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America's Loneliest Counties

Stories and Stats from The Least Populated Most Remote Rural Counties in the US

 

See the full list Updated April 2014

 

Colorado's Best Kept Secret

 

San Juan County, Colorado

Population: 692

Seat: Silverton (Pop 500)

Nestled high in a valley in the Heart of the San Juan mountains, San Juan County is America’s 13th least populated county, with a population of just 692. The county is home and hideaway for residents and visitors who desire a simpler way of life. The county's history is a tribute to the survival of a gritty, tough community for whom quitting was never an option.

San Juan County opened to miners in 1874, following the Brunot Treaty with the Utes. An estimated 2000 men moved into the region that year. They came from across the U.S., many parts of Europe and even China, to endure severe winters and hazardous mining conditions in their quest for the minerals they hoped would make them rich. Mining reached its peak between 1900 and 1912, and the population of San Juan County peaked at 5000. 

During its heyday, the county boasted four railroads, three smelters, and over thirty mills serving innumerable gold and silver mines high in the mountains. Miners worked year-round, living in boarding houses, coming off the mountains via tram bucket over long cable tram lines designed to carry the ore from the mine to the mill several thousand feet below. On the rare occasions the men came to town, many of them spent their money in the numerous saloons and bawdy houses Silverton offered. 

Property for Sale In, Around or About San Juan County Colorado

In the years since, San Juan County has endured the boom and bust cycles typical of the mining industry. The boom cycles saw an influx of people from just about every ethnic group on earth and yielded millions of dollars worth of precious metals. The bust cycles saw the settlements of the county turn into ghostly reminders of an incredibly rich past. The  last of the big mines closed in the early 1990s.

Today, San Juan County is a favorite destination for train fans, history buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts. Silverton remains Silver Queen of Colorado, beloved by those who live here and those who come to visit.  The entire town of Silverton has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Maybe it isn’t so lonely after all.

San Juan County supports a strong, cohesive community where involved citizens of all ages work together to preserve our small-town, rural lifestyle, promote stewardship of the land, preserve open space and value clean air. It is a community where people have a high regard for their neighbors, a strong sense of place and attachment to the land and have commitment to sustaining a community-oriented way of life.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of San Juan County was 558 in the year 2000. By 2005 there were 568 residents. Six months later there were an estimated 578 people who called San Juan County, Colorado their home. The median value of a home is $131,500 and 67.7% of the residents own their homes within the boundary of the county's 387 square miles. The median cost of  home ownership for the rest of the state is $166,600.

 

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