Appropriately named after the Arabian city so rich in gold, Ophir was born in 1875 when gold was first discovered at a site called Howard’s Fork. When the population had grown to about 500, which did not take long, word of the silver strike at a nearby town called Rico caused the miners to vacate Ophir for Rico for fear that gold deposits were short lived. As it turned out, it was the silver deposits at Rico that were short lived. The miners returned to Ophir to work their claims. Silverton had the nearest smelters available to Ophir making it possible for miners to send their ore there via burrow trains. Ophir is due west of Silverton, as the crow flies, on highway 145. History Submitted by Henry Chenoweth.
Situated in the heart of the breathtaking San Juan Mountains, Mountain Village was incorporated in 1995 as a Home Rule Municipality. Its founders envisioned a European-style ski-in/ski-out, pedestrian-friendly destination resort that would complement the historic mining town of Telluride. A three-stage gondola transportation system connects the Town of Mountain Village with the Town of Telluride. Situated at 9,500 feet, Mountain Village is comparably a world apart from other resorts: it is innately spectacular, beautifully orchestrated and planned, and overflowing with style, charm and sophistication.
Although we never forget our heritage, Mountain Village and Telluride have certainly come a long way from its days as a sheep ranch and mining town, respectively, to being named one of the world’s top resort destinations.
In 1968, entrepreneur Joe Zoline began to assemble the land needed to build a world class ski resort including Gorrono Ranch and Adams Ranch. With the purchase of the land, he then convinced the Town of Telluride and the United States Forest Service of his choice for the location of an “official winter sports site” in the present Mountain Village. Enlisting the expertise of former French world champion skier Emile Allais, Zoline planned to develop the ski resort in stages. In 1972, the first of the lifts and ski runs opened. In 1978, Ron Allred and Jim Wells purchased the Telluride Ski Resort from Zoline.
Allred and Wells set out to create a pedestrian-friendly, European-style resort village above the Town of Telluride on 3.5 square miles of land that was then sheep ranches. Their vision included a commercial center that is known today as Mountain Village Center (or to some, Village Core), single-family estates dispersed carefully within the natural landscape, and a meandering network of winter and summer trails, walking paths, and golf fairways throughout. Their original vision also included housing for the local workforce and civic amenities to support a small, but thriving, year-round community. San Miguel County approved the Mountain Village Planned Unit Development December 22, 1981.
Allred and Wells knew it would be necessary to pay for the installation, operation and maintenance of the essential infrastructure. Thus, the Mountain Village Metropolitan District (MVMD) was established in 1983 for the purpose of collecting property taxes and providing services and amenities for health, safety and welfare. Such services and amenities included water, drainage, public parks and recreational facilities, roads, transportation and wastewater treatment. MVMD was essentially the local government of the community. Then in 1984 Mountain Village Metropolitan Services, now known as Telluride Mountain Village Owners Association (TMVOA), was established to be a master homeowners association. This entity was responsible for the aesthetics of Mountain Village and continues to be responsible for the ongoing operational and maintenance costs of the gondola system which is funded by TMVOA’s Real Estate Transfer Assessment (RETA). As TMVOA’s largest revenue stream, RETA is assessed at a rate of three percent on certain real estate transactions.
A decade later, it was evident that Mountain Village was no longer just a “company town” supporting the building and development of a world-class resort community – it was a world-class resort community. The Town of Mountain Village was incorporated in 1995, and gradually took over the functions of MVMD which was formally dissolved in 2007, the same year that the town separated from TMVOA.
Nestled atop Wright’s Mesa at 7000 feet, Norwood has spectacular vistas of high alpine and wild desert country. Far horizons are ringed by the La Sal Mountains in the west, the Uncompahgre Plateau to the north, the San Juan and San Miguel Mountains in the east and, to the south is Norwood’s own jewel, Lone Cone Peak. Rugged desert canyons etch the landscape between. Norwood’s abundance of outdoor opportunities, mild climate, and relaxed atmosphere make it one of the Four Corners’ and Colorado’s best-kept secrets.
