Standing here, it is difficult to imagine anyone trying to cross the canyon or navigate its waters. Like hikers today, the Utes and early explorers faced rigorous hardships.
In 1900, William Torrence led a crew to explore the possibility of diverting Gunnison River water for farming. His first trip ended with the loss of most supplies and a difficult climb to the rim.
Torrence set out the next year with A. Lincoln Fellows, with a rubber air mattress. The trip lasted nine days and was not without trouble. "At the 'Narrows' the fun began. The Canyon is full of great boulders, which form bridges across the stream. Over these we must scramble, one getting on top and pulling the other up. We spent a day going a quarter of a mile. the walls are almost perpendicular in many places and some 2,000 feet or more to the top."
The Gunnison Diversion Tunnel was completed in 1909, and still provides water to lands around Montrose. Today's river lacks a seasonal variation in water flow and the reduced river is diminished in its ability to sculpt the canyon.