Overview Ouray, Colorado USA

Ouray, Colorado is correctly dubbed as the "Switzerland", of The Rocky Mountains. Nestled deep in the San Juan Mountains, Ouray is surrounded with ten mountain peaks all over 14,000 feet above sea level. Your neck will get sore from looking up all the time at the peaks that tower over the town.

Ouray CO
The impressive San Juan Mountains

Ouray is situated at the head of the Uncompaghre Valley, on a large geological uplift between Montrose and Durango, at the foot of the Million Dollar Highway (well known for its high Avalanche Danger during the winter). During the last ice age, all of the surrounding valleys contained glaciers. When the glacier receded, high waterfalls were left cascading over the canyon walls. During high water, these rivers carried massive boulders that helped to cut beautiful gorges, Box Canyon being the most fantastic.

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Ice Falls above Box Canyon

Pressure and heat over millions of years have caused a series or pure, clean and odorless hot springs in Ouray. The Wiesbaden Hotel and Hot springs is a beautiful example of the natural geothermic springs coming from the Earth.   

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Inside the world famous Wiesbaden Hot Springs

Ouray was named for the Great Indian Chief, Ouray, of the Ute Indian tribes. Chief Ouray, is probably the most famous Indian in Colorado, primarily for his leadership in establishing friendly and cooperative relations with the whites. His positioning with the US government was critical in establishing Ouray as a city and on a larger scale the surrounding county. In July 1873, three prospectors: Beogle, Echols, and Munros, came upon this small enclosed mountain park. They found liberal amounts of silver ore and went back over the mountain pass to Bakerâs Park (now Silverton) to record their claims. These and others who accompanied them on the return trip, incorporated in the town in 1876. The Federal Land Office was paid $375 for the entire town site.

Within a few years, the town had grown to a population of 2,500 residents. There were 10,000 prospect holes within the radius of ten miles.  Many of the mines were only prospect holes. One notable exception is the Camp Bird Mine.  It is located five miles up the canyon creek which made millions for Tom Walsh.  It and the Idarado Mine, which is one of the largest in Colorado, are still in operation. These mines produce zinc, lead, copper, silver and gold. When the metals became unprofitable to mine, many mines were completely abandoned. The remains of these mines, mills and prospect holes are still visible, which adds to the excitement of high country jeep travel.

*Feature written and photographed by Phillips, January 2001. All historical information was provided to us by Ouray Chamber of Commerce, the Wiesenbaden hot springs and is published on flyers throughout town.



Ouray, Colorado today only has a year round population of 750 people. Ouray offers world class ice climbing, world class skiing, hiking, back country life and great relaxation. A good place to get away from everything both in the Winter and Summer. For more information on Ouray go to http://www.ouraycolorado.com

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Globetrotter Adventures
Carbondale, CO 81623