Ouray was established in 1875 when eager miners in search of their fortunes made their way to the area to prospect for gold and silver. On Oct 2, 1876 the town was incorporated and named for Chief Ouray of the Utes – a Native American tribe. By 1877, Ouray had a population of over 1,000 and was named the county seat for newly established Ouray County. The town's population has remained relatively constant.
According to the United States 2000 census the town's population is 813. There are 374 households and 255 families residing within the city. The population is 96% White, 0.4% African American, 0.1% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, and 0.5% other races. The median household income for the city is $36,094; for families it is $45,313.
Because of its uniqueness and historical value, the entire town of Ouray is registered as a National Historic District. Most of its buildings date back to the late 1800s. Several of the town's building are listed on the National Register for Historic Places including the Beaumont Hotel, Ouray City Hall, Ouray County Courthouse, St. Elmo Hotel, St. Joseph's Miners' Hospital, Western Hotel, and Wright's Opera House.
Although the town's main industry at the time of its establishment was mining, tourism is the main industry today. During the summer months the population increases considerably as the town hosts thousands of travelers who want to experience the beauty of the land, and the history and culture of this old mining town.
The town's beauty is inspiring – majestic peaks, awesome waterfalls, brilliantly colored wildflowers, and natural hot springs; thus making communing with nature an unforgettable experience. Outdoor enthusiasts will delight in the many activities that Ouray has to offer. Climbing, hiking, biking, and four-wheel driving in the mountains are popular activities. Autumn in Ouray is wonderful because the aspen and mixed conifer forests' fall foliage is simply spectacular. In winter, Ouray becomes a wonderland. In fact the area is sometimes called "the Gem of the Rockies" because at night the lights reflect off the glistening ice and snow making everything sparkle.
Tourists can also explore unique shops and galleries, take part in a number of summer and winter events, relax in the Ouray Hot Springs Pool, and choose from a number of restaurant and lodging options.
Visiting Ouray, Colorado is worth the trip because it offers tourists a combination of great experiences: a spectacular natural environment, unique culture, and great historical atmosphere.