“Wherever nature has planted her richest treasures, neither heights or depths can withhold them from the grasp of man.” ~ The Omaha Commercial Record, September 1883
In February of 1884 a 23 day blizzard buried the small mining town of Animas Forks, Colorado under 25 feet of snow. Most of the residents had migrated down to Silverton for the winter. The handful of flinty miners who chose to stay did what miners do. They dug. The men created a network of tunnels that connected the buildings and they spent the entire month of March in a cold, underground city.
At 11,200 feet, Animas Forks is a stunning landscape but it’s downright inhospitable. The rush for gold lured prospectors to seek their fortune in the rugged San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. The hazardous topography was not a discouragement if they could just strike it rich in the end. After stories about the valuable discoveries spread, “greenhorns” poured into the region. Once claims were filed, merchants showed up to supply food, clothing and equipment.
Speculators, lawyers, hotel owners, grocers and saloonkeepers soon followed. It wasn’t long before small mining settlements saturated the district. By 1883, Animas Forks was a bustling community of 450 souls. Nearby mines produced galena and a silver-bearing gray copper. The town had its own post office and published a newspaper, The Animas Forks Pioneer.
After twenty productive years, Animas Forks began to decline when silver prices plummeted. The cost to operate in the mountains far exceeded the money being made. A resurgence occurred in 1904 when the massive Gold Prince Mill was constructed to process minerals from the Gold Prince Mine. An ingenious, multi-directional, aerial tram was designed to get ore from the mountain to the plant. In order to ship product to the smelters, the Silverton Northern Railroad was extended along a seven percent grade all the way to Animas Forks.
The noisy mill crushed rock for six good years before being closed down and disassembled. Animas Forks was a ghost town by the 1920s. While wandering through the dilapidated structures today, one can only imagine what life must have been like here. If you ever get the chance to explore Animas Forks, you won't find silver or gold but it's quite possible that you'll discover the same adventurous spirit our forefathers had.
|Animas Forks is a stunning landscape|
|The rugged terrain was not a discouragement|
|Animas Forks was a bustling community of 450|
|Animas Forks has an adventurous spirit|
|Mines produced galena and silver-bearing copper|
|The Columbus Mill|
|A ghost town by 1920|
|One can only imagine what life was like|
|Animas Forks enjoyed 20 productive years|
|Animas Forks jail was built using 2x6 boards laid flat|
|The Animas River is clear and cold|
|The tiered foundation of the Gold Prince Mill|
|The Gustavson House was built in 1907|
|The Duncan House with its impressive bay window was built in 1879|