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Gunnison River

Gunnison River
Country United States
State Colorado
 - left Tomichi Creek, Lake Fork Gunnison River, Cimarron River, Uncompahgre River
 - right Smith Fork, North Fork Gunnison River
Cities Gunnison, Grand Junction
Source Rocky Mountains
 - elevation 8,008 ft (2,441 m) [1]
 - coordinates  [2]
Mouth Colorado River
 - elevation 4,553 ft (1,388 m) [1]
 - coordinates  [2]
Length 180 mi (290 km) [3]
Basin 7,928 sq mi (20,533 km2) [4]
Discharge for Near Grand Junction
 - average 2,570 cu ft/s (72.8 m3/s) [4]
 - max 35,200 cu ft/s (996.8 m3/s)
 - min 106 cu ft/s (3 m3/s)
Map of the Gunnison River, its tributaries and major cities

The Gunnison River is a tributary of the Colorado River, 164 miles (264 km) long,[5] in the Southwest state of Colorado. It is the fifth largest tributary of the Colorado River, with a mean flow of 4320 ft³/s (122 m³/s).


  • Description 1
  • History 2
  • Fishing 3
  • Engineering 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The Gunnison River is formed by the confluence of Delta, Colorado is joined by the Uncompahgre River. It then winds through desert canyonlands, where it receives Kannah Creek before it empties out of the Dominguez Canyon into the Colorado in Grand Junction, some years rivaling the Colorado River for equal if not slightly less volume.

The Gunnison River ranges in width from 100 to 1,000 feet (30 to 305 m) and 3 to 50 feet (1 to 15 m) in depth. The river's powerful current and many rapids make upstream travel nearly impossible. It is navigable for small craft throughout its course and by larger boats below the Black Canyon. Parts of the Black Canyon are unnavigable to any sorts of craft because of giant cataracts. Navigation through the entire canyon is dangerous and for experienced boaters only.


The first non-native to see and record information of the Gunnison River was Juan Maria de Rivera, who came to the banks of the river just below its confluence with the Uncompahgre River in 1761 and 1765. It was again seen in 1776 by Silvestre Vélez de Escalante. At the time the Spanish name for the river was Rio de San Javier (Xavier), and the Native American name was Tomichi. Escalante noted that Rivera thought it was "the great Rio del Tizon", the long used Spanish name for the lower Colorado River.[6]

Through the mid-1800s, the river was variously named the Eagle, Eagle Tail, South Fork of the Grand, Grande, and Grand River. Exploration reports and published maps in the 1850s and 1860s most commonly referred to the river as the Grand River. In subsequent years, however, the river was renamed for U.S. Army Captain John W. Gunnison of the Topographic Engineers who was ambushed and killed by Pahvant Utes while mapping a trail west in Utah Territory in 1853.[7]


The upper section of the Gunnison River is designated as gold medal water and wild trout water. The designation begins 200 yards below the Crystal Damn and stretches through the Gunnison George to the confluence of the North Fork and Gunnison rivers. [8]


Part of the river's water is diverted to irrigate the Uncompahgre Valley via the 5 miles (8 km) long Gunnison Tunnel, which was built between 1905 and 1909. Dams on the river include Blue Mesa Dam, Morrow Point Dam, and Crystal Dam.

See also


  1. ^ a b Google Earth elevation for GNIS coordinates.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Gunnison River, USGS GNIS.
  3. ^ Gunnison River, The Columbia Gazetteer of North America. 2000.
  4. ^ a b Water Data Report, Colorado 2003, from Water Resources Data Colorado Water Year 2003, USGS.
  5. ^ U.S. Geological Survey. National Hydrography Dataset high-resolution flowline data. The National Map, accessed March 18, 2011
  6. ^ Escalante's journal
  7. ^ United States House of Representatives (1921). Renaming the Grand River, Colo. (PDF). Hearing Before the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce of the House of Representatives, Sixty Sixth Congress, Third Session, on HJ 460. p. 19. 
  8. ^ "Fishing-- Black Canyon of the Gunnison". National Park Service. National Park Service. Retrieved 25 September 2015. 

External links

  • "Black Canyon National Park, Colorado".  
  • "Gunnison River Information and Fishing Report".  
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