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Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area

The Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area consists of 62,844 acres of BLM-managed lands.  Initially 57,725 acres were designated in the Black Canyon  of the Gunnison National Park and Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area Act of 1999 (Public Law 106-76). The Black Canyon of the Gunnison Boundary Revision Act of 2003 (PL 108-78) expanded the NCA to its current size.

The NCA is part of the Uncompahgre Field Office in Montrose, Colorado. The NCA is managed under the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area Resource Management Plan, approved in November 2004.

Brochures and Maps

Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and Wilderness Visitor Guide* (2.5 Mb)

*Colorado Gold Medal fishing regulations have changed since this guide was created.  Please check with the Colorado Division of Wildlife for updated regulations.

Flat Top/Peach Valley OHV Area (2.2 Mb)

Recreation Map (1.4 Mb)


The NCA encompasses a diverse landscape ranging from “adobe badlands” to rugged piñon-juniper covered slopes to the spectacular double canyon system of the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area. This landscape supports an equally diverse range of uses in the NCA — activities such as wilderness whitewater boating and Gold Medal trout fishing in the Gunnison River, big-game hunting for mule deer and elk, motorized and non-motorized recreation use, domestic sheep and livestock grazing, sightseeing, wildlife photography, and wilderness hiking and backpacking.


The Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is located in the heart of the NCA within the unique black granite and red sandstone double canyon system of the Gunnison River. It encompasses approximately 17,784 acres of public lands, including 14 miles of the river, extending from the northwestern boundary of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park north to a point approximately one mile downstream from the confluence of the Smith Fork and the main stem of the Gunnison River.

The Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is managed to preserve and protect its outstanding wilderness, scenic and non motorized recreational values. The Wilderness offers a technical (Class III-IV) and remote boating experience for rafters, kayakers and whitewater canoeists. The boating changes with every flow and is very dependent on winter snow pack. Other wilderness uses include:

  • hiking and backpacking
  • horseback riding
  • small and big game hunting
  • Gold Medal trout fishing

Day-use and camping recreational user fees are charged in the Wilderness. The Gorge was one of BLM’s first recreational fee demo pilots and has been charging fees since 1997. A major use of fees is the control of tamarisk and other invasive species throughout the Wilderness Area.

Cultural Resources

The NCA contains a number of prehistoric and historic sites including rock art, cabins, campsites, mines, etc. A number of these sites are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. Cultural surveys of the area are on-going as are a number of site stabilization projects. A major goal of the new NCA plan is to provide users enhanced interpretation of the area’s outstanding cultural resources to increase their awareness and understanding of the need to protect these areas.

Wildlife and Threatened and Endangered Species

The NCA contains a variety of upland, riparian, and aquatic wildlife species and habitats. Common species include mule deer, elk, mountain lion, coyote, ringtail cats, small mammals, neo-tropical birds, raptors, chukar, and river otter. The Gunnison River is designated as a Gold Medal Trout Fishery by Colorado Division of Wildlife because of its excellent trout population, including rainbow, brown, and cutthroat trout.

Sensitive species in the NCA include: clay-loving buckwheat, Montrose penstemmon, Rocky Mountain thistle, Delta lomatium, Unita Basin hookless cactus, wintering bald eagles, spotted bats, river otters and kit foxes (state Sensitive species).

The east side of the NCA contains a small population of 200-300 Gunnison sage-grouse that are managed under the 1998 Crawford Sage-Grouse Partnership Conservation Plan.

The 2004 NCA plan designated three Areas of Critical Environmental Concern: the Native Plant Community ACEC, Fairview ACEC (sensitive mancos shale plant species) and the Gunnison Sage Grouse ACEC/Important Bird Area.

Rangeland Management

Approximately 5,644 animal unit months of cattle and sheep grazing occur on 11 allotments throughout the NCA. Grazing permits in the NCA contain special stipulations requiring a visual setback for livestock grazing activities (bedding grounds, water sites, supplemental feed sites, etc) of 500 feet from established recreational sites such as roads, trail heads, user areas, and fee collection sites.

Lands and Realty

All forms of entry, appropriation, and disposal are prohibited in the NCA and Wilderness. Rights of ways applications in the NCA are decided on a case-by-case basis. Acquisitions are addressed as opportunities arise on a case-by-case basis with willing sellers.

Fluid Minerals

All federal mineral estate in the NCA and Wilderness are withdrawn from all forms of mineral entry, location, and patent under the mining laws except for valid existing rights.

Solid Minerals

All federal mineral estate in the NCA and Wilderness are withdrawn from all forms of mineral entry, location, and patent under the mining laws except for valid existing rights. There are eight mining claims in the NCA that require validity testing.

Fire Management

The Uncompahgre Field Office (UFO) is part of the Montrose Interagency Fire Management Unit which is made up of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forests, the Black Canyon National Park, and Currecanti National Recreation Area. The UFO averages about 85 fires a year with 95 percent of them being lightning caused. There are only about 5 fires per year that are human caused. There are 8 fire engines in the fire unit that are available to respond to fires in the UFO. We implement on average 3 prescribed fires for 600 acres in the UFO.