It's been almost 40 years since one Colorado community was wiped off the map. Uravan was a uranium company town established in Montrose County in 1935. Now, it’s a Superfund site because of its hazardous waste, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The small town piqued the curiosity of Kevin Pendergraft in Colorado Springs, who reached out to ask CPR’s Colorado Wonders: What happened to Uravan, and what was its connection to the Manhattan Project?
The town was connected to the Manhattan Project, the World War II effort to build an atomic bomb that saw some renewed interest this summer thanks to the blockbuster “Oppenheimer.” The movie chronicles physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer’s development of the atomic bomb and his regrets later in life about unleashing something so destructive.
As for Uravan, there was a uranium mine and mill, where quite a few people worked into the Cold War. But in the 1980s, the federal government declared Uravan unsafe because of radioactivity, and around 800 people had to move. The whole town was torn down, buried and now is just a patch of empty land that’s been remediated.
Jane Thompson grew up in Uravan. Her family’s life there started when her grandparents moved to town so that her grandfather could work in the uranium mine to support his farm. Thompson is now the president of the Rimrocker Historical Society in Nucla, Colorado. She also organizes gatherings with her former neighbors. She shared her perspective on the legacy of the town and its workers. You can listen to the full interview with Jane Thomspon on Colorado Matters.
More Colorado Wonders stories
- How did No Name, Colorado, get its name?
- Why are some places in Colorado always so windy?
- We decoded Colorado school districts’ peculiar names and learned some state history along the way
- Florissant, Colorado, is home to some of the biggest petrified tree stumps in the world. They’re 34 million years old
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