The Story of the Ouray Inn

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Originally known as the Circle M Motel, this historic property was constructed in 1955 by Kenneth and Dorthy Moorhead. People warned them that they would go broke because the hotel wasn't on Main Street. Here we are 69 years later, proving their critics wrong. As it turns out, a cozy atmosphere, friendly hosts, and comfortable accommodations are reason enough to make the 1-block detour from Main Street. Today the lack of traffic noise and easy walkability to all of Ouray's attractions are some of the Ouray Inn's best features.

Over the years, the Inn has changed hands a number of times, but it has always been family owned and you can tell it has been lovingly cared for by each of the stewards. The current owners, Christian and Kaytie Evans purchased the Inn in September of 2020 after managing a boutique resort in the Caribbean for 7 years. While they enjoyed island life, they were thrilled to be back home in the mountains and caring for this iconic hotel in Ouray and its guests.


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HISTORY OF THE OURAY INN …Formerly the Circle M Motel

Taken from Kenneth Moorehead’s autobiography

Kenneth Moorehead 1907-2005  Dorothy Devinny Moorehead 1907-1997

"In 1955 we sold our farm in Ridgeway for $25,000 and with that money, we decided to build a motel in Ouray. We bought 4 lots from the Mumns Mill site. There was a gold mill there in the early days, it was now covered with big Cottonwood trees. 

With the help of my friend Chauncey Mills, we bulldozed out the Cottonwood trees to use for logs to build the motel. I took the logs to a place near Salida and had them sawed on 3 sides. I used pump rod connectors and put them in 3 feet sections and every 4 feet in the wall to keep them up as they dried out. I hired Bill Willis and Louie Jones to help me with the general construction. Bill Aiken and I did the plumbing, I did all the electrical work, installed the hot water tank and stoker for the furnace. I was working 12 hours a day as I knew we had to open by July 1st, (high motel season) and we were running out of money. 

After the motel was opened I dug out for the basement, moving the dirt with a wheel barrel until it was large enough for 2 cars and my shop. Later, I dug out another area past the coal bin and put a 2-bedroom unit that included a kitchen. 

The second year the motel was built I started taking our guests out for horseback trail rides and hunting trips. The motel was full most of the season. When we were full, we called other motels to find rooms for them. The folks that said we couldn’t make it were wrong and I think that it helped not being on Main Street. The guests liked the look of the log construction.

 My wife, Dorothy was responsible for a lot of our success. She ran a tight ship. We had good maids and we paid them well. We ran the motel for 11 years, we lost 4 towels and had one bounced check. It was from a Denver bank and about a month later I was in Denver and went in and cashed it.

Some of our notable guests included photographer, Ansel Adams, Harry Goulding of Monument Valley, and artist, Georgia O’Keefe. One night a man and woman checked in. The next day he came to the office and said he was looking for someone to take him back in the woods where no one could find him. So, the next morning we loaded up my Jeep and the 3 of us headed out. We took an old mine road that led in an easterly direction to Uncompahgre Peak. I was to come back and pick them up in two weeks. The man was very quiet but his wife talked a lot. She told me that he was the originator of the atomic bomb. I knew their names were Oppenheimer but at that time the name didn’t mean anything to me." 

Some of Kenneth Moorhead’s other accomplishments in Ouray were:   He spearheaded the development of the amphitheater, including trails and campgrounds.  Was a member of the Ouray County Sheriff’s posse for many years.  Made, painted and erected the lookout point sign above Ouray as you come into town from the Million Dollar Highway.