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Hinsdale County

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Hinsdale County, founded in 1874 and named for politician George A. Hinsdale, first chose San Juan City as a county seat. Both San Juan City and the current county seat, Lake City, followed the western custom of kiting, or adding “city” to a name as a tail is added to a kite. The extension, it was thought, made a town sound bigger and gave it a better chance to fly.

Three national forests (Rio Grande, San Juan, and Uncompahgre) and the Bureau of Land Management embrace more than 95 percent of this mountainous county, whose population peaked at 1,609 residents in 1900. A silver boom in the 1870s and the arrival of the D&RG in 1889 swelled growth, but the 1893 devaluation of silver snuffed booster hopes permanently. Of fifteen ghost towns in the county, the best-preserved is Carson, accessible only via a rough four-wheel-drive route. With a 1990 population of 467, Hinsdale boasts of being the least populous county in Colorado and one of the smallest in the United States. Since the 1920s the population of the entire county has been under 500, almost all concentrated in or near Lake City, the only live town.

Writing Credits

Thomas J. Noel

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