|Secluded at 9,318 feet, our visit to Silverton is one we won't soon forget! It is a perfect combination of supreme natural beauty and magnificent Victorian charm. Gold was discovered here in 1860, and after negotiations with the Ute Indians, the area was opened for settlement. The Town of Silverton was platted in 1874, and by 1875 the population had doubled. The Stony Pass wagon road became a toll road in 1879, and supplies came in over the Continental Divide from Del Norte. The greatest boom to the area was the construction of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (now known as the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad) in 1882. We were fortunate enough today to locate & watch as they loaded their passengers for their return trip to Durango. Don't you just love the sound of trains & their whistles? After they pulled out we raced up the mountain a bit to take a few pics of them before they got too far down the track. We hope to return to this area & take this ride ourselves, soon!
And speaking of trains, Otto Mears, 'Pathfinder of the San Juans', built the famous 'Rainbow Route', one of three railroads that carried ore to the smelter in Silverton from the high camps. Mining reached its peak between 1900 and 1912, and the population of San Juan County peaked at 5,000, with Silverton as the metropolis of the district. Hundreds of millions of dollars of gold and silver were extracted from the mines. The last operating mine, Sunnyside Gold, closed in 1991.
Silverton’s main business section was built in the late 1800s. Unlike many other mining towns, Silverton never experienced a major fire, and most of the buildings are still standing. The "other side" of town was centered on Blair Street. At one time this notorious street was home to forty saloons and brothels. Almost half of these buildings are still standing today. Silverton is now the only town left in San Juan County. Its year-round population of 500 is supported by the tourism industry rather than by mining. People from all over the globe come to see the magnificent scenery and to experience the rich history of the area. While summer is the bigger season of the year with the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad train ride from May through October, as well as numerous other area attractions, winter has seen more tourism with the opening in 1990 of Silverton Mountain, an extreme ski area, where snowboarder and Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White trained in the winter of 2009. Taking advantage of the secluded locale, terrain and snow fall, Red Bull built a private halfpipe for the snowboarder. Known as "Project X," the halfpipe was completed in Feb. 2009 on the backside of Silverton Mountain and allowed the boarder to perfect some of his gold medal winning moves far from prying eyes.
After strolling around a bit, eating our picnic lunch at the small park & driving through the small residential area it was time to head for home. Oh my, what a day! One we won't soon forget. Tomorrow we plan to visit Telluride. We understand there's a nice gondola ride available. See you there!