Colorado Vacations 
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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
The Geology Black Canyon of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
Kids on summer vacation can get quite an education in geology at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

From volcanoes to raging river rapids, the geological forces of nature put on a show in the spectacular scenery of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Did You Know?

The tallest sheer cliff face
in Colorado,
Painted Wall
in Black Canyon
of the Gunnison
National Park,
rises 2,250 feet
above the river at its feet. 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
is one of the most thought provoking attractions you'll ever visit with your family. 

Read our Book Review
The Family Guide to Colorado's National Parks and Monuments

Photo:The Exclamation Point Trail
offers great views of Painted Wall in
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Mud Between Your Toes

Painted Wall shows as good an example of metamorphic and igneous rocks as your kids are likely to see in their entire lives. Made mostly of Precambrian gneiss, it is some of the oldest rock in Colorado. Geologists think that once upon a time these rocks were mud, sand, and stuff from volcanoes that was buried by dirt. As time went on, and more and more rocks piled up on top of them, the mud and sand and stuff turned into stones, and then they even kind of melted. They got mushed and leaned on and bent all out of shape. When they hardened again they formed crystals, turning into gneiss. Magma, or super hot liquid rock squirted into cracks in the gneiss, like mud squishes up between your toes when you step in it. This magma cooled and got hard, too.

Then, about 28 million years ago (not very long as far as rocks are concerned) the whole area was pushed up very slowly. The top rocks were washed away by streams and rivers and the gneiss, near the bottom of the pile, was exposed. Then, after the Gunnison river cut down through it, people could see all those gorgeous stripes and wiggly lines.

Because gneiss is so very hard, when the river sliced through it, the sides didn’t crumble and slide into big piles, like sand would have. Instead it stayed standing in pretty straight walls. That is why the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is so narrow, compared to its depth.