The West Elk Loop Scenic Byway
Morrow Point Lake
The Canyon from just above Blue Mesa Dam
Morrow Point Lake begins just below the Blue Mesa Dam and goes downstream on the Gunnison River to the Morrow Point Dam. This is where the Gunnison River really gets down deep into the ancient bedrock.
At one of the first photo stops I made I was a bit surprised to hear voices floating up from down in the canyon, then I looked a bit closer and saw a trail down there with folks walking along wearing sweatshirts: I was quite warm at the top of the canyon but it must have been quite cool down there deep in that canyon shadow (I think that was the Pine Creek Trail).
The drive along the edge of the chasm was spectacular but a bit nerve-wracking in spots. Much as I enjoy hiking in the high mountains there's something about being very close to a deep abyss in the rock that gets to me. And some of the photos I took here left my legs a bit shaky. I came across a couple of families at one of the stops and saw young kids running right up to the edge of the abyss while their mothers stood back shaking and screaming. I couldn't laugh, had to laugh, couldn't laugh, had to laugh... the kids knew what they were doing.
To get this view of Curecanti Needle (left-center in the photo to the right), I was in one of those places: Pioneer Point. The overlook is beautiful and gives you a great view from well-barricaded perches, however... well-barricaded perches does not mean totally fenced in, absolutely safe, no slipping, no sliding... and to get the real view you need to be right at the edge, almost hanging over the sheer drop, looking almost straight down close to 1,000 feet into a sheer granite abyss... Not for the faint of heart. Much as I like high mountains this was pushing my limits. And the short walk out to the Point left lots of open areas on both sides of the trail that dropped off quickly... I think you get my drift...
After all I've said here, I made the trip, took the hike, took the photos and made it back to my vehicle with no trouble at all. Curecanti Needle rises 700 feet from the surface of the lake. It's constantly being looked at and drooled over by those who love to scale sheer granite walls. I think it's a worthy goal for those folks. It's just not my taste...
If you should decide that looking down on it is too much, you can always book a ride (don't show up on the dock without a prepaid reservation) on the National Park Service boat that offers tours of Morrow Point Lake and take a good look up at it. The tours are about 90 minutes long and run twice a day (10:00 am and 12:30 pm) except Tuesdays, from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day. Call 970-641-2337 ext. 205 or visit the Elk Creek Visitor Center in Curecanti National Recreation Area. $15.00 for adults, $7.50 for Golden Age and $7.50 for infants and children under 13.
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