Part 39:  Blue Mesa Reservoir, CO to Uncompahgre Plateau, CO


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The Trip

The camp at Blue Mesa Reservoir was basically a parking lot, but it was mostly empty and it "occurred" at the right time of the afternoon.  After our transit of Tincup Pass, we were happy to quit "early".  Our plan was to continue north to the state park about 60 mile away, but the fading daylight betrayed us.  The camp was fine and next morning we drained our tanks and refilled our fresh water and headed north across Blue Mesa to Crawford, CO.

The photos below are what we saw.

In the morning the light was behind be and correctly illuminating Blue Mesa Dam which blocks the Gunnison River.  This is a Bureau of Reclamation dam and and is used for cash flow generation from sales of power and water. 

The control gates for the dam are actually quite small compared to some of the dams that we have seen in the west.  Note the high water marks on the concrete from "normal" water levels.  Blue Mesa reservoir is way below full pool, like most of the reservoirs in the west.

Our road, CO-92 crossed the dam and gave us a view of the powerhouse at the foot of the downstream side of the dam.

The powerhouse is at the bottom of a steep canyon.  Further downstream, this canyon is called "The Black Canyon of the Gunnison"

To the north the cliffs of Blue Mesa dominated the skyline.

Many of the outcroppings were quite impressive.

There was a bike race near the reservoir and we had to change our route to avoid a substantial delay (like all day....).  Our route took us up Blue Mesa and we came upon this fellow working his way up the mesa.  He was not involved in the race, but look carefully at the photo above.  He has a prosthetic leg on the left side.  He was making good time up the hill.

From an overlook point we could see the waters of Morrow Point Reservoir, the next pool downstream from Blue Mesa on the Gunnison River.  Note the intensity of the cliffs.

Further north along the face of the mesa the outcroppings became more pronounced.

Kathleen caught me using my new Olympus OM-D camera.  With the exception of the photo above, all the photos in this set are from the Olympus.  The Oly is a new-generation SLR camera that is mirrorless and based on the 4/3 format.

Further up the side of the mesa, we got a reasonable view of Morrow Point Reservoir.

The blue sky and the white clouds provide a great contrast to the natural colors of the cliffs.

The brush at the base of the aspen trees appear to be turning color for the fall.

From an overlook point we could see the dam for the Marrow Point Reservoir.

The power lines for Morrow Point Dam go directly up the south cliffs of the canyon.  Steep dirt roads service the poles of the power lines.

On the southern horizon we could see the high peaks of the San Juan Mountains.

We came to the state park that was our previous day's objective and were not impressed.  The park was built to "service" the Crawford Reservoir.  But as you can see above, the water level in the reservoir was severely depleted.  Most of the reservoirs that we saw were low to non-existent.  Even Blue Mesa and Marrow Point were low.

Nothing like a few power lines to spoil a perfectly good photo.  Power lines notwithstanding, the volcanic plug at the base of the mountain was impressive.

We rolled into Delta, CO and had lunch at a local cafe.  From Delta, we headed southwest into the Uncompahgre Plateau.  Having never been here before, we did not know what to expect.  The trail went along a ridge that gave us a good view of the canyons to our north.

The bottom of the canyon had a small creek with Cottonwood trees which indicate persistent water.

Near the crest of the Uncompaghre Plateau we decided to do a road-side camp.  We found a side trail that led to what would have been a meadow if there had been sufficient rain this season.

We set up at the edge of the meadow and secured Thor for the evening.

Kathleen prepared baked chicken, one of my favorite dishes.  In a big change from our Unimog/Alaskan camper rig, Thor's camper has an oven which greatly increases the scope of dishes we can prepare when we are on the road.  All we lack is a microwave oven and this is in the plan for the new, Phase 2 camper that is under design.

Tomorrow, we head south from the crest of the Uncompahgre Plateau to the Dolores River valley then west into the La Sal mountains east of Moab, UT.

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