Silver, gold, zinc, lead, and copper gave Mineral County its name, but logging, ranching, and tourism have sustained its economy. Rio Grande National Forest and the Big Blue, La Garita, Weminuche, and Wheeler wilderness areas cover 90 percent of the land, supporting camping, hunting, fishing, and other tourist activities that have supplanted mining. Since Mineral County was formed in 1893, settlement has been mostly confined to the county seat of Creede, the only lively town in a county that once boasted fourteen.
Ranches line the Rio Grande and some of its tributaries, which have worn twisting paths through rocky terrain softened somewhat by sagebrush and upland forests. Some hay and cattle ranches take in tourists, and rental cabins are scattered along Colorado 149, the county's main thoroughfare. Winter tourism revolves around the Wolf Creek Pass Winter Sports Area, which leads Colorado ski areas in snowfall with more than 400 inches a year. U.S. 160 crosses the Continental Divide at Wolf Creek Pass through a concrete snowshed to protect vehicles. The last mine, the Homestake, closed in 1985. The population countywide has fallen from an 1890s peak of more than 2,000 to about 500 year-round residents, 75 percent of whom live in Creede.
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