Setting the Scene in Durango, Colorado

MK McClintock

Are you ready for an adventure in the rugged Colorado mountains? Let’s take a journey back to 1899 with Cassandra McKenzie and Quinn Morgan, the duo out for justice in my latest release, The Case of the Copper King.

When Samantha St. Claire pitched the series and invited me along for the ride, I knew my original choice for a setting was not going to work. The historically rich town of Durango was not the original setting, but as Cassandra (aka Casey) and I were getting to know each other, we couldn’t agree on several things, and where she would spend most of the book was among our disagreements.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Durango is a railroad town in southwestern Colorado, and Silverton is a small mining town to the north. Durango was quite different today from what it was in my youth, but what has not changed is the intriguing history of a wild west town filled with contradictions and tales of both survival and prosperity.

View from the Durango & Silverton train_1989_MK McClintock

I couldn’t wait to get started on the research, and I have no problem admitting that it distracted me from the writing on numerous occasions.

Durango, founded in 1880, was constructed because of the gold beneath the rocky mountain soil and built on the backs of miners, prospectors, bankers, and enterprising men and women who found various ways to make a profit off the land, and off the people who worked the land.

Around Silverton and Animas Forks, Colorado_1989_MK McClintock

My memories of a babbling creek beneath a footbridge behind the house, walking around on all fours with the horses in the pasture, brunch at the Strater Hotel, and playing tourist at nearby resorts were not going to give me the foundation I needed for an 1899 setting. After months of research, I realized those youthful recollections were quite valuable when it came to Casey’s character. When she stepped off the train in Durango or rode into Silverton on the back of her mare, I was right there with her, seeing through her eyes, the hustle, dust, and color of those booming mining towns.

The Strater Hotel, opened in 1888 during a mining boom in Durango, Colorado | Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress

Durango and Silverton, like settings in many books, became secondary characters. From dusty streets to grand hotels, stockyards to caves, and saloons to sporting houses, Casey and Quinn experienced both the unsavory and the beautiful during their adventures.

If you haven’t been to these fascinating towns in Colorado, I highly recommend them. In the meantime, you can join the intrepid crime-solvers and experience a bit of how life might have been when a plucky Pinkerton and a bounty hunter with a conscience join forces.

If only the Rocky Mountain Funnel Cake Factory had been around in 1899, we could have had some real fun in Silverton.

Have you been to Durango or Silverton? If so, what is one of your favorite memories from your visit?


I’ll be giving away both a of The Case of the Copper King and The Case of the Peculiar Inheritance to one random winner!

For a chance to win, leave a comment about one of your favorite western-related memories, or what wild-west era town you’d like to visit today.

To read an excerpt of The Case of the Copper King CLICK HERE.

Award-winning author MK McClintock writes historical romantic fiction about courageous and honorable men and strong women who appreciate chivalry, like those in her Montana Gallagher, British Agent, and Crooked Creek series. Her stories of adventure, romance, and mystery sweep across the American West to the Victorian British Isles, with places and times between and beyond. She enjoys a quiet life in the northern Rocky Mountains.

To purchase The Case of the Copper King CLICK HERE.


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55 thoughts on “Setting the Scene in Durango, Colorado”

  1. I’ve never been to Colorado.

    I have been to Nevada and enjoyed seeing the petroglyphs in the desert.

    • Thanks for visiting, Denise! I’ve been to Nevada, well, drove through it a few times, but haven’t seen the petroglyphs. I hear they are fascinating to see in person.

      • Im researching the women of the red light district. My brother peaked my curiosity abt madam’s in leadville colorado. What an interesting bunch they mustve been.

  2. I did get to go to Jerome Arizona years ago it’s an old mining town on the side of a hill. Very interesting. I think it’s listed as a national park now. It was not then.

  3. We love that area of Colorado. We had a house in Silverton for a number of years. Those San Juan mountains are spectacular.

