- The Gunnison Gorge is comprised of a unique double canyon system of black granite layered with red sandstones, the Gunnison Gorge is the downstream extension of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison River. The Gunnison Gorge is managed by the BLM to preserve and protect its scenic and recreational values, and has been recommended for both Wilderness and Wild and Scenic River designation.
Recreation - The Gunnison Gorge offers a technical and remote experience for rafters, kayakers and whitewater canoeists. The boating
changes with every flow and is very dependent on winter snow pack. Expect high spring releases of 2,000 to 10,000 cfs
(Cubic Feet per Second) in late May and early June. Summer flows very from 300 cfs in a very low water years to 2,000
+ cfs during big water years. At flows below 800 cfs the Gorge is very technical and is not recommended for rafts over 12
feet in length. Flows over 5,000 cfs make the Gorge very dangerous for boating. Currents become very swift and swirly,
eddies disappear, and swims are very long. Rescue is very difficult in the Gorge. If in doubt, SCOUT! See
river map for locations and class of rapids. Each raft must carry an extra oar or paddle , first aid kit, repair kit and an extra
Located just down stream of the put in is Chukar rapid. Chukar is a single drop class III. Most choose to run center at
higher water and the right slot at lower flows. Watch out for the pyramid rock center right thirty yards down stream. Next
you encounter One Miler rapid running left of the large center hole or rock depending on flows. Improvise rapid
(Class III) is located at mile 1.5 and is recognized by a small vertical cliff on river right and a prominent rock slide on river
left. Scout on river left.
At mile 2.5 and 3.0, you encounter Upper and Lower Pucker. Both consist of narrow slots at lower flows. At flows
over 6,500 cfs Upper Pucker has very large standing waves and a giant hole on river left. At mile 4.0, Buttermilk rapid
(Class III) offers a wild wave ride. Run straight down the tongue and watch out for the cliff on the left.
Just below Buttermilk rapid you swing the corner and enter Ute Park. Ute Park widens out as the Gunnison River hits
the Indian Fault Zone. On river right you notice red Entrada Sandstone and the left consists of black Precambrian granite.
The river gradient drops and the canyon broadens.
As you leave Ute park you dive back into the Black Canyon and the steepest section of the Gunnison Gorge. Gradient
picks up to 35 feet per mile. Crystal creek enters from the right at mile 6.0 forming Red Canyon Rapid (Class III). Red
Canyon rapid is very rocky requiring technical boating skills to navigate the run. Scout on river right.
Beyond mile 7 is the Boulder Garden (Class III/IV). Look for Baby T-Rex Rock on the right upstream of Boulder
Garden. Scout Boulder Garden on river left. Two routes are most commonly run. At flows above 1,000 cfs most will
navigate the narrow slot on river right. At flows below 1,000 cfs a more technical route is required running left and
ferrying back to river right at the bottom slot. Beware of Fang Rock at the bottom on river left. Many boats have high
Just below Boulder Garden is Paddle Keeper (Class III). Paddle Keeper is very technical. The rapid is most
successfully run on river left and ferrying back river right. Scout river right. Cliff on river left. T-Dyke rapid (Class III)
is located at mile 7.5 and is the last camp until Smith Fork. At mile 9 you encounter the steepest, most difficult section of
the Gorge. S- Turn rapid (Class III) throws you into the cliff on river left. Immediately below is The Squeeze rapid
(Class III+). The Squeeze is a deceptive, rocky rapid and has wrapped rafts and pinned kayaks. Most common run is
through the narrow slots river right. Scout on river right.
Next are the three Drops, which contain many large holes and narrow slots. Scout all from river right. Cable rapid
(Class III/IV) is located at mile 9.5. It is very technical. Scout river right. Many large holes enter into two narrow slots.
Most run the right slot avoiding the cliff wall on river left. Below Cable is Jumpin' Jack Splash rapid (Class III).
Jumpin' Jack Splash is run left of the large boulder, finishing river right avoiding the large hole on river left. Watch out for
the lateral wave.
The Gate Keeper (Class II/III) fallows requiring navigating a narrow slot either center at higher flows or left against the
cliff at flows below 600 cfs. Grande Finale (Class III) rapid finishes the run. Scout river right. Common run start river
right and avoid the rocks on river left. Four miles of Class II water remains until the take out at the confluence of the North
Fork of the Gunnison River.
The Gunnison Gorge is located nine miles northeast of Montrose on Colorado's western slope.