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Gunnison Gorge Wilderness

General Location Maps Contacts Area Management Wilderness Laws Trip Planning

Area Management

The Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is part of the 109 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System. This System of lands provides clean air, water, and habitat critical for rare and endangered plants and animals. In wilderness, you can enjoy challenging recreational activities like hiking, backpacking, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, rafting, horse packing, bird watching, stargazing, and extraordinary opportunities for solitude. You play an important role in helping to "secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness" as called for by the Congress of the United States through the Wilderness Act of 1964. Please follow the requirements outlined below and use Leave No Trace techniques when visiting the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness to ensure protection of this unique area.

Wilderness User Fees

User fees are required in the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness Area for people age 16 and older. Day use fees are $3 per person (in and out the same day). Overnight fees are $10 per person for one night and $15 per person for two nights. Two nights is the maximum stay limit in the wilderness.

An annual day use pass is available for $15. It allows the owner of the pass day use of the wilderness (in and out the same day) for one year from the date of issue. Overnight use and/or additional people are subject to the fees detailed above.

Campsite Use Regulations

Camping within the river corridor is permitted in Designated Sites Only. A blue or green wooden post marks designated campsite locations with a white number. Blue Posted sites are for boaters only. Green Posted sites are for hikers only.

  1. All camping parties must register and reserve designated campsites.
  2. The maximum group size limit for all campsites within the river corridor is 12 people.
  3. The maximum stay length is two nights.
  4. No wood fires are permitted. Stoves and/or fire pans with charcoal are mandatory for cooking.
  5. Overnight groups with horses are required to stay at the designated Horse Campsite (#15 Ute 1/ Horse Camp) in Ute Park.

How to Register for a Campsite

  1. Select your preferred camp(s) from the river map. Boaters must camp in blue sites; hikers must camp in green sites.
  2. Because users are registering at different starting points, it’s necessary to register and stick with the campsite you choose. Other wise you may displace another party or find yourself displaced. Check the Registration Form in the Visitor Registration Box to make sure another group has not reserved the camp you selected. Registration boxes for the Bobcat, Duncan and Ute Trails are located at the trailheads. The Chukar Box is located at the end of the Chukar Trail at the river.
  3. Sign-in and enter your campsite number and /or name in the “Reserved Campsite” box. Please be sure to supply all the information requested. Remember your campsite number and look for the post which marks it’ location in the Gorge. Overflow camps below the Smith Fork are marked by a brown post only and may be used by hikers or boaters on a first-com basis.

Boater Regulations

Specific regulations have been established to protect the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness and all visitors. Remember: this is a fragile eco-system. We can all ensure that it remains pristine and beautiful by following the regulations below.

  1. One person, or the head guide of commercial trips, must register at the Chukar put-in, Gunnison Forks, Bobcat, Duncan, or Ute trailheads. This requirement is in addition to the fee permit.
  2. The maximum group size is 12 and applies to both day and overnight use.
  3. No wood fires are allowed. You must use either a camp stove or charcoal in a fire pan and pack out all ashes. If every group had a wood fire, all the sparse driftwood would have been consumed long ago and the trees and brush around the campsite would have been next.
  4. Portable, re-usable camp toilets are required.
  5. Camp in established campsites only. By concentrating use to limited areas, the rest of the canyon remains free and undamaged.
  6. All dishwater must be strained before returning it to the river.
  7. The maximum stay length in the wilderness is 2 nights.
  8. Pack out all trash (including cigarette butts) and human waste. A boater waste station is located at the Gunnison Forks takeout for disposal of human waste.
  9. All commercial users must have a commercial permit issued by the BLM and must be licensed by the State.
  10. All commercial users must have a current copy of the Special Recreation Permit in possession.
  11. Motorized watercraft are prohibited in the Gunnison Gorge. (One commercial operator is allowed limited motorized use of the river below the Smith Fork.)

Hiking Regulations

  1. Hikers must register at the trailhead.
  2. Camp in established campsites only. By concentrating use to limited areas, the rest of the canyon remains free and undamaged.
  3. The maximum stay in the wilderness is 2 nights.
  4. All dishwater must be strained before returning it to the river.
  5. Pack out all trash (including cigarette butts) and human waste.
  6. No wood fires are allowed. You must use either a camp stove or charcoal in a fire pan and pack out all ashes. If every group had a wood fire, all the sparse driftwood would have been consumed long ago and the trees and brush around the campsite would have been next.
  7. Pit toilets are located on the river end of Ute and Duncan trails. If you’re hiking, use these. River runners use their own portable toilets. Don’t urinate around the campsite, do it in the river. The soils of the Gorge don’t handle the acids easily -- the smell will accumulate with frequent use.

Fishing Regulations

Fishing in the Gunnison Gorge Wilderness is regulated by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. The following fishing regulations apply on the Gunnison River from the upstream boundary of the Black Canyon National Park, to the relief ditch (5 miles above the Austin Bridge):
1. Fishing by artificial flies and artificial lures only.
2. Brown trout bag and posession limit is 4 fish of any size.
3. All rainbow trout caught must be returned to the water immediately.




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