The old city of Durango is blessed with the history
and cultures of its inhabitants and early settlers: the
Indian, Spanish, and the North European immigrants who
came to live in the splendid Animas Valley.
called it El Rio de las Animas Perdidas," The River of
Lost Souls". Lying at the southern foot of the San Juan
Mountains, Durango bears the heritage of the mining boom
of the 1880s which happened just to the north of the
city, in the area around Silverton and Ouray.
Skiers are coming increasingly to Durango Mountain Resort, the ski area north of
Durango on Highway 550 that used to be called Purgatory.
This is a good downhill area with 35 miles of runs with a
vertical drop of 1,750 feet. Although there is a lodge
next to the ski hill, accommodation is limited and many
skiers stay in Durango and drive the 28 miles. The resort
also has a fine series of cross country ski trails, in
the San Juan National Forest, across the highway from the
ski lifts. Head to "Purgy's" in the Purgatory Lodge for food and drink.
The Ute Indians, who had been granted this
large tract of land by the government were dispossessed,
forced to relinquish some 6,000 square miles of territory
and moved to a reservation on the New Mexico border. At
the same time, a small town named Durango was becoming an
important railway center.
The first white settlement in
the area was Animas City, a few miles north of the
present city of Durango. When the residents of this town
refused to let the railway build their terminus there,
the plum went to Durango. The growing city served the
mining interests of the region until the silver and gold
ran out. Tourism took over as the primary industry and
Durango remains a charming historic town with a "Wild
West" and Spanish ambiance, combining to make this a
wonderful place to visit.
What to See & Do
One of the chief attractions is the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a
scenic railroad which runs along the old route to the
silver mines, developed by the Denver and Rio Grande
Western. This is a spectacular day long return trip,
through the beautiful Animas Valley, climbing high above
the river with incredible views of the massive San Juan
peaks. The round trip takes eight hours although you can
ride the trail one-way, stay in Silverton overnight or
return to Durango by bus, over scenic Molas Pass. People
with cars often split up in order for some to take the
ride to Silverton while others (who drive to Silverton)
make the return trip. This trip is highly recommended as
are reservations. Contact the Durango and Silverton
Narrow Gauge Railway, 479 Main Ave., Durango CO 81301 or
phone (970) 247 2733.
The Animas River is well known for
its white water, offering excellent rafting, canoeing and
kayaking. Animas River Days is a celebration held
the last weekend in June with river races and other
events. Colorfest is an ongoing festival held
while the trees are turning, from. mid September to mid
October. Special events are staged during these four
weeks including an auto show, more raft races, art shows,
fishing derbies and more. Snowdown, a slightly
crazy event to get rid of cabin fever is held late in
January each year. For information on special events in
Durango, call (970) 247 0312.
Hikers enjoy the challenge of the Colorado Trail which begins its 469 mile jaunt
over the mountains and across the Continental Divide near
Durango. The trailhead is reached by taking 25th Street
from north Main Street and then stopping just inside the
San Juan National Forest. The Goulding Creek Trail provides an interesting day long hike through aspen
groves, 17 miles north of Durango. The trailhead is on
the west side of Highway 550. It's a 6 mile round trip
with quite a climb above the Hermosa Cliffs. Check with
the forest ranger station for trail information and maps.
There are several fine golf clubs in the
area including the Hillcrest Golf Course which
offers good views of the mountains. The club is located
on the Fort Lewis College mesa, at the east end of town. Tamarron Resort has a championship course and the
resort is one of Colorado's finest. If you're staying at
the resort, you have your choice of tee times. If you're
not, you take your chances when you get there. The resort
is located beside Highway 550, 18 miles north of Durango,
on the way to Silverton.
Day drives in the La Plata Mountains and along the Animas River provide visits to several
ghost towns. Anglers don't have to go farther than the
Animas River to catch trout. The best locations are south
of the city or below Devil's Falls. The Vallecito
Reservoir has a 22 mile shoreline, boat ramps and is
well stocked with rainbow, German brown trout, northern
pike and kokanee. The reservoir is 23 miles to the
northeast of town via County Road 240 and then on County
Road 501 which runs beside the Los Piños River to
Soakers will want to have a plunge at Trimble Hot Springs, just north of town via Hwy.
550. The operation was a spa in the 1880s and the current
owners, the Bears who renovated the facilities in 1988,
have an Olympic size pool, a spacious bathhouse and a
small outdoor pool plus private hot tubs. The water in
the small therapeutic pool has a temperature of 104
degrees F. The large pool has warm water and is suitable
for swimming. There is a picnic park with barbecue grills
on the site.
Durango boasts a busy nightlife scene in
the hotels and clubs and those interested in local
culture visit the downtown arts and craft shops and the Animas School Museum at 2nd Ave. and 31st St.