All tours except the cemetery tour begin at the Ouray County Museum on Sixth Avenue. Each tour costs $10 per person ($5 for OCHS members). A minimum of four people is preferred. To make a reservation, call the museum at 325-4576.
The tour season kicks off this Friday, June 19 with a hike along the Corkscrew Railroad Bed led by museum curator Don Paulson. Paulson, who is an enthusiastic authority on railroad and mining history, guides hikers along the right-of-way of the Silverton Railroad which was built in 1887-88 and dismantled in 1926.
“The walk is downhill and not strenuous but it is at 10,000 feet elevation and walkers should be in reasonable shape,” Paulson said. Participants meet at the museum at 9 a.m. and carpool to each end of the hike.
The Corkscrew Hike begins at the Guston/Robinson mines, tours the ruins of the 1891 Guston Congregational Church and continues past the Guston Depot. Hikers will visit the wonderfully preserved American Girl Mine's head frame house and learn how the railroad was constructed. They will pass the Paymaster Mine before stopping at the Corkscrew Turntable, the only turntable ever built in the U.S. on the main line of a railroad. Participants will learn how the turntable operated and why it was built. The hike then proceeds past the Silver Bell Mine and the Joker Tunnel with its large boarding house. (The Corkscrew Railroad Bed Hike will be offered again on Aug. 7 at the same time.)
The tour of Historic Main Street covers 40 buildings and offers a glimpse into the city’s past, from its mining camp days, through its heyday of Victorian splendor, to the turbulent early 20th Century. Highlights include the Wright Opera House, the recently restored Beaumont Hotel, St. Elmo Hotel and the infamous Vanoli Block (old red light district). Tour guides offer details about buildings’ previous uses and original owners as well as architectural styles. Several Victorian homes near Main Street (exterior only) are included in the tour, as is the Ouray County Courthouse, which starred in the 1968 film True Grit.
Main Street tours are offered July 10, Aug. 8, and Aug. 21. Meet the guide at the museum at 3 p.m.
The Cedar Hill Cemetery tour takes visitors through Ouray’s beautifully maintained 120-year-old burial ground. Learn the stories of both the upstanding and infamous citizens who shaped Ouray County. Many of the most ornate headstones mark the graves of children who perished from childhood disease and the harsh environment. Others belong to prominent citizens such as brick mason Frank Carney who built many of Ouray’s existing buildings and later became lieutenant governor of Colorado. (Keep an eye out for the legendary white ghost cat who guards his owners’ graves.)
Cedar Hill Cemetery tours will be offered July 17 and Aug. 14. Tours begin at 9 a.m. at the cemetery.
The Ouray County Museum tour offers a curator’s-eye view of the museum’s 27 rooms and 38 exhibits. Led by Paulson, the tour reveals details that many visitors miss, explains how mining and ranching implements were used and how artifacts reflect daily life in a mining town. Participants may hear the rarely-played century-old Edison Phonograph in the Ouray Room and learn how injured miners were treated back when the building was the St. Joseph Miner’s Hospital.
Museum tours will begin at 9 a.m. at the museum on July 21 and Aug. 18.
Visit the OCHS website at www.ouraycountyhistoricalsociety.org for a complete calendar of OCHS summer events. All proceeds from OCHS events benefit the organization and museum.