Ouray County Museums Offer History and Fun

Mining, Ranching and Railroads! Ouray County is filled with stories!

Although the images of miners are prevalent, the history of Ouray County extends far beyond. Originally develpoed as a junction for the Denver Rio Grande Railroad, Ridgway soon turned to ranching and farming to become a prosperous community despite the closure of the rails.

Movies like True Grit were filmed in Ouray County, highlighting the splendor and beauty of the San Juan Mountains. Many a famous traveller has passed through our little county, leaving their mark in our history books. 

Did you know that Ouray was one of the first cities to boast electricity in our homes and businesses? Or that Ouray is home to the largest collection of Mesker Brothers facades?

Learn more about this amazing area in our variety of Museums!

Ouray County Museum

With the decline of the mining industry and the railroad closing, the dwindling population of Ouray County could no longer support a hospital, which depended primarily on the donations of the miners it worked to care for. The building remained empty for some years, until it was purchased by the Ouray County Historical Society and recreated into a 27 room museum filled with the early art, gems, photographs and memorabilia of Ouray and its vibrant history.

In addition to the exhibits within the museum, walking tours of the town and the Evenings in History lectures, take guests on colorful journeys into the past; mining, ranching, and so much more! Every month or so, a special exhibit featuring everything from the development of the Million Dollar Highway to the evolution of fashion serve to entrance visitors with the victories and defeats of the early settlers of Ouray.

Ouray County Historical Society
420 6th Avenue
P. O. Box 151, Ouray, CO 81427
Phone: 970-325-4576
Email: [email protected]

Ridgway Railroad Museum

Did you know that once the Denver Rio Grande Railroad traveled all the way to Ouray at least a couple of times a day? Transporting passengers and precious metals to and from the Rocky Mountains, the railroad was a large contribution to the revenue coming into and out of the San Juans.

For over fifty years, the Denver Rio Grande Railroad traveled the high country to Ouray, servicing travelers and transporting silver, gold and equipment to and from Ouray County. The town of Ridgway was actually created to accommodate the rail system, and has blossomed into a thriving community even after the derailment of the D&RGR

Ridgway Railroad Museum transports each traveller back as The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad journeyed across the western states, changing the concept of transportation until it eventually was replaced in this area by highways and the automobile.

Explore the rise and fall of the rails in Southwest Colorado, through photographs, models, and historical documents as you are transported to the early days of mass transit and the trials and achievements of the Denver Rio GrandeRailway.

The Ridgway Railroad Museum is located at the Junction of US Highway 550 and Colorado State Highway 62 in Ridgway, Colorado.

email: [email protected]

Mail: Ridgway Railroad Museum, PO Box 588, Ridgway, CO 81432

Ouray County Ranch History Museum

Images of the Old West are filled with movie images of John Wayne type ranchers and cowboys bustin broncos and battling with the railroads over land rights; stagecoaches travelling across plains, and homesteaders working the fields. Often, the image of Ouray County is one of mining towns and all of the adventure of toiling deep in the mountains to strike it rich. There was however a large number of families coming to the Rocky Mountains to create a more permanent living off of the land, providing crops and livestock to maintain the mining community.

North of Ouray, the land evens out into fields and meadows which have long held a reputation of rich, fertile soil, capable of producing some of the best crops of alfalfa in the state. As Ouray County became famous for its rich mineral deposits high in the mountains and began to grow, ranchers took over the low lands, raising cattle and sheep to sustain the many towns and communities working deep in the earth. Fields were alternated between grazing and raising crops to feed the herds through the long winter months.

The Ouray County Ranch Museum encompasses the image of life as a settler with a variety of exhibits from a sampling of furniture and tools, to photographs of some of the first rodeos that bring to life the trials and triumphs of the early ranchers in Southwest Colorado.

At the edge of Ouray County, in Colona, Colorado, this original museum in the old Colona School and Grange, TheOuray County Ranch History Museum is sure to transport you into another time for a little while to complete the picture of life at the turn of the century.

Ouray County Ranch History Museum
206 County Road 1, Colona, Colorado

It’s hard to believe, when adventuring in the high country, that every one of the four wheel drive trails around Ouray and Ridgway once led to mining camps and towns, some of which were actually bigger than Ouray is now!

The history of Ouray and Ridgway is both fascinating and exciting. 

Let the staff at the Box Canyon Lodge & Hot Springs help you to plan your next adventure with a walk through the past!

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