History of Ouray

Southwest Colorado’s San Juan Mountains are home to some of the world’s richest gold and silver finds. Back in the 1870s, gold was found here and dozens of small mining towns grew into flourishing communities. Places like Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, Lake City (and a whole lot more that are lost to history) sprang up, sometimes overnight. Thousands of men came from all over the world looking for their fortune.

Today, you can drive down old mountain trails and see ghost towns along with their old mining buildings. Most of the old mines are sealed for the public’s protection. Some remote mines can be entered, but years of neglect have left them hazardous. Drive a short distance south of Ouray to view the Red Mountain Mining district - home to thousands of mines.

Don’t miss the Ouray County Historical Museum in town for another glimpse into Ouray’s rich mining history.

Ouray’s History

  • View from inside a mine

    Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour

    The Bachelor Syracuse Mine Tour in Ouray, Colorado is a fascinating and educational experience that offers visitors a glimpse into the rich history of mining in the San Juan Mountains. The tour takes visitors deep into the underground workings of the Bachelor Syracuse Mine, which operated from the late 1800s until the mid-1900s. Led by knowledgeable guides, visitors can explore the mine's tunnels, shafts, and equipment, and learn about the miners' daily life and working conditions.

  • Photo of Ghost Town

    Ghost Towns

    Most ghost towns in the area, due to the difficult and unforgiving long winter months, are now bare sites with only a few buildings still standing. These historical ruins are “true ghosts.” You'll find shadows of the past. There are towns that can be reached by passenger car, but most are located in remote areas only accessible by four-wheel drive.

  • Historic Ouray Hot Springs Pool

    Historic Ouray Hot Springs Pool

    Opening on July 4, 1927, Ouray’s many hot springs have been a natural draw for the bone-weary for centuries. The town’s hot springs have bubbled up along the Uncompahgre River and from underground fissures for thousands of years and range in temperature from 80 to 150 degrees.

  • Room in Ouray County Historical Museum

    Ouray County Historical Museum

    The Museum features mining, ranching and railroading, the three main means of employment in Ouray's early history. It houses many artifacts dating back to Ouray's earliest days which began in 1875. There are large displays of minerals and Indian artifacts in the building. Plan to visit this fascinating museum. You'll want to set aside a minimum of one hour for your visit. Many tourists and residents of Ouray spend several hours touring the Museum.

  • Man touring alchemist museum

    The Alchemist Museum

    Prepare to be wowed and possibly shocked on your visit to Ouray Alchemy, Colorado’s largest pharmacy museum. From exceptionally restored fixtures gathered from historic Colorado mining towns, to artifacts dating back to the 16th Century and even 350 BC, the collection of items assembled in this amazing museum is astounding.

  • The Wright Opera House

    The Wright Opera House

    The sound, seating, stage and experience of witnessing live arts at The Wright Opera House is like no other. Since the late 1800s this venue has provided the City of Ouray and its citizens a place to gather, share and socialize.

Historic Walking Tour

Doing Ouray's Historic Walking Tour is a great way to explore the town's rich history and learn about its unique past. The self-guided tour takes you through the charming streets of downtown Ouray, where you can see historic buildings and landmarks dating back to the 1800s. Along the way, you'll discover fascinating stories about the town's early settlers, mining boom, and colorful characters who shaped its history. Whether you're a history buff or just curious about the town's past, the walking tour offers a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Plus, the picturesque views of the San Juan Mountains make the tour even more enjoyable.

These walking tours are available to purchase for $1 at the Ouray Visitor Center or the Ouray Country Historical Society