San Juan Bonanza: Western Colorado's Mining Legacy
Colorado's San Juan Mountains are home to some of the most historic, and notorious, gold and silver mining towns in the West: Ouray, Silverton, Telluride, and Creede. For five centuries, the San Juans were the summer home to the Ute Indians. They were explored and claimed by Spaniards 250 years ago, and it has only been 150 years since they were entered and permanently settled by European Americans.
Probably above all else, the San Juan Mountains' legacy will be tied to the mining camps and towns that littered their terrain. The 1859 Pikes Peak gold rush brought the prospectors, followed by entrepreneurs of all stripes who opened saloons, hotels, and general stores. Still others came to practice their chosen professions: lawyers, newspaper editors, gamblers, and the occasional gunman. Two decades later, the rich silver veins in the San Juans were adding to the mining frenzy.
John Ninnemann's photographs illustrate the text and include the natural, and sometimes harsh, beauty of the area, narrow-gauge railroads, and mountain trails. Duane Smith, recognized historian of Colorado's mining areas, provides the history of the San Juan Mountains, the mining camps, boomtowns, and ghost towns.