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The History of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
 The history of Colorado's Black Canyon of the Gunnison shows that its plunging walls precluded much exploration.

Ute people camped along the rims and explorer John Gunnison deemed it impossible to travel in the canyon.

Since then, plenty of folks have admired the gorge from the top and precious few have ventured within.



 
Photo: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park South Rim Visitor Center perches atop plunging cliff walls.


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Photo: The North Vista Trail, at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, leads into the backcountry along the spectacular North Rim of the canyon. Viewpoints along the trail do not have barriers, and visitors can walk right up to the edge. Extreme caution and vigilance of your children is necessary.


T
he area around the Black Canyon of the Gunnison was traveled and used by Tabaguach Utes before white people came to the area. There is no evidence that they ever visited the river bottoms, although signs of their activity on the rim areas have been found. Captain John W. Gunnison explored the area in 1853. He thought the canyon to be impenetrable.



At the turn of the twentieth century, farmers in the Uncompahgre Valley were eyeing the Gunnison River for irrigation. Looking for a way to divert some of the flow out of the canyon, they sent a party floating down the river in 1900. After only a few weeks, the men climbed out of the canyon, averting what they felt would be a disaster if they continued on by water.



A year later and better prepared for the trip, William Torrence and Abraham Lincoln Fellows floated the Gunnison through the canyon or rubber mattresses. They found locations for building a tunnel to divert the water, and by 1909 the project was complete.



In the late 1920’s and early 1930’s, Reverend Mark Warner, among many other citizens in the Montrose area, worked hard for the area to be added to the National Park system. In 1933, they were successful, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument was created. In 1999 Congress designated it a National Park.



The area within the gorge, itself, is a National Wilderness Area. The land immediately downstream of the park was designated as the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area, and is administered by the Bureau of Land Management.