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Explore A Ghost Town

Updated on January 2, 2014

Animas Forks, Colorado

Nestled just outside the charming mountain town of Silverton, Colorado, lies a ghost town adventure sure to engage the entire family.

Just to get there is an adventure in and of itself. Rustic county road 2 out of Silverton winds its way up though majestic alpine scenery lined with snow capped peaks, lush waterfalls and crisp mountain air.

At 11,200 feet, Animas Forks sits amongst the trees, lush grasses and colorful flowers. 13 buildings and historic mining artifacts are scattered throughout the town which you can explore on a walking tour.

This photo shows the dramatic drive up to Animas Forks ghost town

Ghost Town - Animas Forks

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A view of the boarding house and many of the residences in Animas Forks

Once A Thriving Community

Animas Forks was once a booming high elevation mountain town with a population of 450, many of whom were year round residents. It reached its hey day when the Animas Forks Pioneer was published (From June 1882 - October 1886) making it the highest-elevation newspaper printing press in the United States.

The first cabin to be built in Animas Forks was in 1873 and by 1876 the town boasted having a general store, saloon, post office, and 30 cabins. The wagon road that led to Animas Forks over Cinnamon pass was less rugged than the route to the south, therefore, miners, mail and supplies came through this way. Exploratory mines, mills, and speculative ventures led to rapid growth of the small town but declined when profits did not justify the investments.

A Booming Mine

Animas Forks had a short rebound in 1904 when the Gold Prince Mill was developed to process ore from the Gold Prince Mine in Placer Gulch. Ore from the mill was obtained by a 12,600 foot aerial tram that was angled at a station to change direction in route. Ore was sent northeasterly from the mine portal then changed to an easterly direction as it came around the side of Treasure Mountain. The ore then continued in tram buckets in a straight line to the mill.

In 1893, the Silverton Northern Railroad, envisioned by Otto Mears, was laid from Silverton to the Silver Lake Mill. It was then extended to Eureka in 1896 when that region showed good ore. In 1904, the route was extended to Animas forks which ended up being the northern terminus for the railroad and also the highest grade attainable (7%) by a narrow gauge railroad.

Discover More Ghost Towns - Explore the past

Take A Walking Tour Of Animas Forks

Currently, 13 buildings and historical artifacts can be seen on a walking tour of Animas Forks. The original buildings were constructed from the once forested hillsides. Many of the original buildings were destroyed in a fire of 1891 that spread from the kitchen of the Kalamazoo Hotel but some of the original structures remain. The buildings that remain, many of which are currently privately owned, have been stabilized and repaired by the Bureau of Land Management and the San Juan Historical Society. The Gold Prince Mill was relocated to Eureka while some other buildings have been damaged by heavy snowfall and vandals. .

Buildings that can be seen on a walking tour include the Duncan House, This Old House, the Carriage House, Gustavson House, and The Hip Roof House, all thought to be private residences. The Gold Prince Boarding House where 150 men from the Gold Prince Mill were housed can be seen as well as the Gold Prince Mill site. The Log Building is the remains of the general store constructed around 1888. The Animas Forks Jail as well as the Gold Prince Arial Tram, Columbus Mine and Mill can also be seen.

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A distant view of the Columbus Mine and Mill. By 1882, the Columbus Mine had a 107 foot tunnel and a 35 foot shaft into Houghton Mountain. It showed good quantities of galena ore which is high in lead but low in silver. It was working mine until 1939 and is privately owned today.

Ghost Towns Of Colorado

Ghost Towns of Colorado (Pictorial Discovery Guides)
Ghost Towns of Colorado (Pictorial Discovery Guides)

For an off the beaten path travel guide, you can't beat Ghost Towns of Colorado. This beautifully illustrated guide presents a beautiful tribute to the colorful past and fantastic landscape of Colorado. Over 90 ghost towns are introduced throughout the state. The state is divided into 11 contiguous regions with an accompanying map, and regions and sites are arranged in a logical progression for driving ease. The maps not only show the location for each site but also distinguish among major, secondary, and minor sites. Exceptionally beautiful photographs, a brief history with anecdotes, what to see, and directions are given for each town.

 
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Beautiful scenery on the way to Animas Forks

Thanks For Stopping By - I would love to hear from you!

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    • DeniseDurham2011 profile image

      DeniseDurham2011 5 years ago

      I sure miss Colorado. I love going to the ghost towns!

    • oztoo lm profile image

      oztoo lm 7 years ago

      Ooh, it looks like an interesting drive just to get there. I've always been fascinated with these old hitoric type of sites. Interesting lens.

    • HorseAndPony LM profile image

      HorseAndPony LM 7 years ago

      Thanks for sharing this great info. We are adding it to our must see list. Blessed! http://www.squidoo.com/horseandpony-squidangel