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On Walkabout at: Animas Forks, Colorado

Basic Information

  • City Name: Animas Forks
  • State: Colorado
  • Founded: 1877
  • Population: None (Ghost Town)
  • More Information:


After crossing over the rugged, but spectacular Engineer Pass the four-wheel drive road entered into the ghost town of Animas Forks, Colorado:

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

Animas Forks is an old silver mining town that got its name from the three rivers that meet in the vicinity of the town that form the Animas River.  This ghost town is located deep in the San Juan Mountain range at an altitude of 11,200 feet:

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The town once proclaimed itself as the “Largest City In World, At this Altitude“.  The remains of the various mines that used to work in this isolated valley were visible all over the hillsides:

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

The first cabin was built in the vicinity of Animas Forks in 1873 and three years later enough cabins had been built that an actual town had formed to support the various mines that had sprung up in the valley.  By 1883, 450 people lived in the town that now had a hotel, general store, a saloon, and post office.  During the winter months most of the town’s residents would migrate south to Silverton to live until the next springs so they could restart mining operations again.  In 1884 a 23-day blizzard is reported to have trapped people in the town under 25 feet of snow.  Residents had to dig tunnels to get around the town.  Avalanches were also a common danger for those who lived in this city perched among the steep peaks of the San Juan Mountain Range:

Animas Forks in 1878  [Wikipedia]

The town began a slow motion decline beginning in the late 1800’s as the silver mines slowly closed and by 1920 Animas Forks had become largely a ghost town:

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

The most noticeable structure in town was called the William Duncan House:

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

Here is an interesting story about someone who once lived in the house:

The most well preserved and most photographed building in Animas Forks is the Duncan/Walsh House. Built in 1879 by William Duncan, a postman and miner who struck it rich in the surrounding mountains.

This three story mansion was the largest building in town. It’s most prominent feature was the large bay window on the front of the house, facing the Columbus Mill. Guess ole William wanted to keep an eye on his Gold!

It was purchased some years later by Tom Walsh, discoverer of the famous Campbird Mine in Telluride Colorado. Tom’s daughter, Evalyn, who in 1908 elpoed, against her family’s best advice with the handsome heir to the Washington Post fortune, Edward Beale McLean. Though she never lived in the house, she was the last private owner of the Hope Diamond!  [Unique Photography]


Like other structures in town the house had repairs done to it over the years to prevent it from collapsing.  The repair teams did a good job because all the structures were in good shape and visitors could actually safely walk inside of them and check them out.  In total there are 10 homes that are still standing at Animas Forks:

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

From Animas Forks there is a four-wheel drive road that can be taken west to Ouray, but my buddy and I wanted to travel south to Silverton in order to drive across the Million Dollar Highway to Ouray.  We found that the dirt road that travels south to Silverton to be in good shape and drivable by a sturdy two-wheel drive vehicle if the weather is good:

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

Along the side of the road the Animas River can be seen roaring through a gorge it cut in the rock below:

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

We had been forced to drive so slow over Engineer Pass due to the primitive nature of the road that traveling up to 45 mph on the dirt road to Silverton felt unbelievably fast.  Before we knew it we found ourselves in Silverton:

Picture from Engineer Pass, Colorado

We found Silverton to be a cool little town, but it was getting late and we did not have much time to look around.  We wanted to drive across the Million Dollar Highway while there was still light.  So we just stopped at a local cafe drank a latte and proceeded to hit the road again.  Silverton though is definitely one of those places that I would like to come back and spend some more time checking out.  It would have to wait for another day though as we were now on our way to yet another cool little town in the San Juans, Ouray.

Next Posting: Ouray and Million Dollar Highway

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