In April, when Tom & I were touring Colorado and Utah, we visited a park that I have tried to get to in the past, but had always run out of time. Actually, we didn’t have “time” this year either, but I refused to simply drive on by. 🙂 So on that heavily overcast early morning, we set off to visit Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, nearby the towns of Gunnison and Montrose, CO.
In 1999, this area was officially designated a US National Park and it consists of some of the steepest cliffs, oldest rocks, and jagged spires in North America. Its age takes it back over 2 million years as the Gunnison River carved its way through the landscape and created this vertical wilderness area.
The canyon itself has a length of about 48 miles, though only 14 miles are included within the perimeter of the park. At its deepest point, seen from Warner Point, it descends 2,722 feet, through various ecosystems along the way. This is about 2.5 times the depth of the Royal Gorge outside of Colorado Springs, which is quite impressive on its own.
Along the south rim of the park, the road extends for 7 miles and provides for 12 overlooks where the visitor can get different vantage points to the area and its features.
There are a variety of wildlife that can be found within its boundaries, such as the mountain lion, bear, coyote, to name a few, though we didn’t see any. Birds are also common visitors or residents in the area, including many predator birds, such as the peregrine falcon, which can reach speeds of 200 mph in a full descent. We also saw some blue grouse along the roadside, which was quite fun for me. Now the lighting was poor due to the early morning hours, coupled with the overcast flat light, but I did get to snap off a few images …. first of the female …
… then of the male, who showed off for me (OK, probably not for me, but for the grouse ladies that were in the area), which was quite fascinating to watch them puff up and show off their mating plumage …
Now why did the grouse cross the road?
Well, of course, it was to get to the ladies … it was of course, mating season. 🙂
I would love to return to Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP another time in the future, as our time was limited … we were on our way to Monument Valley, which will be the feature for the next blog post. 🙂