The Dye Clan
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  • TR: Apr 2012

Painted Wall Overlook

Some interpretive signs at the Painted Wall Overlook.

The Painted Wall Overlook in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park is a short, 200-yard stroll from the parking area. At 2,250 feet tall, the Painted Wall is the tallest cliff in Colorado. Signs at the lookout explain the white pegmatite intrusions and several of the bird species in the park.

Interactive Map

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Waypoints

Waypoint Latitude Longitude Description
Trailhead -107.7163865710966 38.58066040151478  
Painted Wall Overlook -107.7182495775582 38.5810695389046  

Trip Report: April 21, 2012

Painted Wall
Painted Wall
Painted Wall
Painted Wall
Painted Wall
Painted Wall

Who hasn't had the desire to fly? Standing on the rim of Black Canyon often evokes such a feeling. Perhaps it's helped by watching the lightning fast violet-green swallows and white-throated swifts, both masters of the quick mid-air turn. It may look like simple fun, but there is also a purpose behind the acrobatics. Sqallows and swifts feed on flying insects, so agility and speed mean a full stomach.

Often seen together, the swallows and swifts of Black Canyon are very similar in appearance. Violet-green swallows have delta-shaped wings and white patches that almost meet over the base of the tail. They may look black-and-white, but at the right angle of light, the green and purple iridescence is evident.

White-throated swifts are less abundand than swallows. They can be recognized by their long narrow wings, cigar-shaped bodies and true black-and-white color.

Black Canyon's cliff crevices and holes are idea, nearly predator-proof nesting areas for these acrobatic little birds.

Painted Wall

Many species of birds inhabit Black Canyon of the Gunnison, but few capture the imagination like the great hunting birds. These taloned predators ride the canyon's complex air currents or perch like silent sentinels along the canyon rims, searching for prey on the ledges and river banks far below.

During your visit, scan the sky and distant ledges for these birds. These birds of prey and other wildlife are protected here and allowed to live unmolested.

Red-tailed hawks can sometimes be identified by a loud, harsh, down-slurred cream. Nesting in trees and cliffs, hawks are known to produce up to founr young a year. Perching high atop a tree or rocky crag, adults may sit quietly for house, then suddenly glide down on an unsuspecting rodent or lizard. During mating the adults will call to each other while soaring and circling.

The golden eagle is the largest hunting bird likely to be seen here. Its 92-inch wingspan allows it to soar for long periods on canyon updrafts while it hunts rabbits and squirrels. Golden eagles mate for life and over several years the pair will build several nests. Each spring one of these nests is chosen, rehabilitated with additional limbs and twigs, and defended as the clutch of eggs is laid.

Peregrine falcons prefer open country but are equally at home in Black Canyon. Nests are often set upon isolated ledges where the 2 to 4 chicks are less vulnerable to predators. Flight speed and the stunning acrobatics of hte peregrine falcon are legendary.

Painted Wall
Painted Wall
Painted Wall

At 2300 feet, Painted Wall is the highest cliff in Colorado. If the Empire State Building stood on the canyon floor, it would reach slightly more than halfway to the top of the cliff.

The patterns that inspired the name Painted Wall were created more than a billion years ago when molten rock was squeezed (intruded) into fractures and joins in the existing rock, then cooled and hardened. Unlike a painting, these patterns are 3-dimensional. If you were to slice off a section of cliff, an entirely different pattern would be revealed.

Painted Wall
Painted Wall
Painted Wall
Painted Wall