Mining History Association

10th Annual Conference, June 3-6, 1999

Ouray Community Center

Ouray, Colorado


The Tenth Annual Mining History Association Conference was held in Ouray, Colorado, June 3-6, 1999.  Ouray (pronounced Your-ray) is in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, a mineral-rich part of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Mining Country.  Mines cling to the sides of 14,000+ feet high peaks.  The country is rugged, with mining communities in the valley at 8,000 feet or more.  This popular country includes much left from the mining booms of the last century, including the winding narrow gauge tourist railroad from Durango to Silverton.  Ouray, “the Gem of the Rockies,” sits in a striking amphitheater at the head of the Uncompahgre River.

Conference participants toured the Camp Bird gold mine area, one of the richest of the region.  An all day tour visited the Red Mountain Mining District, the Old Hundred Mine, Mayflower Mill, and Silverton.  There is so much to see in the San Juans that many attendees took extra time to explore this magnificent country on their own.

On the way to Ouray there are many opportunities for side trips.  If passing through Colorado Springs, the Western Museum of Mining and Industry has operating machinery and a mill worth the stop.  Two hours from Denver will take you to Leadville, home of the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum, one of the best in the West.  The MHA Annual Conference was held in Leadville in 1991.  Below Leadville, follow down the Arkansas River valley to the cutoff for Independence Pass and the high road to Aspen.  Or cut west to Salida into Gunnison country – if time allows take a loop to Pitkin and Teacup, then cut southwest from Gunnison to the San Juans and Ouray.

San Juan Mining History 

Colorado’s mining legacy dates to the prehistoric period.  Prehistoric peoples, primarily the Anasazi, built spectacular dwellings, most notably at what is now Mesa Verde National Park, well worth a side venture.  Early Spanish explorations noted the mineral potential, but left only place names.  Rumors of mineral riches spread shortly after the ‘50ers rush to Pikes Peak.  Mining was slow to start because of isolation.  The arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad hastened the first major boom, in the 1870s and 1880s.  Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton arose in the Silver San Juans.  CLICK HERE for a map of the Red Mountain and Silverton mining area (Ransome, 1901).

During the course of the following half century the region became one of the top ten hard rock gold and silver regions of the United States.  The Camp Bird, Smuggler, Old Hundred, and a host of other operations brought the San Juans worldwide prominence, while paying dividends that paid for mansions in Denver, Washington, DC, and other Eastern cities.  Mining a vital part of the local economy, continues sporadically today.

(Adapted from the Mining History News, 1998-1999)

Welcome to Ouray!


Ouray’s geographic setting is spectacular.


Early morning on Main Street, downtown Ouray.


The historic Ouray Opera House.


(Photo Credits: Mike Kaas)




Welcoming Reception, Ouray Community Center, June 3, 1999

Lunch and Double Jacking Contest, Ouray Park, June 4, 1999

(Hosted by the Ouray County Historical Society)

Awards Banquet, Ouray Community Center, June 4, 1999

Presidential Luncheon, Ouray Community Center, June 5, 1999



Ouray County Historical Museum, June 3, 1999

Tour of the Camp Bird Mine Area, June 4, 1999 

Tour of the Red Mountain and Silverton Mining Districts, June 6, 1999



Welcome to Ouray

Ouray County Historical Society

Silverton Historical Society   (Old Hundred Mine, Mayflower Mill, and more) 



Frederick Leslie Ransome, “A Report on the Economic Geology of the Silverton Quadrangle, Colorado,” Bulletin 182, U. S. Geological Survey, (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1901).

Duane Smith, “Song of the Hammer and the Drill, The Colorado San Juans 1860-1914,” (Golden: Colorado School of Mines, 1982).

Evalyn Walsh McLean, “Father Struck it Rich,” (Fort Collins: Firstlight Publishing, 1996).

J. L. Benham, “Camp Bird and the Revenue,” (Ouray: Black Bear Publishing, 1980).Lee Scamehorn, “Albert Eugene Reynolds, Colorado’s Mining King,” (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995).

P. David Smith, “Mountains of Silver, The Story of Colorado’s Red Mountain Mining District,” (Lake City: Western Reflections, 1994).

P. David Smith, “Ouray, A Quick History,” (Lake City: Western Reflections, 1996).

Harriet Fish Backus, “Tomboy Bride,” (Boulder: Pruitt, 1969).

John Marshall and Zeke Zanoni, “Mining the Hard Rock in the Silverton San Juans,” (Silverton: Simpler Way Book Company, 1996).

Dawn Bunyak, “Frothers, Bubbles, and Flotation, A Survey of Flotation Milling in the Twentieth-Century Metals Industry,” (Denver: Natural Park Service, Cultural Resources, 1999)

Duane Smith, “A Brief History of Silverton,” (Lake City: Western Reflections, 2004).

Duane Smith, “Denver & Silverton Railroad,” (Lake City: Western Reflections, 1998).


Duane Smith

Tom Rosemeyer

Mark and Karen Vendl

Lynn and Mark Langenfeld

Eric Clements


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