunnel was feasible. The 5.8-mile Gunnison Diversion Tunnel, begun in 1905 and dedicated in 1909, still delivers river water for irrigation of the valley.
Abraham Fellows wrote of his experience:
Our surroundings were of the wildest possible description. The roar of the water...was constantly in our ears, and the walls of the canyon, towering half mile in height above us, were seemingly vertical. Occasionally a rock would fall from one side or the other, with a roar and crash, exploding like a ton of dynamite when it struck bottom, making us think our last day had come.
|Purple Lupine Lining a Trail|
|A local resident, checking to see if we would share our picnic lunch.|
We spent the day, driving to the various trails and overlooks and walking to the edge to see down into the canyon. The walls are not black. In fact, there are some interestingly colorful streaks in the rock. But I think the name, "Black Canyon," comes from the fact that sunlight rarely, if ever, reaches into the depths of the canyon so that it appears to be black.
It's a beautiful and interesting place to visit. But don't get too close to the edge.