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Ridgway State Park, Colorado To Durango, Colorado

Durango, Colorado Comfort Inn,Room 116

October 15, 2020

Drove from Ridgway State Park to Durango yesterday with stops along the Million Dollar Highway and Silverton.

I took the following article from a website called "" which should give you some idea about the Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway

Million Dollar Highway, one of the most beautiful roads in America

In the state of Colorado of the United States of America there’s a special highway built in the late 1880's: the Million Dollar Highway, part of the San Juan Skyway. It's one of the nation’s most spectacular drives. You'll be on the "outside" for a while with a hell of a view to your right (let the passenger look. You'll want to watch the road). Forget standard driving safety measures like guardrails and shoulders, there aren't any on this stretch, so swerving off the road is not advised!

How long does it take to drive the Million Dollar Highway? From Durango, through Silverton and Ouray, to Ridgway, the highway delivers jaw-dropping vista after vista. It was cut from the side of the mountain and became know as the "Million Dollar Highway". It's one of the most scenic drives in the USA. The Million Dollar Highway stretches for about 25 miles (40 km) in western Colorado and follows the route of U.S. 550 between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado. It is part of the San Juan Skyway. Between Durango and Silverton the Skyway loosely parallels the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. The road climbs up to 3 very high mountain passes. Coal Bank Pass (10,640 ft /3,240 m); Molas Pass (10,970 ft /3,340 m) and Red Mountain Pass (11,018 ft /3,358 m). The stretch between Silverton and Ouray, the part everyone goes on about, is only 25 miles in length but takes about 42 minutes.

Is the Million Dollar Highway open? The weather on this zone is harsh and highly unpredictable and it does not take much time for the bright sun shine to change over to moderate to heavy snow fall. Large RVs travel in both directions often. The road is kept open year-round. Summer temperatures can range from 70–90 °F highs at the ends of the highway to 50–70 °F in the mountain passes. The snow season starts in October, and snow will often close the road in winter. Chains may be required to drive. The drive is very scary on rainy days and storms cause some unnerving waterfalls along the highway. How dangerous is the Million Dollar Highway? You'll be on the "outside" for a while with a hell of a view to your right (let the passenger look. You'll want to watch the road.) There are a number of turns around mountains that you'll take at 10 mph. Though the entire stretch has been called the Million Dollar Highway, it is really the twelve miles (19 km) south of Ouray through the Uncompahgre Gorge to the summit of Red Mountain Pass which gains the highway its name. This stretch through the gorge is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive; it is characterized by steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails; the ascent of Red Mountain Pass is marked with a number of hairpin "S" curves used to gain elevation, and again, narrow lanes for traffic—many cut directly into the sides of mountains. It's a harrowing and downright dangerous drive marked with narrow lanes (often shared by RVs), steep cliffs, sheer dropoffs,and zero guardrails. The road is fine as long as you don’t drive too fast for conditions. But if you do, the consequences are severe. You can only imagine what type of damage could come of this and the type of injury. We talked with a personal injury lawyer who explained to us that sometimes if the road conditions are bad enough, accidents like this end up with a law suit against the city or the state. Visit for more information. Hopefully everyone driving this road will be safe in the future. Why is called the Million Dollar Highway? Drive with care as this is a mountain road with hairpin curves and dangerous dropoffs. Driving south you'll be on the "outside" with no guardrails. So, use caution and enjoy the magnificent scenery. The origin of the name Million Dollar Highway is disputed. There are several legends, though, including that it cost a million dollars a mile to build it, and that its fill dirt contains a million dollars in gold ore. First time you drive it, it's a real breath taker. Lots of sweaty palms. There are sheer drops virtually along the entire route and enough hairpins to make a whirling dervish dizzy.  When was the Million Dollar Highway built? The route demands 100% concentration. This road has humbled many egos. It’s not for the sissies and shouldn’t be attempted by novice drivers. Coming out of Silverton north there are several switchbacks. The 12 miles south of Ouray—particularly for Durango-bound drivers, who are exposed to the unprotected cliffsides—are steep, twisting and completely unforgiving of driver error. Originally hand-carved by Russian immigrant Otto Mears in the 1880s, to transport ore from Silverton to the railroad in Ouray, the modern highway remains open through the slip-and-slide snowy months. The original route was widened in the 1930's but was still dangerous and narrow. As the locals say, though, you'd have to "pay me a million dollars" to drive that stretch in the snow. Understandably so. Offering breathtaking mountain, valley and gorge views, the Million Dollar Highway is one of the most beloved roads in the country. This classic stretch of two-lane blacktop snakes its way through the San Juan Mountains, the wildest and most rugged peaks in the Rockies. It boasts North America's highest avalanche hazard (per mile).  Is Million Dollar Highway worth it? Avalanches, heavy snowfalls and landslides can occur anytime and can sometimes block some sections of the road, being extremely dangerous due to frequent patches of ice. How scary is the Million Dollar Highway to some flatlander drivers? Enough that, on several occasions, there are drivers "frozen" in the middle of the road--unable to drive another foot. The countryside is decked in wildflowers during the spring, and sustains elk, mountain goats, black bears, and deer. The road was incredibly engineered by Otto Mears, indomitable road builder and railroad builder of the early west, and was first operated as a toll road. Today it is surely one of the most breath-taking, historic and amazing roads in the country.

