After an initial copper boom around the turn of the century, the community later turned into a production hub for ore rich in uranium and vanadium deposits. The desert lands yielded some of the nation's largest windfalls of the ore when the U.S. Vanadium Corporation began harvesting the product in 1936. The U.S. Army eventually used Uravan in some the first atomic bombs. Once the industry dried up, residents left, and Uravan entered a long-term clean-up project.
Today, what remains in this quiet corner of the state is a surprisingly scenic area riddled with dinosaur fossils, rich mining history and natural wonders. The sandstone canyons and raging rivers near Uravan are all part of the Unaweep/Tabeguache Scenic and Historic Byway. The three-hour driving tour along Colorado 141 takes visitors on a journey through one of the state's most unique high-desert areas. Between Whitewater and Placerville, geologic records are revealed in the striated cliffs of the Uncompahgre Plateau, and the Dolores and San Miguel rivers provide remote funnels for whitewater rafting and kayaking.