Ouray County History

Ouray County is uniquely scenic and historic. To paraphrase an Elitch Gardens of Denver slogan of yore: “Not to see Ouray is not to see Colorado”. We would add: “Not to know about the history of Ouray is a pity”.

We anticipate that this website will be of primary interest to people who are relative newcomers to Ouray County and to others who may be visiting or are planning to visit here. Many of the long-time residents and history specialists in the County have forgotten more than we'll ever know about the County's history.  We will include links to pertinent historical websites.

  • Looking east towards Cimarron Range
  • Sneffels Range by Michael Stovicek 2016
  • Looking south towards Sneffles Range
  • Looking west towards Dallas Divide
  • Ouray from Box Canyon Falls
  • Mt. Abrams from Ouray
  • Amphitheater from Ouray
  • Billy Creek Wildlife Area
  • Storm King Mt. from Wildlife Area
  • Log Hill Mesa from State Park
  • Mt. Sneffels by Bonnie Hansen 2013
  • Ridgway Reservoir and Dam
  • Cimarron Range from Log Hill Mesa



We moved to Log Hill Mesa 23 years ago and were unsuccessful in finding a book on the history of this area. Circumstances led us to study the history of the Log Hill Volunteer Fire Dept. Subsequently that led us to a study of the history of Log Hill Mesa. We pursued that interest with a series of oral history interviews with a number of the "old timers" of the region, many of them descendents of the early settlers.

We published two books as a result of those interviews: "History Stories of Early Log Hill Mesa Families", self-published in 2009; and, "Log Hill Mesa - Past and Present", self-published in 2011.


Our interest in the history of the area shown in Fig. 1 was stimulated in 2011 when we viewed an aerial photo of the site before the dam was built. That photo is on display at the Ouray County Ranching History Museum located at the Colona School.

Aerial photo of the site before the dam was built looking north to south. Photo source: U. S. Bureau of Reclamation from the Dick and Gail Jossi collection.


From our Log Hill Mesa studies, we have had a long-standing curiosity and interest in the narrow geographical gap just south of the confluence of Billy Creek and the Uncompahgre River a few miles south of Colona. That gap is filled by the Uncompahgre River and the marshy areas that extended from one canyon wall to the other. The pioneers often avoided this gap by travelling over Log Hill Mesa starting at Colona and following a path that traversed Log Hill Mesa. At the south end of the Mesa, they faced the challenge of a steep, torturous route down the escarpment.

We have published a book titled: "The Ouray Water Gap" and subtitled: "The Uncompahgre River Valley from Old Dallas to Billy Creek Including the Ridgway Reservoir". The text of the book is published on this site at the tag: "The History Story". Hard copies of the book can be ordered at the tag: "Publications".

We hope this site will be interactive. Please let us know of any mistakes or misinterpretations so they can be corrected. Please inform us about items of historic interest that you would like posted on this site; for example, pertinent family histories.



There are sites and locations in Ouray County referred to and described on this website that are privately owned or that can only be accessed by crossing privately owned property.  Please respect the owner's rights and do not enter any private property without specific permission from the owner - it's the law!

The only roads available to the public are those designated by number such as County Road # 1 or County Road #24 or the public streets in the Towns of Ouray and Ridgway, and Log Hill Village.

As one drives along the county roads, "street signs" are often seen which designate private driveways and should not be entered without permission of the owner(s).  These designations are required by Ouray County to facilitate response times by public safety entities such as law enforcement, emergency medical service and fire protection.



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