Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Crystal Dam and Rim Rock Trail

Jellystone of Black Canyon
Montrose, CO
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.

The reservoir

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...



  1. I wish more hikers were as aware as you guys are. They are currently looking for a hiker at Echo Canyon down here. She didn't feet good when they got to the top so the others left her there and started down the trail. So stupid. I just hope they find her alive. Sure do like your pictures.

  2. Looks like that drive could be done with a regular car, and I think I might be able to slowly handle a one mile trail if there wasn't much rock scrambling. Beautiful scenery!

  3. What a spectacular trip! Your views were amazing. Love the deer and those big ears. It is so cute how they stop long enough to check out what is going on. Glad you were able to get in a short but got out with the thunder:)

  4. Thanks for the history lesson on the tunnel and dam diversion. We always enjoy finding these bits of history along the way. I can't imagine the back breaking work to complete this task!

  5. What a beautiful drive, I can't wait to visit the Black Canyon!

  6. On our CO list for next year! beautiful place.

  7. Stunning! I love Black Canyon but have yet to drive Portal Road - definitely will on our next visit.

  8. Another wow, Gay!