Our tour leaders were Sharon Johannsen (left) and Jane Thompson (right), along with Sharon’s husband, Duane, from the Rimrocker Historical Museum of Montrose County. The first stop on the tour was at the museum in Naturita.
The Rimrocker Museum is filled with artifacts from the radium, vanadium, and uranium booms in the Uravan Mineral Belt during the last century. Kitchen equipment from miners’ cabins in the remote mining camps is part of this display.
Many products tried to cash in on the various mining booms. Radium extracted from Colorado carnotite ores was used by Marie and Pierre Curie in their pioneering research.
Miners and their families flocked to southwestern Colorado during the boom years. This trunk was donated to the Rimrocker Museum by an immigrant from Scandinavia.
The jeep roads throughout the Uravan Mineral Belt required high clearance vehicles and experienced drivers from Telluride Outdoors. The tour route followed state highways 141 and 90 to county road EE20, the jeep road which passes through the Long Park mining area.
The large size of the tour group required additional vehicles and drivers from Switzerland of America based in Ouray, CO. After several hours of visiting locations in Long Park, county road EE20 ended at the Uravan town site.
After climbing the steep north side of the Paradox Valley, the first signs of mining began to appear. Uranium was mined from the Bitter Creek claims high above the valley. A hoist, now gone, was mounted on top of this ore bin to pull ore cars up an incline from the mines below the rimrock.
This view looking south across the Paradox Valley shows the reclaimed open pit mine that was dug by the Cotter Corporation in the 1980’s. The crash of the uranium market following the Three-Mine Island reactor incident caused the mine to close before it could start production.