The Town of Ridgway, coined Gateway to the San Juans, is a Home Rule Municipality in Ouray County, in the southwestern portion of the U.S. State of Colorado. The town is a former railroad stop on the Uncompaghre River in the northern San Juan Mountains. The town population was 713 at the 2000 census and 924 according to the 2010 census.
Steep forested mountains and cliffs surround Ridgway on the south, east, and northeast. The Uncompahgre River runs through the town and flows into the Ridgway State Park and Reservoir, to the north. Dallas Creek also flows from the south west and forms a confluence with the Uncompahgre before entering the reservoir. There is a notable wildlife presence — mountain lions, badgers, deer, elk, bears, coyotes, wild turkey, and bald eagles are indigenous to the area. The regions bald eagles nest in the cottonwoods along the river and are a common sight in the late fall.
Ridgway and the surrounding area have featured predominantly in pop culture. Most notably the area is the setting of John Wayne's western movie True Grit, and others including How the West Was Won and Tribute to a Bad Man. Ridgway has the only stoplight in Ouray County, at the intersection of Highways 550 and 62.
The town site is at the northern terminus of the Rio Grande Southern Railroad where it meets with Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad running between Montrose and Ouray. Ridgway was located about south of the existing town of Dallas. Articles of incorporation were filed on May 22, 1890 and granted on March 4, 1891. This "Gateway to the San Juan's" position was recognized over 100 years ago when the Rio Grande Southern established Ridgway as a railhead center servicing the nearby mining towns of Ouray and Telluride. The town was named for Denver and Rio Grande railroad superintendent Robert M. Ridgway, who established the town in 1891.
The Rio Grande Southern filed for abandonment on April 24, 1952 and the Denver and Rio Grande Western abandoned the line between Ridgway and Ouray on March 21, 1953. The line between Ridgway and Montrose was upgraded from narrow gauge to standard gauge and Ridgway continued to be a shipping point until the line to Montrose was abandoned in 1976 as result of a reservoir being built on the Uncompahgre River.
The dam for that reservoir, the Ridgway Dam, was proposed in 1957 as part of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Dallas Creek Project, and its original location would have inundated Ridgway. A 1975 decision to put the dam further downstream kept the town above-water, and residents coined their own nickname, "The Town that Refused to Die." Land around the reservoir became the Ridgway State Park north of town limits.