Historical Marker in
San Miguel County, Colorado

The Colorado Mineral Belt, which stretches from the San Juan Mountains in the south to Boulder in the north, is a rich source of gold, silver, copper, lead, and other minerals. The area was first mined by Native Americans, and later by Spanish explorers and prospectors during the Gold Rush. Today, the mining industry is still an important part of Colorado's economy.
San Miguel County, located in southwestern Colorado, has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. Its territory was originally inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Ute, Navajo, and Apache. These tribes relied on hunting, gathering, and trading, utilizing the land's abundant natural resources. In the late 16th century, European explorers, such as Spanish conquistadors, began exploring the region, bringing diseases and disrupting the native way of life.

The area that is now San Miguel County was part of the Spanish colonial territory until the early 19th century when Mexico gained independence. Following the Mexican-American War in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo resulted in the cession of the territory to the United States. This led to an influx of settlers, primarily miners, attracted by the mineral wealth of the region, particularly silver and gold.

The mining boom of the late 19th century brought prosperity and growth to San Miguel County. Towns like Telluride and Ophir became prominent mining centers, with numerous mines and mills operating in the area. The town of Telluride, originally named Columbia, quickly developed into a bustling community, attracting immigrants from various countries.

As mining activities declined in the early 20th century, San Miguel County faced economic challenges. However, the area's natural beauty and recreational opportunities gradually led to the growth of tourism and outdoor activities. Today, San Miguel County is known for its stunning scenery, including the San Juan Mountains and the Uncompahgre National Forest. The county has embraced its cultural heritage and works to preserve its historic sites and buildings, attracting visitors from around the world to experience its unique history and natural charm.

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

  • 1854: San Miguel County is established as a county in the Colorado Territory.
  • 1875: The town of Telluride is founded.
  • 1890: The population of San Miguel County reaches its peak at around 5,000.
  • 1893: The San Miguel River floods, causing significant damage to Telluride.
  • 1895: The Rio Grande Southern Railroad reaches Telluride.
  • 1917: The Sheridan Opera House is built in Telluride.
  • 1972: Telluride Ski Resort opens, boosting tourism in the area.
  • 1990: The population of San Miguel County decreases to around 4,000.
  • 2001: The Telluride Mountainfilm Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary.
  • 2018: San Miguel County celebrates its 150th anniversary.