Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Hiking and Touring

Posted from Hurricane, UT
(Click on Pics Below to Enlarge)

There are MANY pictures not presented in today's blog.
If interested, click on the link below to view.

Monarch Pass, CO
Warner Point and South Rim Trails
Gunnison Diversion Dam and Trails
Morrow Point Boat Tour

After visiting the Colorado Springs area we headed west on US 50 to Montrose, CO. We had never traveled this route and didn't quite know what to expect with the mountain climbs and descents. US50 continues thru an area known as Monarch Pass. The scenery both up and down the mountains was beautiful. I believe this is the highest elevation that our rig as gone so far. We stopped at the summit (11,312 feet) for a photo op.

There were available "slow lanes" coming up the mountain, so we just moved right and drove along at a steady pace.  The rig did fine. We only have an exhaust brake on our rig, but it worked well to slow the coach on the descent. The key is to maintain control of your speed and to stay off the brakes as much as possible.

We spent a week at the Montrose KOA with the intent of visiting the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  Let me begin by saying that I am not a big fan of KOAs. They are usually overpriced for what you get (IMHO). After the escort person brought us to our site from the wrong direction, my opinion was further enforced.  We made it into the site (with no help from the attendant, I might add).

Ok, enough negativity, on with exploring the area. We actually drove to the Park on several days to both hike and explore. The first day we went to the South Rim Visitor's Center to pick up maps and literature for the Park. The Visitor's Center is situated right on the rim of the canyon.

Several trails take you on a walk along the rim of the canyon. The river at the bottom is named the Gunnison River.

Here's a picture Karen took of me sitting on a rock near the rim (but not too close.)

The Warner Trail provides great views into the canyon and looking south towards Montrose.

One of the areas we enjoyed was a drive down the East Portal Road to the Gunnison Diversion Tunnel and Dam. The road was originally used to transport materials and machinery to construct the dam and tunnel back in 1905-1909. The road is narrow and not available to any vehicles greater than 22 feet in length.

Tunnel Opening to left Beyond Pump House
The road winds back and forth for 8 1/2 miles from the main road to the river. The elevation drops almost 2000 feet in that distance. There are picnic areas along the river. We saw folks mainly fishing when we were there. The tunnel was quite an engineering feat carried out by the Bureau of Reclamation. The tunnel length is 5.8 miles and was bored straight through the side of the mountain and exits into the Uncompahgre Valley. The main purpose of the tunnel was to provide irrigation to the Valley and to the city of Montrose.

The adventure we enjoyed the most in the entire park was the Morrow Point Boat Tour. (Thank you Laura H. for the recommendation.) The tour is a bit over 1 1/2 hours in length on a large pontoon-style boat operated by the NPS. To reach the boat's dock is a bit of an adventure in itself.

We drove back east along US50 for 35 miles from Montrose. Once at the parking area at Pine Creek, a trek of 232 steps is necessary to reach the river. This is a picture of the "nice" part of the steps. There are many turns and rocky steps as well.

Once you reach the river, a hike of 3/4 mile is necessary to reach the boat's dock. This is along a flat path which once held a narrow gauge railroad track. Easy walking here.

We boarded the boat and were given the usual "safety" instructions by Ranger Morrison. He was to be our guide during the tour. I might say that he did an excellent job of relating the history and geological make-up of this area.

The canyon and river in this area are simply beautiful. Because of the remoteness of the area (and limited accessibility) we saw NO ONE else on the entire tour. (Sorry about the blurriness of this shot of the eagle, but the boat was moving as I attempted to get the picture.)

Even though it was summer, Chipeta Falls was still flowing from the cliffs above.

Here's a view looking west down the river.

If you are ever in the area, the Morrow Point Boat Tour is well worth the $24 per adult fee. The views along the canyon walls from the river level are stunning.

Thanks for stopping by to take a look!