Animas Forks, Colorado
|Animas Forks, Colorado|
|Elevation||11,200 ft (3,414 m)|
|Time zone||MST (UTC-7)|
|• Summer (DST)||MDT (UTC-6)|
Animas Forks is located on a system of roads known as the Alpine Loop. The loop is a 65-mile (105 km) system of unpaved roads which connects the small mountain towns of Lake City, Ouray, and Silverton. Most of the land in the area is managed by either the U.S. Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management. The Alpine Loop is visited by over 100,000 people each year. Animas Forks, at an elevation of 11,200 feet (3,400 m), is more than two miles (3 km) above sea level.
The unimproved road from Silverton to Animas Forks is passable in summer by two-wheel drive vehicles. The road beyond Animas Forks over Engineer Pass to Lake City may require four-wheel drive.
The town's first log cabin was built in 1873 and by 1876 the community had become a bustling mining community. At that time the town contained 30 cabins, a hotel, a general store, a saloon, and a post office. By 1883 450 people lived in Animas Forks and in 1882 a newspaper, the Animas Forks Pioneer, began publication and lasted until October 1886. Every fall the residents of Animas Forks migrated en masse to the warmer town of Silverton. In 1884 a 23-day blizzard inundated the town with 25 feet (7.6 m) of snow, the residents had to dig tunnels to get from building to building. Mining, speculation and processing mills helped Animas Forks grow.
When mining profits began to decline investment in Animas Forks was no longer justified. Although mining made a brief 1904 rebound with the construction of the Gold Prince Mill the town's mining days were nearing an end. A rail line ran through the area and stimulated interest in mining in the community again but the railroad never reached its expectations. The Gold Prince Mill closed in 1910 and in 1917 most of the mill's major parts were removed for a new facility in Eureka. The mill's dismantling signaled the beginning of the end for Animas Forks. The town was a ghost town by the 1920s.
The ghost town today
The site continues as a tourist attraction. A Colorado State Historical Fund grant to San Juan County, in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management, provided for stabilization of the remaining structures in 1997 and 1998.
The site is managed collaboratively by the Bureau of Land Management and San Juan County, which provide interpretive brochures and maps at an adjacent parking area. Although entry into the buildings is unrestricted, some of the flooring is reported to be fragile and subject to collapse.
Historic photos of Animas Forks, 1878 to 1904
View down main street of Animas Forks in the Animas River Valley.
A railroad line with cars winds its way around Mastedon Gulch. Tents are pitched among horizontal and box-shaped buildings.
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- Tour of Animas Forks and the Alpine Loop Indications at BLM
- Photos from 2005 and 2007 of Animas Forks Colorado Ghost Town site provided By Rocky Mountain Profiles
- Full Resolution Ghost Town and Historic Site Photos by Coloradopast.com