Throughout years of change and growth, Norwood has retained its “old west small town charm”. Travelers can pause for a look through our shops where local artisans sell their wares, dine on fine food, lodge for the night and enjoy our small town hospitality.
Norwood is only 30 miles west of Telluride, below which the San Miguel River flows mightily down through Norwood Canyon. Follow Colorado 145 west along the Unaweep-Tabaguache Scenic Byway. You’ll enjoy the scenic forty-minute drive down the red rock rimmed San Miguel River Canyon to Norwood. As you top out on Norwood Hill, you will gasp at the majestic 12,700 foot Lone Cone Mountain as it stands as silent sentinel over Wright’s Mesa. As the sun sets beautifully behind the Blue and La Sal Mountains to the west in Utah, you will fell as if you are in a wide valley surrounded by mountains. Just a couple more miles to the ranching community of Norwood, where western hospitality awaits you.
Equestrian and agricultural heritages are deeply interwoven in the lives of Norwood’s residents. Cattle drives are common and summer hosts the largest monetary rodeo on the Colorado Pro Rodeo Association circuit. Horseback riding enthusiasts ride year-round in Norwood’s mild climate amid spring’s sweet fruit blossoms, summer’s abundant wildlife, autumn’s delightful harvest and winter’s golden and bald eagles. Numerous opportunities for hunting, fly-fishing, ice fishing, and mushroom foraging abound for outdoor lovers.
Action lovers find year-round fun surfing the mesa with ATVs in summer and snowmobiles in winter. Norwood’s history takes center stage in September, with the Pioneer Days celebration, honoring long-term local residents with a parade, traditional feast and old-time children’s games. The San Miguel River, the Uncompahgre Plateau, Lone Cone Mountain, Miramonte Reservoir, and acres of public land amongst other things just minutes away, Norwood is the perfect place to savor the outdoors.
Placerville is a tiny, unincorporated community on the road to Telluride. The elevation is 7,320 feet.
Named after the placer gold mines situated by the San Miguel River and Leopard Creek, Placeville got its start as a mining camp in the late 1800s. By 1919 there there were at least five mines in the town, which produced 30% of the world’s vanadium. The mines produced over 3 million pounds of vanadium through 1940.
If you’re in Rico in the summer or early fall, be sure to visit the Rico Historical Museum on the highway through town at 15 S. Glasgow Ave. Established by volunteers in 2008, it offers excellent indoor and outdoor displays about the town’s colorful history. The location itself is historic, being the town’s original firehouse, restored and retrofitted to serve as the museum. Behind the original, large swinging doors you’ll find one of the department’s hand drawn hose trucks.
The Museum contains extensive information about the town’s mining origins starting in 1876, after the Ute Indians reluctantly ceded rights to the land to the onrushing miners and settlers. You’ll see mining artifacts and learn about Rico’s 100 years of booms and busts right up until the Rico Argentine Mill closed in the early 1970’s. There are still mining structures you can visit within the town limits.
The Rio Grande Southern Railroad is also prominently featured as a significant and interesting part of Rico’s history, transporting ore, supplies and people over the pass to Telluride and down the Dolores River Valley to markets beyond. Although the old train depot is gone, you can see the old water tower for filling the steam trains just down the hill from the museum.
The stories behind many of the historic buildings are covered, particularly the lovely courthouse which used to be the Dolores County seat. There’s a colorful story of how the town lost its records as the residents of Dove Creek, the current county seat, took over the county governance by force.
The museum also includes tributes to some of the people who contributed to Rico’s history. Chief among these is Betty Eyre Pellet who had a fascinating life including being a Broadway star, a suffragette in New York City, the first female state Speaker of the House in the country, and co-owner of the Pell-Eyre Mining Company with her husband, which operated a number of the mines in Rico.
The Rico Historical Museum is a truly delightful small-town museum. It is staffed by volunteers from June to early October from 10 am until 4 pm daily. There is no entrance fee but donations are appreciated.
The Rico Historical Museum is made possible by grants from the Colorado State Historical Fund and the Rico Center.
