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Crissy Supples
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Leah Rausch
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T: 303-623-1540 x 170

Ouray County

Ouray Photos

*All images courtesy of Ouray Chamber Resort Association Kane Scheidegger

Located in the southwestern corner of Colorado amongst the 13,000-foot peaks of the San Juan Mountains, Ouray County currently covers 542 square miles after having been split into Ouray, Dolores, and San Miguel Counties in the late 19th century. Ouray County was named for Chief Ouray, a distinguished Indian Chief who led the Southern Ute Tribe during the mid-1800’s.

The first settlers came to Colona in 1874, with ranchers and farmers settling in the fertile land on either side of the Uncompahgre River. In 1887, the railroad came to Colona, stopping twice daily and allowing ranchers to ship their cattle to the East Coast.

In 1875, the town of Ouray was founded along with the discovery of silver, gold, and other precious ores in the surrounding mountains. The population exploded along with the mining industry, and the town quickly grew to include saloons, the Ouray Hose Company, community facilities, and the Wright Opera House.

The railroad was the focal point of Ridgway, which officially came into being in 1890; the Rio Grande Southern traveled from Montrose to Ouray and over the mountains to the west. The town rapidly became a center of building activity beginning with a roundhouse and depot.

Given the stunning dramatic terrain of the area, Ouray has earned the unofficial title of the 'Switzerland of America'. With the Uncompahgre River still winding through the valley, the massive Ridgway Reservoir in the state park of the same name, and the extensive rock and ice climbing opportunities of Ouray, the natural beauty of Ouray County provides for exceptional recreational and sightseeing opportunities for all.


As of the census of 2000, there were 3,742 people, 1,576 households, and 1,123 families residing in the county. The population density was seven per square mile, with 2,146 housing units and an average density of four persons per square mile. 4.06% of the population was Hispanic or Latino.

In 2000, there were 1,576 households, of which 28.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them. 61.40% were married couples living together, 6.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.70% were non-families. 23.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.77.

In the county, the age range varied between 22.5% under the age of 18, 4.1% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 34.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.20% 65 or older. The median age was 43 years.


The median income for a household in the county in 2000 was $42,019, and the median income for a family was $49,776. Males had a median income of $35,141 versus $26,176 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,335. About 6% of families and 7.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8% of those under age 18 and 2.9% of those ages 65 or over.

Ouray County’s economy has changed significantly in recent decades. With the decline of the mining industry, tourism has increased, drawing many to the natural beauty and variety of outdoor activities of the county. Service and retail businesses now play a vital role to the local economy.     

Health & Emergency Services

The staff and volunteers of Ouray County Emergency Medical Services are dedicated to providing the highest-quality medical care to all who live, work, and play in Ouray County. With more than 550 square miles of mountains and valleys, Ouray County EMS is ready to respond 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.  EMS resources allow for quality care in medical emergencies such as heart attacks and strokes, traumatic injuries, car accidents, and technical rescue situations.

Special Destination

Ouray has been a special destination of world travelers for more than 100 years. This small intimate community is nestled in some of the most rugged and towering peaks of the Rockies. Set at the narrow head of a valley at 7,792 feet and surrounded on three sides with 13,000 foot snowcapped peaks - Ouray is home to hundreds of miles of historic Jeep roads, sulfur-free hot springs with stunning views and the world-famous Ouray Ice Park. Remarkably, two-thirds of Ouray's original Victorian structures, are still occupied, and have been lovingly restored in order to preserve their turn-of-the-century charm.

Helpful Links

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