Born with a silver spoon in its mouth, Rico (1879, 8,827 feet) has been malnourished since the 1893 silver crash. Prospectors began poking around in the late 1860s, but did not make significant silver strikes until 1879. The silver bonanza spurred Otto Mears's Rio Grande Southern railroad to build a narrow-gauge line over Lizard Head Pass, and in 1890 Rico's population peaked at around 1,200. Rico's long decline enabled prosperous farmers at the county's west end to vote for moving the county seat to Dove Creek in 1944. In 1953 discovery of iron pyrites, used to make sulfuric acid, led to construction of the Ramco sulfuric acid plant near Rico. Toxic fumes and waste from the plant killed aspen trees and polluted the upper Dolores River before the plant closed in 1962. Today, Rico is liveliest in summer, when tourists stop to gawk at this ghostly mining town. The coke ovens a mile south of town on Colorado 145 are reminders of Rico's richer days.
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