Abstract Musings

Documenting the random thoughts of a cluttered mind

Day 3 — Royal Gorge, May 2005

In May 2005, Rachelle and I took a vacation to Colorado. After visiting Garden of the Gods and Pikes Peak, we continued sightseeing on our third day in Colorado by stopping to see Royal Gorge.

Royal Gorge

Royal Gorge was carved by the Arkansas River. Unlike the broad Grand Canyon, the Arkansas River cut a very narrow and steep gorge through the rock.

Royal Gorge
We began exploring Royal Gorge with a trip down the Incline Railway. The ride takes about 5 minutes inside a rather small cage. We had plenty of time to view the walls of the gorge as we descended to the river.

Incline Railway
The Incline Railway descends at a 45° angle 1550 feet to the bottom of the gorge.

It's Way Up There
From the bottom of the gorge the bridge doesn’t look so large.

Incline Railway
Another view of the Incline Railway as it ascends the canyon walls. We rode the railway back top the top of the gorge and then walked across the world’s tallest suspension bridge.

Suspension Bridge Tower
The Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge is 1053 feet above the Arkansas River making it the tallest suspension bridge over water in the world. As we started to cross the bridge, we passed the anchorages and the thousands of steel strands that hold the surface of the bridge up.

Arkansas River
A view of the Arkansas River from the west side of the bridge. In 1806 Royal Gorge was scouted by a party sent by Lt. Zebulon Montgomery Pike, whose camp was at the eastern end of the canyon.

Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad
The Arkansas River flows away to the east. The Railroad is part of the Denver and Rio Grand Western Railroad. In 1877 silver was discovered along the Arkansas River and the Rio Grande and the Santa Fe Railroads competed for the right to build a railroad through the gorge to carry the freshly mined ore from the mountains. This competition led to the Royal Gorge War with both railroads sabotaging their competitor’s efforts. The conflict resulted in a six month long court battle in which the United States Supreme Court ruled that the Denver & Rio Grande had the right of way through the gorge. Unhappy with the results, the Santa Fe Railroad continued its efforts to build a parallel track and further conflict ensued. Eventually, the ownership of the line was settled and the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad completed the route through the gorge, paid the Santa Fe Railroad for the track that the Santa Fe Railroad had laid and leased the line to the Santa Fe. Eventually, the mining operations ceased and the route was used primarily for passenger service until 1967. Now, a sightseeing train runs along the track through the gorge from Canon City to Parkdale.

Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge
Here’s a photo of the suspension bridge from the south side of the gorge.

Once we crossed the bridge, we spent a while watching the Bighorn Sheep in the Wildlife Park.

Bighorn Sheep Lamb
The park had a herd of Bighorn Sheep with two lambs.

He's Got Big Horns
This was the only adult male we noticed in the herd.

Stay Close to Mama
I am guessing that this little lamb belonged to this female.

Calling Out
While we watched as an employee corralled one of the lambs, the male came closer, so I was able to take a few close-ups of him.

Male Bighorn Sheep

Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge
We walked on up to an observation area, where we had a spectacular view of the full span of the bridge.

Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge
We rode the Aerial Tram back across the gorge. From the tram we could see the bridge as it spanned the gorge over the river far below. Just barely visible in this photo is the hanging bridge. The gorge is too narrow at this point to support a bed for the railroad, so the railroad constructed an bridge for the track that is suspended from two metal braces anchored on both ends of the gorge. When we were down in the gorge, I took a better photo of the hanging bridge.

Continental Divide

We left the park and continued on our route west. Once we drove up into the mountains, we again encountered a landscape shrouded in vast amounts of snow.

Monarch Pass Sign
The Monarch Pass sign announced our crossing the Continental Divide at 11,312 feet above sea level.

Monarch Pass Scenery
Despite the rather frigid temperature at this elevation. I walked around and took some photographs of the stunning scenery at the pass.

Monarch Pass Scenery
Here’s a close-up of just some of the snow-capped peaks we observed along the drive.

We then continued our drive down the mountains. We planned to spend the next day sightseeing at Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park.