Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Homer, Alaska

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Blue Mesa and Morrow Point Reservoirs

We've spent the last few days off exploring the area known as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The Black Canyon's total length of 48 miles encompasses three distinct different areas: The Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Curecanti National Recreation Area, and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area. Today's blog is about our pontoon boat ride on the Morrow Point Reservoir section. This is a ranger-led excursion led by a National Park Service Ranger, and is a reservation only activity. We picked our date, made reservations, and cut a deal with our bosses: if they would walk the dogs for us while we were away for the day, we'd treat their two girls to the boat ride with us. Deal done, and we were ready to go!

The Morrow Point Reservoir is part of the Curecanti National Recreation Area, and together with its sister reservoirs, Blue Mesa Lake and Crystal Reservoir commands 40 miles of the Gunnison River. Blue Mesa Lake is the largest lake in Colorado (man-made, that is) and is a veritable summer playground for watersports and fishing. This reservoir system was created in 1965, and used primarily for water storage in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The recreation area was also created at the same time. We had a just over two hour drive to arrive at the parking area for the boat tour, some of it along this Blue Mesa Lake. Just west of the town of Gunnison, you drive through the beginning of the canyon, and then the lake comes into view.

Isn't it pretty? I really like looking at the flat top mesas. 

An intriguing geographical feature called the Dillon Pinnacles.

Now we had reservations on the 10AM boat tour, so we needed to leave early in the morning...in fact, we left at 6:30 in the morning. So, you're probably wondering, if its a two hour drive, why did we leave so early?
Well...that was just to get to the parking area. To get to the actual boat dock, there are 232 steps down, down, down to the river, and then a 3/4 mile walk to the boat dock. Yep, its true! And they do warn you about that when you call for reservations :-). Because, you know, if its 232 steps down, after the tour is over....its 232 steps back UP! Well we didn't think about that as we went down :-).

It was a really nice walk along the river

Jenna and Karina and Al as we get close to the boat

Our tour pontoon boat. It holds 42 passengers, is is full for every trip in the summer.

The canyon is very narrow and the walls steep. At its greatest depth, the Black Canyon is 2,722 feet deep; its narrowest point on the rim is about 1,100 feet across and at the river level, 40 feet wide. Other canyons in North America are deeper, but none combines such depth, narrow opening and sheer walls.

Chipeta Falls, named after the Indian wife of Chief Ouray of the Ute Indian tribe.

The Curecanti Needle is a distinct granite rock formation in the canyon. It rises approximately 700 feet from the floor of the canyon, and is one of the prominent landmarks of the Rocky Mountains. Its location remained remote to most humans until 1882 when the arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad mailines significantly changed this. The ride along the Gunnison River greatly contributed to the railroad's reputation as a scenic railway.

This section of the river became the symbol of the railroad

Our turn-around point. The river continues westward, over Morrow Point Dam and down through the Black Canyon. The controlled rate of water flow on the river now is significantly less than the power it had when it was busy forming the Black Canyon two million years ago :-).

The girls humored me and posed for a picture :-)

The famous view of the Curecanti Needle that graces most publicity brochures for the National Park.

The sheer walls on each side had fascinating views at each turn

I am really sorry, but I have no pictures of us going back UP the stairs...I was too busy huffing and puffing and catching my breath to think about photos :-). It was lunchtime, and we had packed our lunches, but decided to go a little further down the road to the Cimarron Visitor's Center to eat...it seemed a more pleasant idea than sitting at tables by the outhouse at the parking area :-). Plus, the ranger told us there was an exhibit of trains there, and a short walk to view the Morrow Point Dam. Sounded good, so off we went.

Some old train cars

Morrow Point Dam...its pretty big!

We walked down to the river and had a lesson on skipping stones...the girls did pretty good!

The river continues down towards the Black Canyon....and that story will wait for another day! 

At this point it was time to head home and get ready for Thursday Potluck. We have potluck every Thursday, and have been getting a pretty good turnout of campers now that summer is in full swing. We had the whole weekend of work, right through Monday, and then we were off for three days of new exploration...off to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, then to Ouray and a new adventure for us...jeeping some off-road trails..stay tuned, and I guess we did all right, since I am still here to write about it for you :-).

And a special thank you to the girls for spending the day with us! It was fun sharing the tour with you :-).


  1. Really beautiful place. Thanks for another lovely tour!

  2. Wow! You sure do find the most beautiful places and tours.

  3. Man your pics are awesome. Looks like you picked the perfect day to go.

  4. Hey,
    Nice photos and stories. I like the blog layout too. Thanks for checking out our "RetiredRUS" blog at http://trailertravels2621.blogspot.com/