Natural Resources Monitoring at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Steep canyon walls with tree skeleton in foreground
Black Canyon of the Gunnison River.

NPS/A. Washuta

The Northern Colorado Plateau Network monitors air quality, big rivers, climate, invasive exotic plants, land surface phenology, landbirds, landscape dynamics, uplands, and water quality at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. The results of that monitoring provide park managers with scientific information for decisionmaking.

Before becoming a national park in 1999, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park was established as Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Monument by Presidential Proclamation on March 2, 1933, for "preservation of the spectacular gorges and additional features of scenic, scientific, and educational interest." The walls of the Black Canyon rise at least 2,000 feet above the Gunnison River, which roars in the canyon depths at an average gradient of 95 feet per mile in the park.

Elevation ranges from 1,645 meters (5,400 feet) at canyon bottom to 2,675 meters (8,775 feet) on Signal Hill. Temperatures range from a low of -9°C (15°F) in the winter to approximately 29°C (85°F) in the summer. Average annual precipitation is 400–508 millimeters (16–20 inches). Snowfall measures between 76 and 140 centimeters (30–55 inches). Most precipitation occurs in the form of spring and summer rains. The canyon rims are dominated by scrub oak and pinyon-juniper forests intermixed with patches of high-desert sagebrush communities. The canyon's north-facing slopes favor Douglas-fir and Colorado blue spruce, while the river bottom has a number of deciduous trees and shrubs characteristic of river strands in the region.

Livestock grazing, exotic plant species invasion, adjacent land development, an altered hydrologic regime, past fire exclusion, and a lack of baseline data are the park's main natural resource management concerns.

Quick Reads

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    Publications and Other Information

    Several protocols are monitored at the network scale. For reporting on air quality, climate, land surface phenology, landbirds, and landscape dynamics, please visit Monitoring Reports.

    Monitoring Reports: Water Quality

    Source: Data Store Saved Search 452 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Monitoring Reports: Invasive Exotic Plants

    Source: Data Store Saved Search 454 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Monitoring Reports: Upland Vegetation and Soils

    Source: Data Store Saved Search 455 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Inventory Report and Brief: Vegetation Classification and Mapping

    Source: Data Store Collection 4284 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Inventory Reports: Climate, Herpetofauna, Invasive Exotic Plants, Landbirds, Mammals, and Vascular Plants

    Source: Data Store Collection 4285 (results presented are a subset). To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Park Briefs

    Park briefs summarize completed and upcoming monitoring for a given year.

    Source: Data Store Saved Search 512. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

    Last updated: January 30, 2019