    • How wonderful to have lived there! Houses aren’t easy to come by in Silverton, so lucky you. I agree, the San Juans are spectacular! Thank you for visiting today.

  4. I have never been to Colorado but it sounds like a beautiful state to visit. I don’t travel much. I do my traveling in my books. Thanks for sharing the beautiful pictures with us.

    • I do most of my traveling in books these days, too. It’s wonderful all the places we can go from the comfort of home. I got quite a fill during a two-decade period, though I expect I’ll make my way to Colorado again as we continue the series. Thank you for visiting today!

  5. Welcome today What a wonderful give a way. thanks for the chance. I have been to CO but not to a western town. Will have to make a note of it for the future. Thanks. I dont think I have really been to a western town from the past. Ohhhh when I lived in CA my dad had some work in Death Valley. The whole family would go and drop dad off where he would conduct his work, than mom and us five kids would go and visit an elderly lady that mom knew. She was such a funny woman. Always smiling and full of life. One time mom asked her about a particular town. This lady said that it hasn’t been lived in for many years. At the time I was devouring Zane Gray books. And mom knew my interest. So this lovely lady got in our car and directed mom to it. I didnt understand at first why she insisted we bring so much water with us. After I was in this old dilapidated town for a short while, it made total sense. It was a western town with a saloon and barbershop and a jail and a few other buildings with no signs left. Complete with a light wind and tumbleweeds. Oh I was in western heaven Wow did my imagination go wild. I wasnt allowed to go into any of the buildings but that didnt stop my imagination from playing. When we got home, I sat down and wrote all that I had seen and experienced. From the books I had read at the time, there was always some one the book was dedicated to. I wrote a short story about this town and dedicated my short story to her. And next time we went and saw this sweet lady, I gave her the story. I felt bad at first because she started to cry. But she hugged me and told me it is the first story anyone has ever written for her. She was so excited. She had no children of her own. Later I understood why mom would bring us kids with. We filled a hole that she had. We all loved her so much. When she found out I was reading Zane Gray books, she gave me some books to read.
    quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

  6. We took a weekend trip and visited Durango and Silverton. We did take the train. I enjoyed the historical aspects of the towns and thought that Silverton was fascinating because of the location.

    • I hope you had a great time, Anne! I keep wanting to return, but I like remembering it as it was. The history of the towns and that area are indeed fascinating. Thank you so much for visiting today.

  7. A road trip which was unforgettable and memorable to Colorado, exploring Leadville left me with wonderful memories. This town was a treasure trove of history. The buildings, and streets gave me such a warm and beautiful feeling. The old synagogue which was preserved and looks so inviting and authentic, the merchants stores and we were fortunate at the time to visit when there was a performance at the opera house. Wonderful and amazing.

    • Lucky you, Ruth! I’ve wanted to visit Leadville, but haven’t had the chance. Your description makes me want to go all the more. Glad you enjoyed the road trip.

  8. I have always wanted to go to Dodge City and other western towns. I enjoy history and reading of these stories are wonderful.

    • The history is the best part of writing the stories! Dodge City would be another fascinating western town to visit . . . so many historically-rich towns await. Thank you for visiting today, Emma!

  9. I am always impressed and in awe of the old Western towns. They call to me and are so extraordinary. Years ago we took the Durango/Silverton train and enjoyed this trip back in time. I would love to visit Deadwood. I have read about this town and I know that it would be enthralling and unique to spend time there.

    • Deadwood is a really cool place, though I only spent an hour there when passing through the area. I agree – the old western towns are extraordinary. You might enjoy going to Wild Deadwood Reads one year.

  10. Hi, yes, I have been to Colorado, I have been both to Durango and Silverton. It really is beautiful there. It was a very , very long time ago, what I loved the best was our ride on the train to Silverton, it was so much fun! Have a great weekend and stay safe.

    • My visit was a long time ago, too, and I like remembering those places as they were. It is a beautiful place. Thank you so much for visiting, and I hope you have a nice and safe weekend as well!

