Mesa Verde National Park, located in southwest Colorado, is home to some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the world. These ancient structures were built by the Ancestral Puebloans over 700 years ago and provide a glimpse into the lives of these ancient people.
San Juan County, Colorado, has a rich and fascinating history that can be traced back to the early Native American tribes who inhabited the region. These tribes, including the Ute and Navajo, relied on the area's natural resources such as water, wildlife, and forests for their sustenance and cultural practices.

The arrival of European settlers in the mid-1800s brought significant changes to the region. Explorers and prospectors flocked to San Juan County in search of gold and silver, leading to a mining boom that transformed the area. Towns like Silverton and Animas Forks sprang up to support the growing mining industry, attracting thousands of miners and entrepreneurs from all over the country.

The mining operations in San Juan County were not without their challenges. Harsh weather conditions, rugged terrain, and isolation made life difficult for the miners and their families. Despite these challenges, the mining industry thrived, and San Juan County became one of the leading producers of silver and gold in Colorado.

However, by the early 20th century, the mining industry declined due to a combination of economic factors and the depletion of easily accessible ore deposits. Many mines closed down, and the population of San Juan County dwindled. Today, the county's economy is largely based on tourism, with visitors attracted to its beautiful scenery, historic architecture, and outdoor recreational opportunities.

San Juan County's history is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of its inhabitants. From its Native American roots to its mining heyday and the transition to a tourism-based economy, the county has undergone significant changes, but its unique heritage continues to be cherished and celebrated by locals and visitors alike.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of San Juan County, Colorado.

  • 1880: San Juan County is established.
  • 1860s-1880s: Population boom due to mining activities, mainly silver mining.
  • 1883: The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad reaches Silverton, leading to further growth.
  • Late 1880s-1890s: The silver crash leads to a decline in mining and population.
  • Early 20th century: Limited mining activities and a small population remain.
  • 1980s-present: The county experiences a revival in tourism and outdoor recreation.
  • 2002: The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve expands into San Juan County.