On our way from Grand Junction to Mesa Verde National Park we swung by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. Declared a National Monument in 1933, it wasn’t until 1999 that is was upgraded to National Park status by Congress. I describe the place to look as if God took a giant, dull knife and cut a deep, jagged wound into the earth. Or maybe it was where Satan had his fiery crash landing when he fell from heaven.

The canyon is over 2200 feet deep in parts and though its rock walls are made of gneiss and schist it is the near-constant shadows on the gorge’s walls that earned it the name “Black Canyon.” The most popular hiking trail that descends into the canyon all the way to the river is the “Gunnison Trail”. In one mile you drop over 1800 vertical feet – so steep that portions of the trail have a chain for you to hold on to. As you can imagine, climbing out is much harder than climbing in.

The river drops an average 43 feet per mile through the canyon (at one point dropping 240 feet in a mile) so it moves at an incredible speed. Add to that the fact that its narrowest point is 40 feet wide and you can image some crazy rapids! Only the best kayakers try this technical run in which all the rapids are all Class III-V, with many deemed impassable and therefore off the charts.

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