Black Canyon

We spent the day exploring the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. The canyon is literally in Dave's uncle's back yard; you can see the black cliffs jutting above the lower adobe hills right from his fields. We've done plenty of exploring out in these mountains, but I'd never seen the part of the canyon that makes up the national park.

The canyon gets its name because of the steep sides of the canyon walls, so steep that sunlight has trouble penetrating into its depths. This lack of light makes the walls appear black. At its narrowest point, the canyon is only 40 feet wide at the river.

The park protects the deepest part of the canyon, where the sheer walls come the closest together. Park entrance and visitor center are on the south side of the canyon. The narrow road tracks close to the edge, with turnouts and viewpoints to walk to, for a closer look.

The aspens are turning color here, so is the scrub oak. The blaze of color contrasting with the dark rock was spectacular.

There are places inside the canyon that are thick with dark green pines, wide rocky shelves of rock that have collected enough soil for trees to grow.

One of my favorite features in the canyon is the Painted Wall, on the north rim of the canyon, but visible from both sides.

Before we left the park, we drove down the extremely steep blacktop road that goes all the way to the river's edge. Spooky, steep, windy, vertigo-inducing road. Not for the faint of heart, or those without low gears... you could overheat your brakes easily. When we reached the canyon floor I stopped holding my breath, and enjoyed the view.

This house-sized boulder was half in, half out of the river. The trees have grown up around it, and the river is doing its thing. In a million years or so, it will be reduced to a pebble.

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