July 5, 2015
Last Sunday after a very leisurely morning and a yummy brunch in town (Thank you Ronnie and Carol!), we set out to drive down into the Black Canyon. East Portal Road, a right turn just inside the NP takes you there. The road is extremely steep with hairpin curves...
exciting and a beautiful drive.
We were pleasantly surprised to find we had a bit of a history lesson. It seems that back in 1905, the community of East Portal brought together a group of people to build a tunnel that would transfer a portion of the Gunnison River water to the fields in the valley. Their work from 1905 to 1912, drove a tunnel 11 feet X 12 feet for 6 miles through the cliffs of the Black Canyon to carry water for irrigation and helped to ensure the survival of communities. Theodore Roosevelt passed the Reclamation Act in 1902 "for the purpose of reclaiming the arid West by irrigating lands".
The act charged the appointed Chief Engineer of the new Bureau of Reclamation to proceed with building five projects which included the Gunnison Tunnel.
Today, irrigation water usually flows through the tunnel from April through October. The river supplies 6 primary canals. From these canals water flows into secondary ditches and eventually into farm lands.
Even though the tunnel was dedicated in 1909, it wasn't until 1922 that the project was completed. A diversion dam was also built. The purpose of the dam was to slow down the flow of water and catch debris. The end result is a reservoir of calm (well, mostly calm), beautiful green water ideal for fishing.
|The dam is protected by a gate...no public entry so this picture was taken thru the fencing.|
|The Gunnison River just past the dam.|
|And the Gunnison is free to flow wild again...|
|Our only wildlife for the day.|
|Riding on the canyon floor was amazing...looking up and up and up.|
|Looking back on East Portal Road as we climbed out of the canyon.|
We also had planned a short hike for the afternoon.
Rim Rock Trail follows the rim of the canyon lined with sagebrush, Gamble oaks, and junipers. The clouds were all around us, the air was thick with moisture, but that didn't deter us...
until we heard thunder! Our hike was cut short!
|The trail meanders thru a thicket of scrub oaks.|
|I walked as far out on that rock as I could...|
|We went from this view...|
|to this view...|
|to this view in just a matter of a few minutes!|
We were wet and cold when we reached Pearl.
So until next time...