We left Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and headed north to Grand Junction, Colorado, pop 59,000. We dropped from 9,400 ft to 4,600 ft and boy did it get hot!! During our time in Grand Junction the temperatures hovered in the low to mid 90’s. We sure did miss those mountain temperatures!
We stayed five nights at the James Robb State Park, a very nice Colorado state park, but there was absolutely no shade and it was HOT!
The Monument is 32 square miles of rugged canyon terrain with towering red sandstone monoliths that rise 2,000 feet above the Grand Valley. The colors come from the minerals in the rocks as well as the kinds of lichens and chemical compounds that coat the rocks.
We stopped by the Visitors Center where unfortunately the movie was broken, but we did enjoy their exhibits. It was interesting to read that the Colorado National Monument Area was formed in part by strong earthquakes along the Redlands Fault 40 to 70 million years ago that lifted the layers of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks above the Grand Valley. Erosion has carved the steep walls and flat bottomed canyons.
We drove the 23 mile Rim Rock Drive with breathtaking scenery, tunnels, hairpin curves and eighteen overlooks. The road was begun in 1931 with most of it being done by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) between 1933 and 1942. Construction was halted during WWII and finally completed in 1950. Due to its cultural significance the road is on the National Register of Historic Places. The road was carved out of solid rock without the benefit of heavy equipment like bulldozers or backhoes. After blasting rock apart they removed rubble by hand or guided horses pulling small dump carts on rails. About 39,000 cubic yards of rock were removed EVERY MILE to make way for the road bed! During construction of one of the tunnels nine men were killed when a huge slab of overhanging rock gave way.
We especially liked the 450 foot tall Independence Monument where every Fourth of July there is a tradition of climbers ascending the Monument to raise the American flag.
Next stop: Dillon, CO and cooler weather!