Bad News for Black Canyon Boaters in Colo: Road Closed for 2021


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Hoping to up your game and kayak the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado this year? You’ll have to wait another year.

As reported by Paddling Life partner American Whitewater, the National Park Service and Bureau of Reclamation announced this week that the East Portal Road which serves as the put-in for the Black Canyon section of the Gunnison River will be closed for maintenance for the duration of the 2021 season.

According to the press release, “the road project will improve access to East Portal, making the road safer and less prone to rockfall closures. Blasting and scaling of rock faces, resurfacing and other major work requires that the road be closed for the season.” At this time, the reopening date is unknown, but we expect the closure to extend for the entire 2021 paddling season. The East Portal closure does not affect downstream access for the Gunnison Gorge at the Chukar Trail.

While the road closure is an unfortunate obstacle for many this season, the needed maintenance of the road will lead to fewer unexpected road closures due to rockfall and will improve access to the Black Canyon for the long term. American Whitewater will track the status of the road closure and we will share an update as soon as access to the Black Canyon is reopened.

Read the full press release below.

News Release 

For Immediate Release: March 31, 2021

Contact: Sandra Snell-Dobert, (970) 641-2337, ext. 227,; Justyn Liff, (970) 248-0625,

East Portal Road to be Closed for the 2021 Season 

Montrose, CO – The East Portal Road will be closed to all public access, including pedestrian and bicycle traffic, throughout the 2021 season to complete vital road work and infrastructure improvements at East Portal. The East Portal Road is owned and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and used by the National Park Service (NPS) to provide visitor access to NPS facilities along the Gunnison River.

The road project will improve access to East Portal, making the road safer and less prone to rockfall closures. Blasting and scaling of rock faces, resurfacing and other major work requires that the road be closed for the season. Access for dam operations and maintenance of infrastructure will be possible on a limited basis.

National Park Service staff will also be using the period of closure to complete necessary repairs on the East Portal Campground and the picnic area. All water, trash and other services have been suspended and staff shifted to operations on the north and south rims of the canyon.

Alternative river access is available downstream in the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and upstream near the town of Gunnison. Both the BOR and NPS appreciate your understanding and patience as we improve safety and accessibility for your future visits.


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