Museums of Ouray County
Experience the Vibrant Past of the San Juans!
The history of Ouray County is resonant with all of the elements of a good western novel. Settled in the 1800's, Ouray is one of very few towns boasting such spectacular original Victorian Architecture undamaged by natural disaster, and maintained with so much love. Until the early 1960's, Ouray was the booming center of a huge mining community, filled with miners, saloons, churches, hotels, entertainment of many sorts, and its own hospital.
The town is named for Chief Ouray, of the Ute Indian Tribe, and also has the prestige of reaching a peaceful settlement with the Native Americans in the area. With such a rich and engaging history, it is no wonder there are such wonderful museums, celebrating Ouray County with contagious passion.
Ouray County Museum
With the decline of the mining industry and the railroad closing, the 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
Ridgway Railroad Museum
Did you know that once the Denver Rio Grande Railroad travelled 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 travelled the high country to Ouray, servicing travellers 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 achievments of the Denver Rio Grande Railway.
This September, come on out to celebrate the railroad and its origins at the Ouray County Railroad Days Celebration. For thee days, enjoy guided hikes along several of the railroad routes through the San Juan Mountains, and explore the museum and all of the old rail cars and pictures of Ouray County's world-famous railroad heritage. From September 20 through the 23rd, immerse yourself in the colorful history of the rails!
The Ridgway Railroad Museum is located at the Junction of US Highway 550 and Colorado State Highway 62 in Ridgway, Colorado.
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, The Ouray 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