Silverton, Colorado – Where gold laid on the road

Back in Durango we take Hwy # 550 north that this time leads us lengthwise through San Juan Mountains. This area once had enormous gold and silver deposits. The stretch between Silverton and Ouray is called Million Dollar Highway. Originally the highway is said to have been paved with gold-bearing ore boulders, but unfortunately today this must be gone. But therefore the highly alpine route between hundreds of metres deep canyons (without crash barrier, of course) and kilometres high snow-covered mountains is breathtaking. We have to cross three increasing passes; the highest one is 3,360 m and is called Red Mountain Pass. Up here it is constantly freezing and the land is covered with snow, but the road is perfectly cleared.

Close to Montrose we drive into Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. It has got its name due to the dark to black stone wall on both sides of the river. Moreover the canyon is so deep and narrow that nearly no light reaches its bottom so that the gloomy effect grows. De facto it is one of the narrowest and deepest canyons at all: up to 700 m deep and minimum 12 m wide. But how could the river cut itself so deeply into the hard stone? The high stream velocity explains that. On a two-miles-stretch the river descends about 145 m. Originally the canyon was 80 km long, but the majority disappeared under several reservoirs one behind the other. The remaining 20 km were protected with the foundation of the national park. At south rim there is a 10 km long road with several view points and short hikes. The campground is free of charge during the winter.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.