Royal Gorge (also Grand Canyon of the
Arkansas) is a canyon on the
River near Cañon City, Colorado.
a width of at its base and a few hundred feet at its top, and a
depth of in places, the 10-mile-long canyon is a narrow, steep
gorge through the granite
of Fremont Peak
. It is one of the deepest canyons
The path of the Arkansas River was already set when the granite
uplift that would eventually form the Rocky Mountains
began. About 3 million years
ago as the mountains began to rise from the surrounding plains, the
Arkansas River--then only a small rivulet
--began to wear away at the stone it flowed
across. Scientists estimate that the mountains surrounding the
canyon rose at a rate of approximately one foot every 2500 years.
Over the millennia
, this small stream
grew, cutting a deep channel
itself through the surrounding granite. The gorge's peculiar
shape, contrasted to broad canyons such as the Grand Canyon, can be attributed to this long, direct erosion
through hard rock.
Early history and European settlement
settlement, Native Americans
people wintered in Royal Gorge for
its protection from wind and relatively mild climate. The Comanche
, and Cheyenne
Gorge on buffalo hunting
expeditions as an access point to mountain
meadow regions such as South Park
. Colorado's Rocky Mountain region fell under
Spanish claims, and conquistador expeditions of the 17th century or
fur traders may have seen Royal Gorge in
their traversal of the area.
The first recorded instance of
a European arrival, however, is the Pike
of 1806. Zebulon Pike
group built a crude shelter in the gorge and explored the area,
descending on horseback over the frozen Arkansas River.
City was founded in 1860 to exploit possible mineral
deposits in the area. Discovery of silver and
lead near Leadville in 1877 prompted a race to build rail access to the
Royal Gorge was a bottleneck along the Arkansas too
narrow for both the Atchison, Topeka and Santa
and the Denver and Rio Grande
to pass through, and there was no other
reasonable access to the South Park area. Both railroad crews thus
took to fighting the "Royal Gorge Railroad War", two years of
essentially low-level guerrilla
between the two companies. Federal
prompted the so-called "Treaty of Boston" to end the fighting. The
D&RGW completed its line and leased it for use by the Santa
In the 1890s Royal Gorge was used as a passenger route for transcontinental
travel. As many as four trains per day went through the
gorge, though in time the establishment of alternate routes through
the mountains made the Royal Gorge fall from favor for
transcontinental use, and passenger train service on the main line
was discontinued in 1967. A sightseeing train now follows the route
through the gorge.
A view of the Royal Gorge Route
On May 7, 1879 the first excursion train traveled through the Royal
Gorge after years of court battles between the Denver & Rio Grande
Atchison, Topeka &
(AT&SF or Santa Fe) railroads.
The Royal Gorge Route
now operates excursion trains through the Royal Gorge
throughout the year. The train travels 12-miles through the canyon
from Canon City, Colorado to Parkdale and return.
Cañon City authorized the building of the Royal Gorge
Bridge, which at above the river is the highest suspension bridge over water in the
The bridge forms the kernel of Royal Gorge Park, a
theme park owned and run by the city.
In the summer months, whitewater
is a very popular activity in the Royal Gorge. Tourists
travel from around the world to tackle the
of the Arkansas River and enjoy the scenery of the
A view of the Royal Gorge Bridge, from
rapids in the Royal Gorge include Sunshine Falls, Sledgehammer,
Wallslammer, Corkscrew, the Narrows, Boateater and Soda Pop Rock.
River recreation in the royal gorge is regulated by Arkansas
Headwaters Recreation Area (AHRA) and daily user fees are required
to launch at all of the recreation sites upstream of the Royal
Gorge. There are many commercial rafting companies which are
licensed by AHRA to run the Royal Gorge and summer weekends can see
hundreds of rafts packing the river.
, bungee jumping
, and rock climbing
are generally not permitted at
the Royal Gorge; however, during special events such as the
"Go Fast Games
" these sports have been
temporarily allowed. However, it is only allowed with the consent
of the land owners.
Image:HangingBridge.jpg|Hanging Bridge, from Royal Gorge Route
Railroad in the Royal GorgeImage:Royal Gorge Bridge
across.jpg|Royal gorge bridge, from leftbank of Arkansas
riverImage:Rare white bison.jpg|White
in Royal Gorge animal parkImage:Royal Gorge Road sign.jpg|A Royal
Gorge road sign near Cañon City, Colorado.
- The American Military on the Frontier, by
James P. Tate, copyright 2002, The Minerva Group, Inc.
- Encarta article about Canon City.
- United States Reports, Supreme Court: Cases Argued and
Adjudged in the Supreme Court of the United States
(October Term, 1878), by William T. Otto, published 1879, from
- A Builder of the West: The Life of General William
Jackson Palmer, by John Stirling Fisher and Chase Mellen,
copyright 1981, by Ayer Publishing.