Western Colorado


The far western part of Colorado, from Grand Junction south to Naturita, has some spectacular canyons. They are off the beaten path and have fewer visitors than their more famous counterparts in Utah. In late July, 2018, we visted, Colorado National Monument, Unaweep Canyon, and a portion of the Dolores-San Miguel Canyon, as well as the vineyards around Paonia and Palisade.

Paonia is a small town along CO 133 between Carbondale and Delta, just south of Grand Mesa. The area has a lot of agriculture including some of the better vineyards in the state. To the northwest and loser to Grand Juction is Palisade, famous for peaches and other crops, with many vineyards and wineries as well. 

Colorado National Monument is located just south of Fruita off I-70, close to Grand Junction.The deep canyons expose rocks as old as Precambrian (1.5 billion years old). The Great Unconformity is very obvious, above which around 1.3 billion years of depositions are missing. The remaining eroded sediments are from present day to about 200 million years old, and comprise mainly the Chinle formation, the Wingate sandstone, the Entrada sandstone and the Morrison formation. The photos below were take from the Rim Rock Drive from the noorth end of the park to the southeast.

Unaweep and Dolores-San Miguel Canyons are located south of the Colorado National Monument along CO 141 from Whitewater to Naturita. The Unaweep Canyon was cut by either the Colorado River or the Gunnison River, but geological events isolated the canyon and it now has two smaller streams, East creek and West Creek flowing out of it (one to the northeast and the other to the southwest into the Dolores River). It is the only canyon on Earth with two mouths. Precambrian rocks are exposed at the bottom of the canyon. The Dolores Canyon connects to the Unaweep Canyon at the small town of Gateway, and the Dolores flows west from there into Utah where it meets the Colorado River near Moab. Upstream from Gateway (southeast) along CO 141 the Dolores and San Miguel cut beautiful canyons through the younger sediments.

© Tom & Linda Lebsack 2018