Colorado Vacations 
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Your Guide to Visiting Colorado with the Kids
The Wildlife of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park
 The plummeting walls of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park create a variety of neighborhoods for wildlife.

From wildflowers to black bears, all kinds of Colorado creatures make their home in the 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. 

Editors' Recommended Guidebook:

The Guide to Colorado Birds
By Mary Taylor Gray

Photo: Colorado wildflowers, like this
blue lupine grow on the dryer rim areas of
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Deep Knee Bends

In Black Canyon of the Gunnison, water loving plants
find homes in the bottom of the canyon, near the Gunnison River. Here are cottonwood trees, willows, river birches, chokecherry, and boxelders. Poison ivy up to five feet tall grows along the river in places.

The trees, in turn, create homes for insects that feed fish like rainbow and German brown trout. Dipper birds, which dive into the stream and do quick deep knee bends on water-splashed rocks, also feed on the insects. Other birds seen in the canyon bottom include yellow warblers and great horned owls. Beaver and mule deer have also been spotted along the Gunnison.

The steep canyon walls, themselves, are also home to a few special creatures. The north-facing wall gets less direct sunlight, and so is damper than the south-facing wall. Because it has more water to freeze and thaw several times during the winter, the north-facing walls have more broken rock and soil than their counterparts across the gap. This causes them to be less steep and to have more plants.

The shade also allows snow to stay longer into the spring, watering trees like the occasional stands of aspen and Douglas fir. Wildflowers and grasses also grow on the canyon walls, especially on the north-facing side.

Violet-green swallows and white-throated swifts swoop after bugs, and peregrine falcons hunt the smaller birds in the gorge. And if you walk quietly and listen carefully, you may be lucky enough to hear the tumbling notes of the canyon wren’s song, a sheer delight. Every once in a while, someone spots bighorn sheep scrambling around on the canyon sides.
The gentle hills and mesas of the canyon rim areas are mottled with stands of pinyon and juniper trees, interspersed with scrub oak, sage brush and serviceberry bushes. Wildflowers such as the lupine also grow here. Mule deer are common, as are chipmunks and ground squirrels, rabbits, marmots, skunks and bullsnakes. Once in a while elk are spotted.

Look for Steller’s jays, flickers, mountain chickadees, western tanagers, and hairy woodpeckers. Cooper’s hawks also feed on the smaller birds. Maybe you will be lucky enough to spot the bright blue flash of a rare mountain bluebird.

Occasionally a black bear wanders through the area, so keep your food, cooking gear, and toiletries packed away in the car.