Oro City – A Colorado Ghost Town

By Sarah Dutton

Jul 22 2019

Oro City was a gold placer (stream-bed) mining town in Colorado, founded during a gold rush to the area that began in 1859. By the 1860s, there were thousands of people living there in wooden structures, wagons and tents. Life was difficult at elevations of over 10,000 feet, and the mining season was quite short. Miners only had about four months of mild weather, followed by eight months of winter. When more gold was discovered a few miles upstream in 1868, the people of Oro City followed, and here a second Oro City sprung up. This boom was short lived, and after 1868, gold mining in Oro City was on the decline. However, the sands of the area were found to contain great quantities of lead and silver. While Oro City did not last into the present day, the city of Leadville, about a mile away, emerged from the silver boom and continues on today.

During the second half of the 19th century, many private and federally funded scientific expeditions traversed the western United States. These specimens from Oro City were all collected on expeditions during the 1870s, when Oro City was still an active, though declining, mining town.

A Closer Look

Digitization of NYBG Steere Herbarium specimens of the Southern Rocky Mountains of the United States and the writing of this story made possible through a National Science Foundation digitization grant (award #1701575).


Brown, R. L. 1982. Ghost Towns of the Colorado Rockies. Caldwell, ID: The Caston Printers, Ltd.

Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. 2019. Guide to Poisonous Plants. Retrieved from: https://csuvth.colostate.edu/poisonous_plants/Plants/Details/12

Meyer, H. W. & Smith, D. M. 2008. Paleontology of the Upper Eocene Florissant Formation, Colorado. Boulder, CO: The Geological Society of America.