John and Diana are traveling around the country with a 37-foot RV and an 18-year-old cat. This is their story.
Thursday, August 13, 2015
Million Dollar Highway
It was getting on late into the afternoon, but we decided to continue on our journey, after all, there were some waterfalls to see in Ouray. We found the first, just outside of Ouray, it is called Bear Creek Falls.
The highway is just above these falls which cascade into the Uncomphagre River. At this overlook site there were informational signs telling the story of the Million Dollar Highway. In 1882 two men built 12 miles of the Ouray and Red Mountain road, at a cost of $10,000,00 a mile. The passage through the Uncomphagre River Canyon was difficult and expensive to build, so to recover their costs a toll booth was set up above the falls. It cost $5.00 per wagon and $l.00 per head of livestock to cross the road. There was no other road for passage over the area, people had to pay the fee. Another explanation for the name given Highway 550 is that, while driving over it, people receive a million dollar view of the mountains, alpine meadows, forests and hot springs and waterfalls!
The town of Ouray to me is the most scenic on the Million Dollar Highway. It reminded me of an alpine village, and has a nickname of the "Switzerland of America". It sits in a canyon and is nestled at the base of the San Juan Mountains, everywhere we looked while we were in the town we could see mountains.
By now it was late in the afternoon, never thought we would travel this far. Sign to the falls said it was only 1/4 mile hike to them, and we thought that would not take much time. There was no accounting for some rock scrambling and steep climbing at the end of the trail, however! Before we left the town there was still one more waterfall to see, that one is located in Box Canon Park, on the northeast side of Ouray.
These waterfalls were the most unusual of all the falls we have seen. To find then we needed to stay on the red metal boardwalk pictured above. As we entered the depths of the cave we could hear the roar of the falls but never saw them, only felt a fine mist on our faces.
Pictured above are the falls, coming down behind the rock walls. From what little we saw of them, it was hard to believe that they are 20 feet wide and 285 feet high! We did not get home until 7:30 PM, it had been a long day, much longer than we had anticipated. But we did not regret one minute that we had spent seeing all the natural wonders of the Million Dollar Highway!