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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Animas Forks, Colorado

By Kristy McCaffrey

Animas Forks
Animas Forks is a mining ghost town is southwestern Colorado, nestled in the San Juan Mountains 12 miles northeast of Silverton. It sits at an elevation of 11,200 feet, at the junction of three forks of the Animas River.

Established in 1873, it became a booming community by 1876 with approximately 30 cabins, a hotel, a saloon, a general store, assay offices, a boarding house, and a post office. The town’s growth was fueled by the mining of galena and silver-bearing gray copper, along with speculation and processing mills.

Animas Forks, 1878
While most residents moved to Silverton for the winter, a few hardy residents remained year-round, including several wives and their children. Many homes had connected outhouses, with a covered hallway leading from the home to the privy. In 1884, a 23-day blizzard overwhelmed the town with 25 feet of snow. The residents had to dig tunnels to get from building to building. The town also became isolated at times when avalanches in the passes would cut off supply routes. The narrow canyon produced avalanches that slid down one side and up the other.

By 1891, the town had begun to decline. Today, it’s located on a popular driving route called the Alpine Loop. Four-wheel drive is recommended, although you can get as far as Animas Forks with a two-wheel drive vehicle. Many of the buildings have been restored and are open to the public.

Animas Forks is one of the most visited ghost towns in Colorado.

A few photos from my visit to the area two years ago.


This short novella takes place in the Silverton/Animas Forks area.

Available at Amazon and in the Kindle Unlimited Program.

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  1. Kristy,

    I like the winter season and snow. but there's a reason I live on the prairie at 4000 feet in elevation and not at 11200 feet >>> "In 1884, a 23-day blizzard overwhelmed the town with 25 feet of snow. The residents had to dig tunnels to get from building to building."<<< Holy Moly. My claustrophobia meter went into the red zone at the thought of being surrounded (buried???) by that much snow (or by anything else, for that matter). I'm glad you have pictures. Eventually, these ghost town treasures will deteriorate beyond visual memory.

    1. I've seen photos from that blizzard. Amazing. What's even more amazing is that a handful of people lived in Animas Forks year-round. Avalanches would sometimes cut off contact for weeks. But some of the homes accommodated families. It's really beautiful there in the summer. :-)

  2. Too much snow for me!!! LOL. I really love that area of Colorado, though--have been there many times, although not often enough. Hope to visit again sometime soon.

  3. Kristy, That whole country is beautiful, but not always friendly in the winter time. If you get the chance, check out the Sandra Dallas book "Colorado Ghost towns and Mining Camps". Of course Animas City is listed in there, but there are also some other great photos and 'stories' that have to be read to be believed.

    Animas City was the inspiration for part of one of my stories. Thank you for sharing its history and the photos. Doris

  4. What a beautiful place even though it sounds like a harsh environment to live in. I liked the idea about the connecting hallway to the privy. That would be good in bad weather and protection against the wildlife that might happen by.
    I enjoyed all your pictures, too.
    The Crow And The Bear looks like some fascinating reading. I love the cover.
    All the very best to you Kristy.