Silverton, Colorado

The town of Silverton is a Statutory Town that is the county seat of, and the only incorporated municipality in San Juan County, Colorado, United States. Silverton is a former silver mining camp, most of which is now included in a federally designated National Historic Landmark District, the Silverton Historic District. The town population reached 637 in the U.S. Census 2010.

Silverton is linked to Durango by the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a National Historic Landmark. Silverton no longer has active mining, but subsists by tourism, maintenance of US 550 (which links Montrose with Durango via Silverton), mine pollution remediation, and retirees. In 2002 an extreme ski mountain, Silverton Mountain, opened near the town.

Charles Baker's group of prospectors found traces of placer gold in the San Juan Mountains in 1860 at Eureka, Colorado. Forced out by the Ute Tribe in 1861, who had been awarded the area in a US treaty. The prospectors returned in 1871, when lode gold was found in the Little Giant vein at Arrastre Gulch. The miners were allowed to stay after the Brunot Treaty of 13 September 1873. In exchange for giving up four million acres, the Southern Ute Indian Reservation received $25,000 per year (or about $534,000 per year today, adjusted for inflation).

In August 1873, George Howard and R. J. McNutt discovered the Sunnyside silver vein along Hurricane Peak. Gold was then discovered in 1882. The Sunnyside Mine was shut down after the 1929 stock market crash, but was acquired by Standard Metals Corp. in 1959, and reopened, finding gold in 1973 with the Little Mary vein. Half of Colorado's gold production in the 1970s came from the Sunnyside. Disaster occurred on 4 June 1978, when the water from Lake Emma collapsed a mine shaft (when miners weren't present), and then traveled quickly through the tunnels, finally shooting out of a portal along Cement Creek with a force that toppled a 20-ton locomotive.[ The mine reopened after two years, but was acquired by Echo Bay Mines in 1986, which operated the mine for another five years. The nearby Gold King mine breached and spilled into Cement Creek, causing the 2015 Gold King Mine waste water spill.

Today Silverton seems to be doing ok economically as a tourist destination. The main drive through town is bordered by buildings that reflect its vibrant past. The side roads are all dirt.

Ran into a fellow Wahoo in Silverton and had a nice chat. I gather he is a 1990 graduate. Was traveling with his daughter who goes to Texxas A&M and was disappointed to not be accepted by UVa. I consoled her that happens to a lot of great kids.

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Oct 15, 2020

One of the top 10 great scenic drives in the lower 48 states. I once drove it in the fourth week of September when the Aspen leaves were at the peak and snow was beginning to fall in the evenings above 10,000 feet. It was absolutely stunning.

The absence of guardrails and the thousand foot drops immediately off the shoulder require a driver to be extremely alert. I won't drive this section of US550 pulling a travel trailer. However, I did see 18 wheelers gasoline tank trucks on the road! My experience was the front seat passenger (wife) thoroughly enjoyed the ride while the driver (me) kept both sweaty palms on the steering wheel and his eyes forward on …

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