Tuesday, August 23, 2011

USA - Colorado - Black Canyon Of The Gunnison

Aerial view of The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument. The Black Canyon comprises an area of about 22 square miles. Within its boundaries lies the deepest and most spectacular 10-mile section of the dark, formidable gorge of The Gunnison River.

Sent by Dede, a postcrosser from Colorado, USA.

This is from Wikipedia : Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a United States National Park located in western Colorado, and managed by the National Park Service. There are two entrances to the park; the more-developed south rim entrance is located 15 miles (24 km) east of Montrose, while the north rim entrance is located 11 miles (18 km) south of Crawford and is closed in the winter. The park contains 12 miles (19 km) of the 48-mile (77 km) long canyon of the Gunnison river. The national park itself contains the deepest and most dramatic section of the canyon, but the canyon continues upstream into the Curecanti National Recreation Area and downstream into the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area.

The Gunnison River drops an average of 43 feet per mile (8 m/km) through the entire canyon, making it one of the steepest mountain descents in North America. In comparison, the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile (1.4 m/km). The greatest descent of the Gunnison River occurs in the park at Chasm View dropping 240 feet per mile (45 m/km). The Black Canyon is so named on account of its steepness which makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate very far down the canyon. As a result, the canyon walls are most often in shadow, causing the rocky walls to appear black. At its narrowest point the canyon is only 40 feet (12 m) across at the river.

The extreme steepness and depth of the Black Canyon formed as the result of several geologic processes acting together. The Gunnison River is primarily responsible for carving the canyon, though several other geologic events had to occur in order to form the canyon as it is seen today.

The Ute Indians had known the canyon to exist for a long time before the first Europeans saw it. By the time the United States gained independence in 1776, two Spanish expeditions had passed by the canyons. In the 1800s, the numerous fur trappers searching for beaver pelts would have known of the canyon's existence but they left no written record.

In 1881, the Denver and Rio Grande had reached Gunnison from Denver. It pushed its narrow gauge line through the canyon in 1882, taking a year to build the last mile. In March, 1883, it completed its connection to Salt Lake City and for a brief period the canyon was on the main line of a transcontinental railroad system. By 1890, the alternate route through Glenwood Springs had been completed and the route through the Black Canyon, being more difficult to operate, lost importance for through trains. The route was finally abandoned in 1955.

While the railroad and others came first to the canyon as a path to Utah and the mines to the southwest, later visitors came to see the canyon as an opportunity for recreation and personal enjoyment.[8] The area was established as a U.S. National Monument on March 2, 1933 and made into a National Park on October 21, 1999.

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