The Summitville mine was the scene of a major environmental disaster in the 1990s when the hastily installed liner of a cyanide-laced tailing pond began leaking heavily. Summitville is in the Summitville caldera, one of many extinct volcanoes making up the San Juan volcanic field. One, the La Garita Caldera, is in diameter. Large beds of lava, some extending under the floor of the San Luis Valley, are characteristic of the eastern slope of the San Juans.
There is some tourism in the region, with the narrow gauge railway between Durango and Silverton being an attraction in the summer. Jeeping is popular on the old trails which linked the historic mining camps, particularly thrilling is the Black Bear Road. Visiting old ghost towns is popular, as are wilderness trekking and mountain climbing. The San Juans are extremely steep; only Telluride has made the transition to ski resort. Purgatory (now known as Durango Mountain Resort) is a small ski area north of Durango near the Tamarron Resort. There is also skiing on Wolf Creek Pass at the Wolf Creek ski area. Recently Silverton Mountain ski area has begun operation in Silverton. It is a highly rated extreme ski area and is currently available by reservation only.
The Rio Grande rises on the east side of the range. The other side of the San Juans, the western slope of the continental divide, is drained by tributaries of the San Juan, Dolores and Gunnison rivers, which all flow into the Colorado River.
|1||Uncompahgre Peak NGS||14,321 feet|
|2||Mount Wilson||14,252 feet|
|3||Mount Sneffels NGS||14,158 feet|
|4||Mount Eolus||14,089 feet|
|5||Handies Peak NGS||14,058 feet|
|6||San Luis Peak NGS||14,022 feet|
|7||Vermilion Peak PB||13,900 feet|
|8||Rio Grande Pyramid NGS PB||13,827 feet|
|9||Mount Oso||13,690 feet|
|10||Tower Mountain PB||13,558 feet|
|11||Sultan Mountain PB||13,373 feet|
|12||Summit Peak NGS PB||13,307 feet|
|13||Dolores Peak PB||13,296 feet|
|14||Lavender Peak PB||13,245 feet|
|15||Bennett Peak PB||13,209 feet|
|16||Conejos Peak NGS PB||13,179 feet|
|17||Twilight Peak||13,163 feet|
|18||South River Peak PB||13,154 feet|
|19||Peak 13,010 PB||13,016 feet|
|20||Lone Cone PB||12,618 feet|
|21||Graham Peak NGS PB||12,536 feet|
|22||Elliott Mountain PB||12,346 feet|
|23||Cornwall Mountain PB||12,291 feet|
|24||Sawtooth Mountain NGS PB||12,153 feet|
|25||Chalk Benchmark NGS PB||12,038 feet|
|26||Little Cone NGS PB||11,988 feet|
|27||Cochetopa Dome||11,138 feet|
|28||Horse Mountain PB||9,952 feet|
Mining operators in the San Juan mountain area formed the San Juan District Mining Association (SJDMA) in 1903, as a direct result of a Western Federation of Miners proposal to the Telluride Mining Association for the eight hour day, which had been approved in a referendum by 72 percent of Colorado voters. The new association consolidated the power of thirty-six mining properties in San Miguel, Ouray, and San Juan counties. The SJDMA refused to consider any reduction in hours or increase in wages, helping to provoke a bitter strike.