Animas River

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For the river in Mexico, see Animas River (Mexico).
Animas River DSRR.jpg
Animas River at Durango and Silverton railroad crossing just north of confluence with Lime Creek
Country United States
States Colorado, New Mexico
 - left Cunningham Creek, Elk Creek, Needle Creek, Canyon Creek, Florida River
 - right Mineral Creek, Mineral Creek, Lime Creek, Hermosa Creek, Junction Creek, Lightner Creek
Source Confluence of North Fork Animas River and West Fork Animas River
37°55′53″N 107°34′10″W / 37.93139°N 107.56944°W / 37.93139; -107.56944
 - location San Juan County, CO
 - coordinates 37°55′53″N 107°34′10″W / 37.93139°N 107.56944°W / 37.93139; -107.56944
Mouth Confluence with San Juan
 - location San Juan County, NM
 - elevation 5,239 ft (1,597 m)
 - coordinates 36°42′50″N 108°13′18″W / 36.71389°N 108.22167°W / 36.71389; -108.22167Coordinates: 36°42′50″N 108°13′18″W / 36.71389°N 108.22167°W / 36.71389; -108.22167
Length 126 mi (203 km)

Animas River is a 126-mile-long (203 km)[1] river in the western United States, a tributary of the San Juan River, part of the Colorado River System. The river's free-flowing status will soon end as the Animas-La Plata Water Project nears completion. The project will pump water over a low pass to fill a reservoir, Lake Nighthorse, in Ridges Basin to satisfy Southern Ute tribal water rights claims associated with the Colorado Ute Settlement Act amendments of 2000[2]


Spanish explorer Juan Maria de Rivera of Santa Fe recorded the name "Rio de las Animas" (in English, River of Souls) in 1765.[3] One theory is that the full name of the river was once "Rio de las Animas Perdidas" (River of Lost Souls), although this idea may indicate confusion with the Purgatoire River of southeastern Colorado.[4]


The Animas River from a foot bridge in Farmington

The Animas River rises high in San Juan Mountains of Colorado at the confluence of the West and North forks at the ghost town of Animas Forks and flows south past the ghost towns of Eureka and Howardsville. At Silverton, the river flows into the Animas Canyon. The Durango and Silverton Narrow gauge railroad follows the river through the canyon to Durango. From Durango the river flows south into New Mexico through the town of Aztec to its confluence with the San Juan River at Farmington. The only major tributary of the Animas River is the Florida River which confluences just north of the Colorado–New Mexico border.

Indigenous peoples[edit]

The ancestral Puebloan site of Aztec Ruins National Monument is situated along the river in the present day town of Aztec and for much of its course the river flows through native Ute and Navajo lands.

Engineering and development[edit]

Numerous irrigation ditches serve the surrounding farmland along the river. Recently, the Durango Pumping Plant completed in 2011 as part of the Animas-La Plata Water Project draws a projected average annual intake of 57,100 acre-feet for storage in Lake Nighthorse.[5]

Wildlife and plants[edit]

The Animas serves as habitat to resident and migratory bald eagles which arrive in the winter months to take advantage of the ice-free river.[6]


The Animas river is a major white water rafting attraction accounting for 8.9% of Colorado's commercial rafting market while annually generating 45,411 commercial user days and direct expenditures of $5,207,033 (2011 est)[7]

The Animas is a freestone fishery well populated with rainbows, browns, Colorado River cutthroat and brook trout. It is considered a gold medal fishery above Rivera Bridge Crossing in Colorado. Recreational fishing with artificial lures and flies on the Animas is available year-round due to moderate winter weather.[8] Insect hatches of aquatic diptera and mayflies occur in the winter and spring months. In late spring, summer and through fall the Animas sees caddisfly and mayfly hatches as well as terrestrials such as grasshoppers. Animas trout average 12 to 16 inches (30 to 41 cm). Larger trout in the 17 to 22 inches (43 to 56 cm) are occasionally caught by anglers. Brown trout as large as 36 inches (91 cm) have been caught in the Animas.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "The National Map". U.S. Geological Survey. Retrieved Feb 11, 2011. 
  2. ^ "Colorado Ute Settlement Acts" (PDF). U.S. Department of the Interior. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  3. ^ Wildfang, Frederic (2009). Durango. Arcadia Publishing. p. 27. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  4. ^ Johnston, Elwin M. (December 10, 2011). "Durango’s Animas River is not one of lost souls". Durango Herald. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Animas La Plata Project Implementation of the Colorado Ute Settlement Act Amendments of 2000". Bureau of Reclamation. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  6. ^ Rodebaugh, Dale. "The eagle: At home along the Animas". The Durango Herald. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  7. ^ "Commercial River Use in the State of Colorado 1988-2011" (PDF). Colorado River Outfitters Association. Retrieved 8 July 2012. 
  8. ^ "2014 Colorado Fishing" (PDF). Colorado Parks and Wildlife. March 2014. Retrieved 2014-10-21. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Desborough, G.A. and D.B. Yager. (2000). Acid-neutralizing potential of igneous bedrocks in the Animas River headwaters, San Juan County, Colorado [U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00-165]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Nash, T. (1999). Geochemical investigations and interim recommendations for priority abandoned mine sites, BLM lands, upper Animas River watershed, San Juan County, Colorado [U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 99-323]. Reston, VA: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.
  • Yager, D.B. et al. (2003). Ferricrete, manganocrete, and bog iron occurrences with selected sedge bogs and active iron bogs and springs in the upper Animas River watershed, San Juan County, Colorado [Miscellaneous Field Studies Map MF-2406]. Denver: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey.

External links[edit]