(Katie here) Today I was able to take another day trip sponsored by the Museum of Western Colorado. This time we traveled to the town of Ouray (pronounced You Ray) which lies about a hundred miles SSE of Grand Junction. As with many of the mountain towns, it was founded as a mining town in the late 1800’s. It sits at the peak of a river valley surrounded by tall mountain on three sides. Our first stop was at Box Canyon Falls, a river plummeting through a deep chasm in the rocks.
This chipmunk greeted us as we entered.
A view of the falls
The river exits the chasm deep in the rocks
In the right of the picture below, you can spot an old piece of mining equipment once used on the local rocks.
A view out the chasm bottom
Walking the nature trail back to the parking lot, we spotted this house on the edge of a cliff. One of my fellow travelers quipped: “Wouldn’t want a few too many martinis out on that deck.”
Our next stop was at Bear Creek falls located just south of town at the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway. This road runs from Ouray up to the 11,000 foot Red Mountain Pass with some treacherously steep drop-offs and switchbacks along the way. There are two theories as to the naming of the highway. One states that when the highway was built in 1920, it cost a million dollars a mile to construct. A second theory is that much of the rock fill used to complete it was filled with trace amounts of silver and gold from the area rocks, so the bed of the highway is worth a million dollars. A view of Bear Creek Falls and the beginning of the Million Dollar Highway crossing it.
At the overlook at the falls, I spotted this bright yellow creek. The discoloration is a result of drain-off from the local mines.
A view of the mountains to the south of Ouray
In the deep bowls on the north-facing slopes, you can still spot snow.
Next was a stop at the Amphitheater overlook to the east of town. From here, you can really get a good idea of how the town sits in a deep bowl. The beginning of the Million Dollar Highway can be spotted toward the left of the picture.
After our lunch, we got a tour of the historic Beaumont Hotel. The hotel was originally built in the late 1800’s by a consortium of mine owners. It was built to add some grace and character to the town in the hopes of enticing the railroad to extend their tracks south from the town of Ridgway into Ouray – an endeavor which proved to be fruitful when the rail line was completed. Closed in 1967, the hotel was purchased in the 1990’s and restored to its original splendor.
The lobby features an atrium overlooking the main lobby.
The Grand Staircase is said to resemble the staircase in the Titanic – although the one in the Beaumont is not underwater!
The entire main street of Ouray features well-preserved buildings from the mining heyday times. This is the Wright Opera House.
Our final stop was at the Ouray Historical Museum. It is housed in what once was the Miner’s Hospital, and several rooms are dedicated to a recreation of this original use.
Throughout the building, rooms have been furnished to recreate the past, this one a Victorian sitting room.
Of course, the museum has a display celebrating the area’s mining history.
And to my delight, their featured event was a display of historic quilts.
Also on the site, are several restored buildings moved from other locations and re-assembled at the museum. One such is this small cabin with a single room on the bottom floor and a sleeping loft above.
Finally, what trip would be complete without some wildlife? I spotted this mule deer calmly grazing on the lawn of the house right next door to the museum.
Hope you, Dear Reader, have enjoyed this journey!