Unaweep Canyon – Gateway, Colorado - Atlas Obscura

Unaweep Canyon

Two creeks flow out of either end of this canyon in opposite directions.  


Translated from Ute as the “Canyon with Two Mouths” or “the Parting of the Waters,” the remote Unaweep Canyon is the only canyon in the world where creeks flow out of the canyon in opposite directions.

When the Utes named this canyon, they were aware of the almost imperceptible divide in the middle of the canyon that splits the flow of water out of the canyon into East and West Creeks, which flow out of the canyon in the eastward and westward directions. The canyon cuts across the Uncompahgre Plateau and is split by the Unaweep Divide. Water from East Creek flows into the Gunnison River, while water from West Creek flows into the Dolores River

The canyon is also a geologic mystery in that it is very unclear how it formed. It was once thought to be cut by an ancestral Gunnison River, or that it was formed by glaciers in the last ice age. However, the canyon is too low for glacial action in the last ice age.

Recent core samples have suggested much older origin. The core samples indicate that the canyon may have been cut by glaciers as long as 300 million years ago. Uplift of the Uncompahgre Plateau, combined with erosion from the Gunnison River, may have exposed the ancient canyon.

Geology has always played an important part in the canyon’s history. Also located behind Thimble Rock are the famous ruins of Driggs Mansion. Constructed in 1918 by Colorado mining tycoon Laurence Driggs, the mansion was the work of Italian stonemason Nunzio Grasso in the style of a Tuscan farmhouse. Some accounts say he sold the property in 1923 because he never bothered to live there. Regardless of how the ruins came to be, they provide a haunting backdrop to an already mystical place.

Know Before You Go

Unaweep Canyon is part of the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway on Colorado 141 south of Grand Junction.

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