Kayaking in Black Canyon


Expert kayakers find the Gunnison River through the National Park an arduous challenge. This stretch of the Gunnison is for only the most experienced and well equipped kayakers.

The rapids within the national park are considered Class V and some sections are unrunnable. This is a very technical paddle and includes numerous long, difficult and dangerous portages. Poison ivy is nearly impossible to avoid, and can be found growing 5 feet tall along the river.

Kayakers run the river at their own risk. The Gunnison River through the National Park has claimed the lives of even the most experienced, respected kayakers. The river's hydraulics can make self-rescue or rescue by others impossible.

The following are general water flow ratings*:

750-950 cfs = minimal hydraulics
1200-1500 cfs = River is "pushy" with major hydraulics.
1500-3000 cfs = River is very "pushy" with extreme hydraulics.
above 3000 cfs = Kayaking should not be attempted even by experts, portages disappear, death is probable.

*These are general water flow guidelines. Local kayak experts suggest the unique hydraulics of the Gunnison River through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park make kayaking even more difficult than the above ratings.

Water temperatures are cold year-round, usually around 50 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Swimming or wading is not recommended.

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Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area
Boaters traveling through the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness need to register and pay Gorge user fees. Gorge takeouts include Chukar and Gunnison Forks. Boaters exiting at Chukar must sign the river register, haul their boats up the 1 mile trail and pay user fees at the trailhead. Boaters exiting at Gunnison Forks must stop at Chukar, sign the register and pay the applicable user fees.

More information on Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area »

Contact the Bureau of Land Management for information on the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area:

BLM, Montrose District Office
2465 South Townsend Avenue
Montrose, CO 81404
(970) 240-5300

Last updated: June 1, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

102 Elk Creek
Gunnison, CO 81230


(970) 641-2337 x205

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