It is safe to say that the State of Colorado would be a very different state if it weren’t for the discovery of valuable minerals in its mountains. In 1868 a treaty forever granted the Ute people the western third of the current state of Colorado as a homeland. Unfortunately, the discovery of silver and other precious metals in the San Juan Mountains caused increasing pressure from prospectors and settlers and ultimately forced the Utes to relinquish much of the land. Roads were built and towns were erected, sometimes almost overnight, opening up what might have remained trackless wilderness to settlement.
Today, outdoor enthusiasts benefit from the roads (many of them unpaved) that lead to trailheads into the mountains and also have many historic towns and mining remnants to explore.
Just south of Ouray off of Highway 550 is one such site. The town of Ironton was founded in 1883, and within three weeks it had 300 buildings under construction. The population peaked at about 1,000 and declined quickly, and the last resident died in the mid-1960s. Ironton was both a transportation hub for mining activity between Ouray, Red Mountain Town, and Silverton as well as a hub for local mining activities. Today there are a few buildings standing. Parking is a short way off the highway, and the town site is a short walk down a poor dirt road. Just past the town buildings there is a short trail to the left that crosses the creek and leads to the remnants of the Colorado Boy mine, which is undergoing some restoration work but is still quite interesting to visit.