Black Canyon and the Gunny Gorge

Todd Tumolo and I went in there a couple weeks ago. Get a free backcountry permit and sign the board, required to have a toilet system. For the Black Canyon we scouted rapids and ran (1.5 out of 5) with empty packs. We paddled with packs on our backs to save time on easy moving water (basically we were portaging while paddling). It was running at 561 cfs, its fun, there is some flat water.

How was the poison ivy :wink:

Seriously though: it’s great to see that someone finally took packrafts into the Black Canyon and documented it at the same time. The Black Canyon has a reputation as being the ultimate hair-boating experience in Colorado. Did you guys feel that way? Did you put in downstream enough that you avoided a lot of the gnarly Class V stuff, or was it all easy to portage??


i got poison ivy pretty bad, but it came a week late. Either I got it in zion, had a delayed reaction, or it got on my gear and effected my skin later. We hiked in SOB gully which cut off 85-90% of actual black, but we also got an additional 5 miles of the “Gunnison Gorge” which basically begins after the Great Falls Portage. The Black Canyon rapids we ran were in the class IV range. The flow was 550, the other rapids looked really manky at this level, manky class V with pins and pitons everywhere. It would be interesting going in at a higher level, but the consequences could become greater while padding out some of the lines and thus being less manky. The ferry below great falls could be deadly, Todd is viewed in the video ferrying with his pack on. It was an easy class II ferry, but likely would have been a class V swim. I’d go back, I’d also go back to go down the Werner trail to avoid the black when the river is higher to get the most out of the Gunny Gorge.

Doom and I ran the traditional Gorge (Chukar->Pleasure park) last weekend at ~560cfs.

That’s a great (if slow on the flats) flow for packrafting. Almost all of the rapids were one-drop-and-out type deals, where swimming would be of little consequence–plenty of time to collect a yard sale before the next constriction or drop. 2 or 3 slightly more techy drops toward the end.

Can’t figure out how to embed here, so if you want to see some of what we saw, click here:

Gorge footage starts about 2 minutes in.

Thanks for turning us on to it.