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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 1:20 EDT

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is located in the western portion of Colorado in the United States. The park holds 30,750 acres of land that was once inhabited by Native Americans, including the Ute people. The first recorded American presence in the area occurred in 1881, when the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad encountered the area, taking nearly two years to build a line through the canyon. This railroad moved from Denver, Colorado to Salt Lake City and was a main line for one transcontinental railroad system until 1890, when the railroad to Glenwood Springs was established. This line was easier to maintain and run and the Black Canyon line was abandoned in 1955. The park was initially viewed as a resource for minors and businessmen, but later visitors came to view the natural beauty of the area. In 1933, the area was established as a national monument and in 1999, it was officially designated as a national park.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park holds the Gunnison River, which declines at a rate of thirty-four feet per mile. The canyon was named for its darkness, which is caused by the steepness of its walls, making it difficult for sunlight to enter the canyon and causing shadows that appear to be black in color. The steepness of the canyon was caused in part by the Gunnison River and by geological events that occurred over a large period.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is home to many species of plant and animal. Plant species include ponderosa pine trees, aspen trees, Utah juniper, sagebrush, and the Black Canyon gilia, a species of wildflower that is native to the area. Bird species that live in the park include the great horned owl and the American dipper, and migratory birds like the canyon wren and the peregrine falcon. Animals that reside in the park include mule deer and coyotes.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park can be accessed by three roads, including the south rim entrance and the well -developed east entrance, which is located thirty-seven miles west of the city of Montrose. The park offers many activities including RV and tent camping, hiking, walking tours, fishing, and boat tours. One of the most popular attractions in the park is the scenic route that runs along U S highway 50, the south rim, and Colorado highway 92. Rock climbing is a popular activity, but most climbing can only be done by professionals. Rafting is also a popular activity within the park, but most of the river is difficult to navigate. The west end of the park is open to all visitors, but a free permit is required for visitors traveling through the rest of the park.

Image Caption: Gunnison River. Credit: Hogs555/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park