Telluride, Colorado History

Feb 04, 2015, Legends and History

For centuries the valley of the San Miguel River was used by the Ute Indians as a summer camp during their seasonal migration.  In the mid-1870’s the Sheridan gold mine brought immigrant miners from many parts of Europe and China and a rowdy camp called Columbia sprang to life.  The town didn’t take the name of Telluride until 1878, and when the railroad first came to the region in 1890 the community exploded to house 5000 people.

Robert Leroy Parker, later known as the famous Butch Cassidy, robbed his first bank in Telluride in 1889.  But it was in 1891 that the most significant event took place in this region.  Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse, along with banker L.L. Nunn, built the world’s first commercial-grade AC (alternating current) hydroelectric power plant.  They proved with their AC power that it could be used to travel over long distances and allowed them to win the “War of Currents” they were engaged in with Thomas Edison and J.P. Morgan who favored DC (direct current) power.  The town of Telluride was the first in the world to have AC powered street lights and the mining operations near Ouray on the other side of the mountains were operated by this same electricity.

At 8750 ft elevation (2667m) and located in a box canyon surrounded by majestic mountains, Telluride has only one paved access road, making it difficult to reach and mostly off-the-beaten-path for most travelers.  But this isolation also kept it hidden for decades until Telluride reinvented itself when the Telluride Ski Resort opened in 1973.  The world-renowned ski slopes and powder brought tourists from all over to discover its beauty.  Houses, hotels, restaurants and a community with varied cultural interests developed over the years and now Telluride boasts some of the finest art, film, Jazz, Bluegrass, and culinary events and festivals in the country.  The town of Telluride became a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and is one of only 6 such towns in Colorado.

True West Incentive Travel can offer your group a fantastic winter or summer program in Telluride and the surrounding area, including gourmet dining with wine pairings at the finest restaurants, winter skiing, snowmobile tours, dog sled tours, ice climbing, summer jeep trips, horseback riding, fly fishing instruction, guided hiking, mountain biking, hot air ballooning, historic tours and admission to any of the great music festivals.  See this destinations page for photos of the area.