Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

September 03, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

The Gunnison River has carved a gorge through hard bedrock to form the Black Canyon, one of the rare canyons that is deeper than it is wide. The walls of the canyon, which are almost vertical in places, are over 2,000 feet deep and, at one point, only 1,200 feet across. This makes the canyon very dark, hence, its name.


Viewpoints dot the rim roads on both the north and south sides of the canyon. But getting from the south rim to the north rim is no quick task. The drive from the Visitor’s Center on the South Rim to the Ranger Station on the North Rim is more than 75 miles. The best reason to make the journey is the view from Exclamation Point on the North Vista Trail. Here you can see the longest straight stretch of river visible from any point in the park.


Exclamation Point Viewpoint along the North Vista Trail on the North Rim, looking southExclamation Point Viewpoint along the North Vista Trail on the North Rim, looking south


The South Rim drive features at least a dozen pullouts providing easy access to viewpoints of the canyon, each providing a different glimpse of the work done by the river. We stopped at most of them, enjoying the view and listening to the roar of the river. We could only imagine how loud it would be if the river upstream of the park wasn’t dammed up to create a reservoir, limiting its flow.


Painted Wall, Serpent PointPainted Wall, Serpent Point


Pulpit Rock Overlook, South Rim, looking southPulpit Rock Overlook, South Rim, looking south
Kneeling Camel View, North Rim, looking southKneeling Camel View, North Rim, looking south


The Dragon’s Tongue was first photographed and named by Vince Farnworth in 2012. It’s created when light from the rising sun reflects from one side of a tall gap in the wall onto the opposing side of the gap. This phenomenon, which is not widely known, can be observed and photographed just after sunrise on clear days from spring through fall. Luckily, we had clear skies while we were there and we were able to witness this fascinating spectacle. It was difficult to photograph due to the sun shining into the side of the lens (Denise had to help block the sun with my hat). It was really cool to be able to see the Dragon's Tongue in person.


Dragon's TongueDragon's Tongue


For more pictures from the Black Canyon, click here.


Next stop: Colorado National Monument



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