The Town of Ridgway is a home-rule municipality with a population of slightly more than 1,000 people, located along the Uncompahgre River in the foothills of the San Juan Mountains in colorful southwest Colorado. Once home of the Ute Indians, the Town’s more recent heritage is one steeped in rich railroad and ranching history dating back to 1889, when the Rio Grande Southern Railroad was incorporated to provide rail service between Ridgway and the mining districts of Ouray, Telluride, Rico and Durango. The railroad company, wanting to develop a new town as a headquarters and hub for the growing ranch community, laid out what was to become the Town of Ridgway in 1890. One year later the Town was formally established and named after one of the railroad founders, Robert M. Ridgway.
Though off to a gallant start, Ridgway experienced many great challenges spanning the next several decades which would threaten its very existence: the collapse of the silver market in 1893 (the rail service was used to haul gold and silver ore from nearby Ouray and Telluride), two catastrophic fires, the Great Depression, two world wars, the demise of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad in the 1950s, and the controversial plan by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to construct a large dam and reservoir that would inundate the town site. Undaunted, citizens always managed to survive and rebuild, earning Ridgway a reputation of “the town that would not die.”
Things started to improve in the 1960’s. Construction of a new state highway to access Telluride made the town a focal point as a gateway to the San Juan Mountains. The filming of two prominent Hollywood productions, How the West was Won (1962) and True Grit (1969), brought recognition to the community. Perhaps most importantly, the decision to relocate the planned reservoir north of the town spared the Ridgway community from inundation, saving the town and prompting a resurgence of growth beginning in the late 1970s. Construction of the Ridgway Reservoir was completed in 1987, now comprising part of the beautiful Ridgway State Park, offering abundant recreational opportunities for locals and visitors alike. Drawn by a combination of great location, good schools, public amenities, and an exhilarating outdoor-oriented lifestyle, the town started to grow at a steady pace in the 1990s, surpassing for the first time its population of a century earlier.
Today, we are an authentic, friendly, western Colorado small town, with beautiful parks, a great library, the Ridgway Railroad Museum and the Ouray County Ranch History Museum, a State-certified creative district, excellent restaurants, unique lodging, interesting shopping, and plenty of family-oriented events spread throughout the year. Located at the crossroads of Highways 550 and 62 and surrounded by majestic peaks, we are a great jumping-off point for those traveling the San Juan Skyway – a 236-mile National Scenic and Historic Byway loop that boasts the most dramatic scenery in Colorado. Ridgway State Park offers great boating, camping, and RV amenities nearby. It can be conveniently accessed from town by foot or bicycle via the Uncompahgre RiverWay Trail. Since 1890, Ridgway has been a gateway to the San Juans where residents and visitors are encouraged to "Think Outside."
We invite you to visit.