Monday, June 12, 2017

Not Just a Canyon – The Black Canyon

Narrows,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Does it seem like our theme this year is “Canyons”???  Goosenecks, Grand Canyon, Palo Duro Canyon and now, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park…and something is telling me that it isn’t over with this theme just yet either. 

Valvolene, Montrose Colorado
We left Ridgway State Park around 9, after using the dump station which included a few rookies in the lane next to us…father and older teenage or early 20’s kids…one of which pulled the black tank nozzle a bit early, but was lucky enough to then close it within 2 seconds…well, we all know how that went.  Anyway, off to Montrose where we visited a Petco to get Bubba’s nails cut and to drop the tow car for a bit, then to Valvolene to get the oil changed in the motorhome, and then to Walgreens to get our 90 day collection of drugs, and back to get the car again.  All done by 11, and off to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  I had already plugged it into the GPS, didn’t bother to check the route, and off we went…right through Delta, right on 92, and about 10 miles in on 92 I see a sign that says “Highway 50 is 52 miles away”…and my mind starts to come into focus.  “Marcia, I made a big mistake!”, I said, “I plugged in the directions for the “NORTH” side of the canyon, not the South side.  Well, we are committed, so might as well continue.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

As if things couldn’t get better…they didn’t.  We turn onto the road to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and the sign says, “Last 6 miles in not a paved road”…this, of course, is starting to bring back horrors of the Last 200 miles of the Yukon before we got into Alaska!  But as you can see above, the unpaved road is not that bad.  Overall, just a few minor areas which amounted to nothing big.

Narrows,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

What was big was the 2,000 foot drop from the top of the canyon to the bottom, the big shear walls, the big amounts of water running down the Gunnison River, so much that you can hear the water roar as if it was a waterfall!  What else was big was not being able to land a camping spot in the park…the north side has a small, crappy campground.  What also was not big was the fact that Marcia could not get to even one of the overlooks…and thank goodness for the sparsely few spots that she could see the water at the bottom of the canyon from the motorhome.  After seeing we could not get a camping spot, we stopped at the Ranger Station just to find it is closed.  I unhooked the car, and we drove the 4 miles along the north rim rocky bumpy road (actually, it wasn’t that bad) and back.  There are six overlooks, as they call them, but four of the six you have to hike a bit on sandy, rocky, unleveled ground to get to the overlook.  The other two you walk a small way, but again it is sandy, rocky and unleveled…not even accessible for Marcia.

Narrows,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park   Narrows,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
 Narrows,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The first viewpoint was called “The Narrows”…you park, find the path, and walk for a bit and finally come to this overlook (It might be shorter than I am making it sound, but we are at 8,000 feet here).  A car pulled up behind us…a nice young couple from Ames Iowa area..they walked down a different path closer to their car.  I told them as we met later to keep walking because the overlook was real nice with a fence to keep you from being blown into the water Narrows,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Parkbelow (after you hit a few sides of the walls of the canyon of course…yes, the wind was another “BIG” thing today)  This couple had been getting close to the edge of the canyon…well, the guy was, she was keeping her distance.  I told them that I wasn’t going to risk it to get “that” picture, so I didn’t get close to the edge outside of the fenced areas.  In fact, picture right shows just how “NOT” close I would get to the edge…

Narrows,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park    Narrows,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
So this is the Narrows, the two pictures above showing the view to the south (left pic) and to the north (right pic).  The very first picture on this blog post is very similar to the one of the left, but in landscape mode.  Also, the picture looking straight down was also taken from this area…so now you have seen “The Narrows”.  And as I have said before, if you click on a picture, it will open to a larger picture…especially that first picture because it shows the enormity of it all.

Balancing Rock,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

The next viewpoint is called “Balanced Rock”  I wishBalancing Rock,  Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park I could put a person next to it to show just how large this rock is, balancing on the edge of catastrophe.  Down below, to the bottom left of the rock, is the Gunnison River.  If this thing ever falls, it is likely to dam up the river a bit ‘if’ it doesn’t crash into pieces before it stops.  To the right is another picture of it, with the camera at an angel…but you can see the canyon walls on the other side, which gives you another perspective of just how large this rock is…it is monster big!

 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park     Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
 Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Try as we might to get Marcia a complete view of the canyon…well, it was hard, but finally found a view along the road she could see it from.  Top left is a small wash that empties into the Gunnison River.  Think of it like a “T”, but with the upper horizontal line on the “T” being the river and the large canyon, with the bottom vertical part is like what you see in the picture above left.  The upper right picture actually shows a tiny amount of the river, but it does not show the full canyon.  But the bottom picture of the three pics above is one that Marcia took showing the canyon…YES!  She got to see the canyon!!!  All three of these pics were taken by Marcia from her side window in the front of the motorhome!

Kneeling Camel, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Above is the final viewpoint along the north rim road…it is called Knelling Camel…can you see why???

Kneeling Camel, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Marcia saw it before I did…I had to ask my new friends from Iowa…he spotted it and showed it off to us.  But when I got back to the motorhome Marcia said, “Did you see the camel?”  So I had her take a picture of it, and well, here it is…the Kneeling Camel.

Buck and four Doe on road to Black Canyon

On our way back to highway 92, I spotted these dears up and to the right.  I slowed down and Marcia was able to get this great picture…a few of the females were distracted by a car way  in front of us that stopped too…but that male with the rack that every hunter will be after this fall spotted us right off the bat.  Let’s hope he is that alert when the boys with their rifles or bows and arrows are out looking for him in about four months from now.

Delta County Fairgrounds, Hotchkiss Colorado

Since we couldn’t camp in the National Park for the night, we started back down highway 92.  There is a State Park shortly after you head north…but I was sure I saw a county park just down the road, so we continued.  About 4 miles later I look on my GPS on my Ultimate Campground POS, and see I was wrong…but there is a County Fairgrounds 8 miles down the road that has RV overnight parking…with electricity…and for only $6!  So I set that for our destination, we get here, and there is NO WHERE to pay, and only one other RV in the place which holds 15 spots.  I park, look online, and find that the $6 is a donation.  WOW!  So in the near future, I will send Delta County a check for the nights stay.  And with the 85 degree temps and winds blowing at 20-25 mph, we are running the A/C, and have the slide closed for now.  (We opened it for a bit but the wind hits the slide side of the motorhome and we were rocking and rolling like you wouldn’t believe.)  And you see that large green grass behind us?

Delta County Fairgrounds, Hotchkiss Colorado

Well, sorry Bubba…no Bud Light (Arny's favorite beer) for you tonight!

Note:  Anyone wondering why they call it "The Black Canyon of Gunnison"???  Because there are some places down in the canyon that only get 33 minutes of direct sunlight on any given day.  And "Gunnison" due to the name of the river below.


  1. Wow those pictures are awesome. I've never been there. Glad that wasn't ME on that dirt road!!! Just another adventure for you guys!!!

    1. I think the south side is much more friendly to big rigs than the north side is...however, there is a good State Park before you get to the north canyon road where you can stay, then take your jeep up the north canyon road real easy. I really enjoyed the "mistake" I made, it all worked out. Another thing, the Fairgrounds we stayed at also had 50amp plugs!

  2. Good job on the pictures, both you and Marcia. Not easy to get good pictures there, but beautiful canyon.


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