Animas Forks is a mining ghost town about 12 miles north-northeast of Silverton. It sits at an elevation of about 11,200 feet
and is reached via San Juan County Roads 2 and 9. It forms a nexus for the Alpine Loop, with roads leading to Engineer and Cinnamon Passes.
It's also near the confluence of the North and West Forks of the Animas River, which form the Animas River's headwater.
The first log cabin in the area was built in 1873 and the town established in 1875. In 1876 the Dakota and San Juan Mining Company built a large mill in town. Though unprofitable, the activity gave the impression of success which encouraged outside investment in the area. A water-powered sawmill built near town in 1878 provided lumber for new wood-frame houses and shops. More people began staying in town rather than spending the winter in Silverton, and some shops remained open year-round. 450 people lived in Animas Forks by 1883. The town boasted three general stores, a butcher, two boardinghouses, 30 cabins, a hotel, saloons, and a post office.
Mining, speculation, and ore processing mills helped Animas Forks grow, but when mining began to decline, so did Animas Forks. The town made a brief resurgence in 1904 with the construction of the Gold Prince Mill. However the mill was marginally profitable and closed in 1910. Animas Forks limped along for a few years after the closure of the Gold Prince Mill, largely on the strength of the Bonanza Tunnel and Frisco Mill, built in 1912. However,on September 3, 1913, another big fire roared through town, destroying four of its largest buildings. This, along with closure of the Frisco Mill in 1914 sealed the fate of Animas Forks. The Animas Forks post office closed in November 1915, and the Gold Prince Mill was dismantled in 1917. Its major componenets were used in a new mill in Eureka. Animas Forks was a ghost town by the 1920s.
Today nine or so buildings are still standing, including the Gustavson House, the William Duncan House, town jail, and remains of the Gold Prince Mill. Some of the buildings have been restored by the Bureau of Land Management, which administers the historic site. There is a parking area with public restrooms. I photographed Animas Forks in Sept of 2022.
Background information: Bureau of Land Management online, coloradoencyclopedia.org, uncovercolorado.com
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