Black Canyon National Park, located at the blue marker, has a longer name, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and is a wild and almost inaccessible place.
Known as the Grand Canyon of Colorado, it is much smaller than Arizona’s famous canyon, but no less spectacular.
Carved by the Gunnison River about 15 million years ago, the canyon is beautiful in its wildness. Massive cliff faces, the most notable, Painted Wall, looms 2,250 feet above the river.
Spanish explorers Dominguez and Escalante encountered the Black Canyon in 1776, while searching for gold in the territories north of Mexico.
In 1853, Captain John Gunnison, whom the river is named, discovered the canyon while looking for a transcontinental railroad route.
The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad sent surveyors to explore the Black Canyon for a route across the state. They only managed to lay a track some 15 miles along in 1882.
With the railroad came settlers to the area west of the canyon. Many of these newcomers were farmers and grew crops to sell to the miners who were working claims in the mountain areas.
No one saw the beauty of the canyon, only what they could get out of it. Then in the 1920’s Reverend Mark Warner discovered this wild land.
He pushed for legislation to have the Black Canyon made a national park, however, in March, 1933, President Herbert Hoover signed a bill creating the Black Canyon National Monument.
For years it remained this way, until Congress voted the land a national park on October 21, 1999. In the gorge itself, the area is designated a national wilderness area.
Views from the north rim are spectacular. Rock formations such as the Kneeling Camel Overlook, Balanced Rock, Pulpit Rock and the Painted Wall can be seen from just about anywhere.
Hiking is allowed on designated trails, rafting and kayaking of the Gunnison River can be dangerous if you wander into the more treacherous parts of the river.
To get to the Black Canyon, take Interstate 25 south and get off on Hwy. 50 west. After passing the Blue Mesa Dam, cut over on Hwy. 92 north and follow the signs to the park.
From Interstate 70 west, head toward Glenwood Springs and turn south on Hwy. 82. After a few miles, take Hwy. 133 and continue through the White Mountain and Grand Mesa National Forests. The road will dead end at Hwy. 92 in Hotchkiss, and turn left and follow signs to the canyon.