  11. It is nice to see you on Petticoats and Pistols again! I’ve been many places in Colorado but not Durango or Silverton although I have always wanted to go there. I live in Cheyenne, Wyoming and as most people know it is filled with rich western history. I love your books and have read the Montana Gallagher series and loved them!

    • Thank you, Sharon! I’m so glad you love the Gallagher series; I’m fond of them, too. 🙂 I’ve only waved to Cheyenne when passing by on road trips; there is some great western history. So glad you stopped by today.

  12. MK, thanks for visiting again. We love having you. I’ve never been to Durango but I really loved Cripple Creek. It felt like I’d stepped back in time. Colorado has so many of these old west towns it’s hard to pick a favorite. It’s such a beautiful state. Congrats on your mystery series. They look great.

  13. I’m so intrigued by how you wrote these books with Samantha. It makes me wonder if there will be more books by the two of you working together. 🙂

    So great to have you back, MK! Lovely blog, as always.

  14. I’ve never been to either place, enjoyed the post today! Would love to travel there someday!

  15. I’d like to visit Deadwood sometime. I’ve seen interesting things about it and they have lots of fun things going on.

  16. I have not been out west at all. I would love to travel to Colorado or Montana. It would be fabulous. Thank you for the opportunity. God bless you.

  17. I have not had the opportunity to go out west. I love Roy Rogers movies. Audy Murphy, The good, The bad and the ugly. I would love to go to Wyoming and Colorado sometime. Thank you for sharing your time with us all. Hugs ?

  18. Two of my daughters and I road tripped to our nephew’s high school graduation in Arvada, Co, several years ago We made a big loop spending the first night in Yellowstone, and the second in Dubois, Wyoming. From there it was on to the Denver area for three days. Coming home we headed south over Wolf Creek Pass towards the Grand Canyon Park. Since our nephew was starting at Fort Lewis College in the fall we made a short side trip into Durango and drove up the hill to tour the campus. It is a beautiful location and a place it would be fun to go back to when we had time to really tour the area. After a day at Grand Canyon we stayed at a hotel/motel in Kanab, Utah, that had been a favorite place for movie stars to stay when filming western movies in the area. Lots of memorabilia on display and a nice place to stay. From there it was north through Utah, to Idaho and Oregon and home to Washington Lots of open rangeland along the way and time to wonder how early settlers survived their trek across these hot arid lands.

    • That sounds like it was quite the road trip, Alice, and fun, too. You managed to fit in a lot of great places, and I’m sure you made lots of great memories. Thank you for stopping by and sharing with us.

      • Oh, and I agree about the early settlers. Every time I drive over a mountain pass, or a long distance with nothing for miles, I wonder the same thing. It’s so easy for us, but for them . . . those early settlers were amazing.

  19. I have been to Durango and Silverton many times as I am a native Coloradoan. I was born in the less pretty part of the state near the Kansas border so it was always a treat to visit the Western Slope as they called it. I have always wanted to ride the Silverton train..its’s on my bucket list.

  20. You have chosen one of our favorite towns to set your story. We have taken the Durango to Silverton train twice. The first time was in 1983 or so. It sis not go all the way to Silverton, but turned around where they water up. It is a spectacular ride. We took it again in the early 90’s and it went all the way to Silverton that time. I remember seeing the hotel when we were there , but never went in. We had young children with us and the train ride was enough. The second time it was just with our son who was 14. I don’t remember exactly where we ate, but the food was good and they had live music. I would like to have had more time in Silverton. We will go out there again at some point, just two adults, and enjoy ourselves in an unrushed visit. I think driving in to Silverton would be better so we could explore as we wish on our time table. We loved the time we lived in Colorado Springs and 3 years was too short. We get back to that “neck of the woods” whenever we can manage it. TN is just a long trip.
    thank you for bringing back good memories.

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