Does Colorado's Million Dollar Highway Actually Have Gold in It?

Yana Bostongirl

According to, US Highway 550 in Colorado is a two-lane mountainous road and it is one of only two north-south U.S. Highways in Colorado which runs west of the Continental Divide The 25-mile section of U.S. 550 from Silverton to Ouray is frequently called the Million Dollar Highway.

Built in the 1920s, several legends abound about why the highway was dubbed the Million Dollar Highway. Some suggest it is because it cost a million dollars per mile to build the road as this excerpt elaborates: "The name came from a comment made at a planning meeting in 1921. At this time, a meeting was held to discuss plans to rebuild the highway. As the men reviewed the contracts to rebuild the highway, one gentleman remarked that all of the contracts added up to a figure very close to one million dollars. In further comments, he began to refer to the road as “…this million-dollar highway….” and the name stuck."

Others claim the nickname is referring to the fill dirt that contains a million dollars in gold ore as this excerpt suggests: "Some people think that the name has to do with the fact that builders used gravel from the nearby silver and gold mines and that the dirt was so rich in ore, it was worth a million."

Yet another legend claims that an early traveler announced she would only drive the cliff-hugging roads again only if she were paid a million dollars.

Some of the highlights of the Million Dollar Highway include Uncompahgre Gorge, Idarado Mine, Animas River, San Juan National Forest, Haviland Lake, Elektra Lake, Twilight Peak, Red Mountain Pass, and more "million-dollar" views.

Caution is advised while driving this road as it is one of the deadliest roads in the US on account of hairpin curves, lack of guardrails, and hazardous driving conditions during rough weather. Per reports, an estimated 40 accidents occur each year on the Million Dollar Highway with around 7 fatalities.

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