San Juan County (1876), in the heart of the San Juan Mountains, has “three months of winter and nine months of mighty late fall.” The growing season averages only fourteen days in Silverton, the county seat, and the county does not have a single farm. Even sheep and cattle only summer here. It took gold, lead, copper, and zinc mining to lure people into this two-mile-high county, where three-fourths of the land is in national forests or wilderness areas. From a peak of 3,063 in 1910, the population has dwindled to less than 500 souls, nearly all of whom live in Silverton, the sole survivor of some sixteen mining towns.
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