|Today we visited the spectacular mountain town of Ouray, eloquently nicknamed the 'Switzerland of America'. Ouray is situated in a river valley in the heart of the Rocky Mountains only 36 miles outside of Montrose. Ouray officially began in 1876 with the eager stroke of a prospector’s pick. Because of Ouray’s majestic peaks, cascading waterfalls, natural hot springs, the famous Million Dollar Highway and its reputation for being the Jeep Capital of the World, modern visitors flock to Ouray as much for its beauty as the miners of the past did for the riches they hoped to find.
Prior to the arrival of the miners, the Tabequache Indians, a nomadic band, traveled to this idyllic setting in the summer months to hunt the abundant forest game and to soak in what they called “sacred miracle waters”. In 1873, the famous Ute Chief, Ouray, reluctantly signed a government treaty releasing the Ute’s treasured San Juan Mountains to encroaching settlers. Chief Ouray was instrumental in keeping peace between the Ute Indians and the many settlers. The town was named in his honor.
The first thing we noticed as we entered Ouray was the variety of remarkable old Victorian architecture. On the side streets, classic examples of Victorian homes abound, most of them beautifully restored. In 1983, both the Colorado and National Historic Authorities honored the City of Ouray as a National Historic District. Many of the buildings built between 1880-1900 are still standing. After meandering a bit & taking tons of photos we took Harold & Jeanette's advice and followed Hwy 550 south taking an immediate right onto CR 361 after the first hairpin turn. Not well marked but we managed to find it.
The Box Canyon Waterfall & Park, Ouray’s natural wonder, formed when the rushing waters of Canyon Creek eroded a deep and narrow box canyon through fault weakened limestone. We paid our $3 admission fee & took the lower trail, an easy 500-feet hike via a walkway and suspension bridge which lead straight into the belly of the falls. Roaring water forces thousands of gallons a minute to ricochet off a mix of rugged crags and smoothly eroded pre-Cambrian rock, rushing eighty feet to the canyon’s bottom. After taking the lower trail we took the short but steep hike to the bridge above the falls and looked down on the fury of the water as it plummeted into the canyon and, as an added treat, enjoyed beautiful views of Ouray. It was much steeper than we anticipated & I actually had to sit down & 'scoot' on the rocky path in order to get down a portion of the trail. I wouldn't take that trail again, knowing what I do now. I have to admit though that we both had sandals on today & they were not adequate for this trail! We're bad, lol.
After resting a bit we decided to move on and take the 'Million Dollar Highway' to the next town, Silverton. But more on that next post. One final comment....On our way home, several hours later, we stopped at O'Brien's Pub in Ouray for a drink and an appetizer. We ordered the Irish Egg Rolls appetizer consisting of corned beef, cabbage & potato with hot mustard -- they sound odd, but they were DELICIOUS! A great way to end a wonderful day!!!!