Lake County (1861) lured miners after 1860 gold strikes on the headwaters of the Arkansas River. Oro City, the initial camp on California Gulch, boomed briefly during the 1860s and became the first county seat. It was replaced by nearby Leadville after rich silver finds gave birth to that two-mile-high city.
Besides silver and gold, Lake County has produced zinc, lead, and molybdenum, ultimately the richest mineral resource of all. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, the Climax Molybdenum Mine produced more than half the world's supply. The molybdenum market collapsed in the 1980s, and by 1990 Lake County fell to its lowest population since 1870–6,007. Only two towns survive, Leadville and Twin Lakes.
Much of Lake County is two miles high or higher. Despite a growing season of forty-three days, which wags claim never come in a row, there is some ranching and hay farming. Mountain sports are popular in a county walled in by the Mosquito Range on the east and by the Sawatch Range, with Colorado's highest peaks, on the west. The World War II army ski troops of the Tenth Mountain Division at Camp Hale trained on a nearby hill which evolved into the Ski Cooper winter sports area. San Isabel National Forest and the Mount Massive Wilderness Area occupy about half the county. Recreational activities generated rustic resort architecture, which is showcased in the Twin Lakes and Inter-Laken historic districts.
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