A vital connection between the gold mines and mills of the San Juan’s, and the smelters of Leadville, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison was also one of the principal attractions of the “Around the Circle” passenger tours of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, that attracted a large number of riders. Also, after the conversion from narrow to standard gauge in 1890 between Pueblo and Grand Junction, most passenger service took the Tennessee Pass route, but a narrow gauge schedule was made so passengers could take the narrow gauge open air cars, leaving Salida at 6:00 AM, then travel over Marshall Pass and through the Black Canyon, then arriving in Grand Junction at 6:00 PM, in time to re-board the regular standard gauge passenger train.
The Gunnison Canyon provided an inkling of what was to come with the construction through the dark and forbidding Black Canyon.
The Ute Tribe used to call the Gunnison River “Much Rocks, Big Water”, which was the river that created one of the greatest gorges in the United States, and the deepest gorge in Colorado, the Black Canyon, that begins at a railroad town known as Sapinero.
The Black Canyon was established a State Monument in 1933, a National Park in 1999, and, is the deepest gorge in Colorado. The walls are 500 to 2,700 feet above the Gunnison River, the canyon is as narrow as almost 44 feet in places, and the Gunnison River drops 43 feet per mile through the Black Canyon, which is six times more than the Colorado River cuts through the Grand Canyon, making the Gunnison River the steepest falling river in the United States, with the exception of the Yellowstone.