ONE-DAY TRIP FROM CANON CITY TO THE TOP OF THE ROYAL GORGE.
The chief attraction in the vicinity of Canon City is the Royal Gorge of the Arkansas. The traveler passing over the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad in an open-top observation car has an exceptional opportunity to see this gorge from the bottom, but wonderful as this view may be, it does not compare in awe-inspiring grandeur with the view of the gorge from above. To obtain this view the traveler goes by automobile from Canon City a distance of 10 miles over one of the most picturesque drives in the country. Several years ago a trolley line was graded nearly to the top, but the enterprise fell through and at present automobiles or teams form the only mode of conveyance.
The road first climbs to the top of a steep hogback ridge formed of the sharply tilted Dakota sandstone and then follows the crest of this ridge for several miles. The top of the ridge is so narrow that there is barely room for the road; in fact, the road in many places passes beneath great projecting ledges of the sandstone. (See Pl. XXXV.) From this elevated position one can look down on the town and on acres upon acres of orchards to the east and in the other direction into the valley that separates the hogback from the main mountain. The road finally crosses this valley, climbs gradually to a high plateau, about 1,200 feet above the town, and suddenly comes to the very brink of the Royal Gorge, as shown in Plate XXXIV, A. When the traveler finally stands on the edge of this mighty chasm (Pl. XXXIV, B) and gazes down more than a thousand feet to the raging torrent that rushes through its shadowy depths or to the thundering train that wakes the sleeping echoes from all its cavernous recesses he can but feel that, though the Royal Gorge may not be so deep nor display so great a variety of colors as the Grand Canyon of the Colorado, it has a massiveness of wall and a steepness and ruggedness that can not be matched even by that "Titan of chasms." The canyon gives one the impression that Arkansas River has here acted like a gigantic saw and that what one sees to-day is the deep, narrow cut it has thus made. The canyon seems no wider than the stream that carved it. In places the walls overhang, and one must have steady nerves to stand firmly on the edge and look without dizziness down at a point 1,100 feet below
The banding of the granite and the many dikes and veins that cut it, as shown in Plate XXXIV, B, give a variety of attractive color effects. In places the soft layers have worn away until there are deep recesses; in others the massive rock has so well resisted the scouring action of the stream that the walls are vertical or even overhang.
On the whole, the canyon shows impressively what an active stream can do when it is working on highly contorted rocks like gneiss and cutting downward only, with little or no broadening.
The view from the top of the Royal Gorge will well repay one who is interested in the canyon as a scenic feature for the trouble he takes to reach it, and it furnishes the student of geology or physiography an almost ideal example of a newly cut gorge.23
Last Updated: 16-Feb-2007