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Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Proposed Fee Increased for Black Canyon of the Gunnison & Curecanti Recreation Area

GUNNISON, COLORADO – The National Park Service (NPS) has announced proposed fee changes for wilderness permits at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and group campsite fees at Curecanti National Recreation Area. These changes are set to take effect in January 2025, and park managers are currently seeking public comments on the proposed adjustments.

Details of the Fee Changes

The fee modifications come after recent fee compatibility studies conducted by NPS fee staff, which revealed that wilderness permit costs and group campsite fees at comparable locations are typically higher than those currently charged at Black Canyon and Curecanti. This adjustment aims to bring the fee structure of both parks more in line with other similar sites.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park:

  • Wilderness Permit Fees: A base fee of $6 plus an additional $4 per person will be implemented. These permits will be available exclusively online through
  • Usage Limits: To minimize resource impacts and maintain the wilderness character, permits will be limited to a maximum of three nights and a group size of up to four people per night.
  • Advance Planning: Visitors must plan in advance as permits will no longer be available in-person at the Black Canyon visitor center.
  • Entrance Fees: Permit holders will still be responsible for paying the park entrance fee.

Curecanti National Recreation Area:

  • Group Campsite Fees: The fee for the East Elk Creek group campsite, which accommodates up to 50 individuals, will be set at $120 per night. The smaller group campsite at Red Creek will have a fee of $60 per night.

These changes will take place in January 2025, aligning with the requirements of the 2004 Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). This act authorizes the NPS to charge fees for recreational amenities, ensuring they are appropriate to the benefits and services provided and comparable to fees charged by other local entities.

Balancing Benefits and Concerns

The proposed fee changes at Black Canyon and Curecanti come with their own set of advantages and potential drawbacks.

On the positive side, the revenue generated from these fees will significantly benefit the parks. Eighty percent of the fees collected will stay within Black Canyon and Curecanti, funding essential projects such as the rehabilitation of trails, upgrades to campgrounds, and improvements to water, sewer, and solid waste systems. This local reinvestment is crucial for maintaining and enhancing the parks’ infrastructure, ensuring that they remain safe and enjoyable for all visitors.

Moreover, the new fee structure will help align Black Canyon and Curecanti with comparable wilderness areas and campgrounds. This standardization is expected to improve the quality of services and amenities available to visitors. Limiting the issuance of wilderness use permits to online reservations and capping the number of nights and group sizes also serves an important environmental purpose. These measures are designed to minimize the impact on the parks’ natural resources, helping preserve their pristine condition for future generations.

However, these benefits come with some challenges. The increased costs may pose a financial barrier for some visitors, potentially making these natural wonders less accessible to a broader audience. The shift to an online-only permit system also requires visitors to plan their trips well in advance, eliminating the spontaneity that many outdoor enthusiasts cherish. Additionally, the higher fees might deter some groups from visiting, which could impact local businesses that rely on park tourism.

Public Feedback and Next Steps

The NPS is actively seeking public input on these proposed fee changes. Comments can be submitted online through the NPS Planning website from June 28, 2024, through July 29, 2024. Additionally, mailed comments can be sent to:

RE: Fee Proposal 2024,
Curecanti National Recreation Area,
102 Elk Creek,
Gunnison, CO 81230

Public participation is crucial in this process, as it ensures that the voices of park visitors and stakeholders are heard and considered. The feedback collected will play a significant role in the final decision-making process regarding the proposed fee changes.

For more information about Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and its wilderness routes, visit the park’s official website. To learn more about Curecanti National Recreation Area, visit their website.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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