Sleeping Under the Stars on the Gunnison Gorge
I had the pleasure of attending John Fielder’s Gunnison Gorge Photography workshop this past May. Although the Gunnison Gorge is famously known for its gold medal fishing, this trip was oriented around the beauty of the Gunnison and improving your photographic eye with help from the world renown nature photographer John Fielder.
We started our trip in the small western Colorado town of Hotchkiss. This high desert town may not be the epitome of Colorado beauty with its dry desert terrain and huge open spaces with the mountains far in the distance. But once we started our drive down the Chukar Trail you became more and more captivated by this climate. The road starts out like a typical backcountry Colorado dirt road but slowly becomes tighter and more technical. The van wobbles and crawls over big dips and rocks until you reach the end of the motorized vehicle access road. You may think that your journey to the Gunnison is over but really it’s just begun!
Here people gather their gear and load up horses that carry their stuff down the next mile of single track to the river. We were fortunate to have our stuff horse packed in the night before waiting for us at the river but we could catch a glimpse of the other trips getting there stuff trekked in.
Fueled by the excitement to see the river on this hot May day, we quickly started our hike down to the water. Once you reach the river you are in serious awe. This hot desert turned into a beautiful, lush oasis. The boats were ready to go and we chatted with the crew, sorted out the boats, educated the newbies on river safety and got our way down this fantastic canyon.
The Gunnison Gorge is hands down one of Colorado’s secret gems, packed with beautiful blue water and red canyon walls filled with trees, wildlife, and breathtaking views. Our first day on the River was an easy day with only a few miles covered but an awesome lunch in a cave and many photography options. Because we had some first-time boaters in the group we spent a lot of the day familiarizing the group with important river and boating techniques to get them ready for the upcoming days on the river which held a majority of the major rapids. The Gunnison Gorge is only class II to III unless it’s running at extremely high flows so it’s perfect first-timers, beginners, or people nervous about the river. Honestly most people’s concerns float away as soon as their eyes absorb the beauty of the canyon anyways. After lunch we floated down to our first camp. Everyone set up their tents and then went on a hike up to the top of the canyon to capture the prime sunset over the Gunnison. After pictures dinner was served. DVK dinners are not your typical river hot dogs and hamburgers, but a full on gourmet meal. With full bellies and hearts, we sat back and gazed up into the endless sky full of stars before drifting off into our sleeping bags for the nights sleep.
Day 2 was packed with more rafting, hikes, photos, fishing, and amazing food. We hiked so we could see the endless valleys and plateaus of this wild west territory. Following our day’s activities, we settled into a beach camp full of plush sand and riverfront views of one of my favorite sections of the Gunnison Gorge. The photographers spent most of their afternoon trying to savor the beauty of the T-Dyke campsite through film.
Day 3 came and everyone was eager to get out on the water because this was the big rapid day! We ate breakfast, packed the boats, and got on our way. With our skillful guides, we navigate through the technical rocky sections of the river, with some splashes and laughed we all made it through with ease. We were rewarded by our hard paddling with an amazing hike up to a stunning waterfall. Here the water cascades down a series of drops and pools of crystal clear water as it makes its way down to the Gunnison. We hung out and explored natures treat and had another amazing lunch before we got on our way. After three days of great conversation, learning, experiencing, eating, laughing, and sleeping under the stars we ended our trip with so much more than when we started. The Gunnison Gorge is one of those magical places where you can’t wait to go back and if you haven’t experienced it you truly must get yourself a piece of the magic.
View all of DVK’s Gunnison Gorge River Trips