We are having a wonderful time exploring this part of Colorado, we are amazed at how much there is to see and do. We decided to go and explore the little western town of Gunnison and were pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the drive along the way. We drove through much of the Curecanti National Recreation Area. We saw one beautiful lake after another, many with huge campgrounds. The beautiful blue color of the lakes with the huge mountains in the background and the vibrant green of the grass was outstanding.
Curecanti National Recreation Area is formed by three reservoirs, named for corresponding dams on the Gunnison River. The national recreation area borders Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on the west. Panoramic mesas, fjord-like reservoirs, and deep, steep and narrow canyons abound. We will definitely go back and do more exploring in this area later.
The Blue Mesa Reservoir is the largest body of water in the state of Colorado at more than 20 miles long and with approximately 91 miles of shoreline. The reservoir formed when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation finished the Blue Mesa Dam in 1965. The reservoir provides water for irrigation, municipal and industrial uses. The dam is one of three, including the Morrow Point Dam and the Crystal Dam that make up the Wayne N. Aspinall Unit in the Colorado River Storage Project approved by Congress in 1956. The water from the project feeds into the Gunnison Tunnel completed in 1909; today it is recognized as a National Civil Engineering Landmark.
Prior to the construction of the dams, the land under the reservoir was used first by Native Americans as far back as 10,000 years ago. In the 1880s, new settlers used the land for agricultural purposes. The reservoir covered the area where the towns of Iola and Sapinero once stood and where the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad operated its trains regularly through the area from 1882 until 1949, with the last train coming through in 1954. When the water in the reservoir is very low, a few of the foundations from Iola can still be seen and the water covers over 79 man-made structures. We passed a few stores left in Sapinero on our trip, next time we will be looking for signs of the old town under the water.
By the time we arrived in Gunnison I had already taken hundreds of pictures. :-) Talk about a scenic drive, this one was outstanding!! I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story. Check back later for more from Colorado.