Used as a summer camp for centuries by Ute Indians and named by Spanish explorers in the 1700s, the San Juan Mountains lured fortune seekers to Colorado with visions of silver and gold. By the mid-1870s, the Sheridan Mine was the first in a string of local claims and a tent camp was established in the valley below. Originally called Columbia, the rowdy mining camp became a town in 1878, and changed its name to Telluride.
With the coming of the railroad in 1890, the remote boom-town flourished. A melting pot of immigrants seeking their fortunes turned Telluride into a thriving community of 5,000. Prosperity abounded and Telluride was full of thrilling possibilities. But when silver prices crashed in 1893, followed by the First World War, the mining boom collapsed. Miners moved on and the town’s population gradually dwindled from thousands to hundreds.
In the 1970’s, Telluride reinvented itself. Legendary powder – a different sort of gold – was being mined. When the Telluride Ski Resort opened in 1972, the character of the community changed, and the town spun back into high gear. Born of the same spirit as skiing, cultural events, festivals, music, and performing arts were founded, and flowed through the seasons. It was again a time of thrilling possibilities. Telluride now has a reputation for world-class skiing and a stunning ambiance.
Due to its significant role in the history of the American West, the core area of Telluride was designated a National Historic Landmark District in 1964. This listing is the highest level of historic status available to sites designated by the United States Secretary of the Interior. Telluride is one of only four other Colorado communities with this honor. The sites are so special that, in theory, they are eligible for consideration as national parks.
Citizens are committed to preserving Telluride’s historically significant architecture, open space, and traditional design elements, and most of all, Telluride’s small town mountain lifestyle.
Whether you’re looking for adventure and excitement or the serenity of pristine alpine beauty, once you get to Ridgway you’ll want to stay awhile! Our small town hospitality is a blend of the spirit of the Old West, healthy lifestyles and laid-back, friendly folks.
Ridgway, Colorado is a welcoming, community-minded rural town situated in a beautiful mountain valley. We support learning, creativity and culture. We share a deep connection to the outdoors. We are committed to being economically sustainable and ecologically responsible.
A quiet western town with charismatic energy – Ridgway is a way of life. The town was founded in 1890, as the headquarters of the world famous Rio Grande Southern narrow gauge railroad serving the area’s rich silver and gold mines, ranches and farms. Today the railroad is gone, but its memories remain at the acclaimed Ridgway Railroad Museum. The ranches still dot the valley, preserving open space so special to the area. There is also an amazing wildlife presence throughout the region. Most famous are the bald eagles, which nest in the cottonwoods along the Uncompaghre River.
In 1860, Charles Baker and several prospectors entered the San Juan Mountains in search of wealth. They soon found deposits of gold and silver along the Animas River, in an area that was later called “Baker’s Park”. The prospectors stayed through the summer but returned to what is now northern New Mexico for the winter. News spread of the discovery; however, with the Civil War looming and the discovery being located on Ute Indian land, the miners did not return to the San Juan Mountains until early 1870s.
At that time nearly 1,000 prospectors once again ventured into the high country. The Utes protested, yet they could not stop the inexorable wave of miners and settlers that arrived over Stony Pass.
In 1874 Silverton’s town site was laid out and it soon became the center of numerous mining camps. In addition to the miners, Silverton caught the eye of a railroad company in Denver. In July 1882 the first train operated by the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad rolled in to Silverton from Durango. By 1883, Silverton boasted of having a population of 2,000 people with 400 buildings – 2 banks, 5 laundries, 29 saloons, several hotels and a bawdy red light district – Notorious Blair Street.
As early as 1874, men were bringing their wives and families to live in Silverton. This influx of families provided an incentive for citizens to keep at least part of Silverton respectable. From the very beginning an imaginary line ran down Greene Street dividing the town between the law-abiding, church-going residents and the gamblers, prostitutes, variety theatres, dance halls and saloons.
In May 1883 a grand jury brought 117 indictments against “lewd women” on Notorious Blair Street. Although fines were levied, gambling and prostitution were generally accepted as long as the practice did not migrate into the more respectable sections of town. Lascivious behavior was not necessarily condemned, as fines were readily used for the growing community.
Due to a slow market and low demand, mining in Silverton closed down in the early 1990s. However, there’s still gold and silver in those mountains and rumor has it that mining will be back one day.