Naturita, Colorado

In 1881, Naturita was a close-knit ranching community on the San Miguel River. The town had a post office, a one-room schoolhouse and regular church gatherings and socials. The ranchers pushed their cattle “on the hoof” to railheads in Placerville and Montrose for shipment to market. Then in the 1900s, copper and carnotite were discovered near Uravan and in the Paradox Valley. That triggered several mineral booms in the area. Naturita being at a natural crossroads for the area, it became a supply center for freighters carrying ore and supplies between Placerville and the mines. While most of the real money went to the corporations that owned the mines (and the prospectors who first discovered them), many local residents made good profits from the service and supply businesses. In between mineral booms, the local folks kept on with their cattle ranches - until the 1950s.

In 1939, a new mill had opened at Vancoram to process vanadium, a steel-hardening alloy. Secretly, the mill also processed uranium for the US Government's nuclear weapons research. World War II needs kept the mill busy but demand for uranium skyrocketed after the war ended. Stories proliferated that anyone could stumble on a fortune in uranium nearly anywhere on the Colorado Plateau and Naturita was quickly flooded with miners and millers. Uranium mining dominated the town until the Vancorum mill closed in 1958 due to falling uranium prices. Depending on global mineral prices, the mill at Uravan opened and closed again and again until finally, in 1983, it completely closed down and local residents were forced to diversify again to survive. These days, most residents make their living off cattle ranching, small businesses and tourism. There's also a lot of oil/gas drilling going on in the area.

The Naturita Post Office
The Post Office in Naturita
The Welcome Center of the Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic Byway
The Unaweep-Tabeguache Scenic & Historic Byway Welcome Center in Naturita
Photos are courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License