Pretty Damn Nice! travel blog

 

 

 

 

 

Examples of schist and gneiss rocks on the canyon wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ok, boys and girls: your words of the day are "schist" and "gneiss". I love the sound of these words and no, they are not dirty. Today, we went to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park about 11 miles from Montrose. My Papa always talked about the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and I believe it was one of his favorite places along with the Royal Gorge. Schist and gneiss describe two types of metamorphic rocks that are changed by heat and pressure and formed into thin layers. These rocks are evident in the Black Canyon which has some of the oldest rocks in North America exposed.

--

We entered the park on the south rim where my old lady pass gained us free entry. There are two roads to take: one that goes to the visitor center and all the way to the end where the highest point is and a second road that goes down to the bottom of the canyon where the Gunnison River flows through the canyon. We started our tour with a stop at the visitor center.

--

We watched a short film which explained how the canyon was "discovered" by a man named Gunnison. The Ute Indians lived at the rim of the canyon for many years, but there is no evidence of their ever living in the canyon itself. The canyon was named the Black Canyon because at its narrowest, very little sunlight reaches the bottom, giving the appearance of a black hole. It was originally thought that the canyon was inaccessible, but two explorers managed to travel down the river on an inflatable mattress, which allowed them to survey the canyon. They determined that an irrigation tunnel could be built allowing waters to be diverted to nearby areas, creating farm land. Three dams have been built on the Gunnison River creating recreation areas and additional energy and water sources for nearby communities.

--

The Black Canyon was carved over millions of years by the Gunnison River which before it was restrained by the dam systems, slammed 12,000 cubic feet of water per second through the gorge at flood stage. The Black Canyon loses more elevation in its 48 miles than the 1,500 mile Mississipi River does from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. Pretty amazing!

--

We drove the south rim, stopping at many of the overlooks to peer down into the steep canyon. From the rim, the river far below looked small, although you could still hear the roar of the water 2,500 ft. above the rapids. At one overlook, the canyon was at its narrowest and it was almost too much to stand and hang on to the fence to look over the edge.

--

After we reached the end of the rim road, we backtracked to the road that went down to the river. The road signs warn of a steep 16% grade and advise that you descend in low gear, which we did. I was surprised to see so many wildflowers still in bloom along the roadside: lots of yellows and purples. As we got closer to the bottom, it was a surprise to see that in fact the river was quite large, deep, and running swiftly in spite of being dammed up around one of the bends.

--

We ate our picnic lunch at one of the tables by the river. After we ate, we followed the road down to the dead end where we could see one of the dams, the Crystal Dam, in the distance. The views along the river were spectacular. Looking up at the rocky canyon walls really gave us a true sense of the ruggedness of the canyon.

--

It was at least ten degrees warmer down at the bottom of the canyon than it was on the top. The trees along the river bank had a soft yellow tone to them, as if to say that fall is just around the corner.

--

We put Suki back into low gear and climbed slowly up out of the canyon back to the cooler rim top. What a beautiful place and a gorgeous day it was.



Advertisement
OperationEyesight.com
Entry Rating:     Why ratings?
Please Rate:  
Thank you for voting!
Share |