There is a long stretch of the Curecanti National Recreation Area that lies between Highway 50 and the North Rim of Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park that is well worth experiencing. State Road 92 is the travel route to look for and this road literally hugs the rim of Black Canyon, so there are many great vantage points to choose from. The Blue Mesa Dam Overlook is the first overlook to be found when starting from Highway 50 and this scenic area was featured in a previous article. From this point onward, there are several unnamed roadside overlooks to check out, along with a few official park service viewing areas that have ample parking and facilities. Pioneer Point happens to be one of the best and the views of Black Canyon from this unique high perch are definitely worth writing home about!
Pioneer Point overlooks both the Black Canyon and picturesque Curecanti Creek Canyon, which is a popular fishing spot. A foot trail zig zags all the way down to the creek bed near the mouth of the Gunnison River, so do not be surprised to see hikers packing fishing gear instead of backpacks! All of the towering rock spires in Black Canyon have names and the Curecanti Needle can be viewed on the opposite side of the deep chasm. The Gunnison River can also be seen way down below and the views of Black Canyon looking west are nothing less than mesmerizing.
There is an intangible element that makes Pioneer Point standout from the rest, which has to do with the high winds generated within the deep abyss. Braving high winds is par for the course in this region and gale force gusts are not uncommon at Pioneer Point, especially when the canyon updrafts become stronger in the afternoon. The winds can be strong enough to knock a person off their feet, so care must be taken anywhere close to the cliff edge. The high winds also attract large turkey vultures that prefer to soar rather than waste energy flapping wings. In fact, these gigantic birds can fly by at speeds greater than 80 miles per hour while avoiding obstacles on the canyon walls, which makes photographing these birds a real challenge. Watching the vultures ride the mighty canyon updrafts at Pioneer Point is an amazing experience, so be sure to stick around for the show!
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