San Juan Skyway

Ridgway is just outside the canyon that leads into Ouray. As you travel south toward Ouray, the valley narrows to a canyon and then the walls really begin to rise. Lots of striated and tortured rock in here. The photo to the left is looking up right at the Welcome Center in Ouray.

Traffic through here was moving at a good clip, it was mid-day Sunday and it looked like rain any minute. I imagine most of the folks were in a bit of a rush to get back wherever, whereas I was dragging along, stopping every few minutes for photos. The canyon walls were really wild with all the rock: layered, bent, twisted, different colors and textures. Millions of years of erosion to do this, even with help from the glaciers during the ice ages. The San Juans were built about 30 million years ago and were possibly twice as high then as they are now. And they weren't just pushed up, a lot of the action was volcanic with lots of ash and pummice piled up in spots.

Ouray is a center for natural hot springs. That means cracks in the Earth leading down close to a hot spot. As the hot water rises from that point, it leaches minerals out of the materials along the way and concentrates them in the vents the water flows through. That's why there are so many mines around here.