The Animas River, June, 1988


The Animas River drains the western side of the Continental Divide in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado, after which it joins the San Juan River in New Mexico. It first passes through the t0wn of Silverton (elevation 9308′), which sits in a barren valley that is marked by considerable mining waste. This mining waste stains the river and the rocks alongside the river an orange color, and is unpleasant evidence of what mining has done here and throughout the western US. Fortunately, the abundant clear water that enters the river from side streams below Silverton dilutes the waste runoff.  Below Silverton, the river enters a deep and precipitous gorge that divides the West Needle Mountains from the Needle Mountains, finally exiting the gorge upstream of Durango. A very popular narrow gauge railway follows the river it’s entire length from Durango to Silverton. The stretch of runnable river downstream of Silverton is Class 3 to 5 as far as the wilderness train stop at Needleton. The last rapid to be run is the Class 5 No Name rapid, which is just upstream of the Needleton stop. The Rockwood Gorge makes the river unrunnable downstream of there, and river trips take-out at Needleton and put themselves and their gear on the afternoon train that is returning to Durango, for delivery to the next train stop downstream (Rockwood), which is accessible by vehicle. A group of New Wave Rafting Co. guides (Britt Huggins, Ethan Miller, Curtis Bailey, Dave Wassil and myself) joined a group of guides from Far Flung Adventures for this trip that took place in June, of 1988. This was the only time that I ran the Animas River.

From left: Dave Wassil, Britt Huggins, Ethan Miller and Curtis Bailey

From left: Dave Wassil, Britt Huggins, my son Ethan Miller and Curtis Bailey, just after launching in Silverton

From left: Dave Wassil, Britt Huggins and Ethan Miller

From left: Dave Wassil, Britt Huggins and Ethan Miller. Pigeon Peak (13.978′)  is seen downstream. Note the orange-stained rocks along both shorelines

Meeting the Far Flung gang at a lower put-in

Beside the railways tracks, meeting the Far Flung group at a lower put-in. Pigeon Peak is seen downstream.

The valley narrows ahead

The gorge begins ahead

The first whitewater goes around a couple of tight bends

The first whitewater goes around a couple of tight bends. That’s the railroad directly to the left.

Exiting the first rapids

Exiting the first rapids, upstream view

Typical whitewater on the Animas

Typical continuous Class  3 and 4 whitewater on the Animas, upstream view

Plenty of great scenery

Plenty of great scenery. From left is Steve Harris, Catfish, perhaps Bill Blackstock, and Susan Brantley

Plenty more great scenery

Plenty more great scenery

Approaching the Elk Park train stop and Mount Garfield, which is included in the the Grenadier group

Approaching the Elk Park wilderness train stop and Mount Garfield, which is included in the the Grenadier group

The train, heading upstream

The train, heading upstream

At the top of the Garfield Slide rapid

At the top of the Garfield Slide rapid

Looking back up at the bottom of Garfield Slide rapid

Looking back up at the bottom of Garfield Slide rapid

More continuously dropping whitewater

More continuously dropping whitewater

Fast dropping Class 3 water

More of the same

Looking back at Mount Garfield

Looking back, and upstream, at Mount Garfield

Upstream view

Upstream view. Mount Garfield is still visible upstream.

Class 5 No Name rapid

A Far Flung boat runs Class 5 No Name rapid

Class 5 No Name rapid

Class 5 No Name rapid

With Catfish at the oars, the Far Flung boat completes the run of No Name rapid

With Catfish at the oars, the Far Flung boat completes the run of No Name rapid

 

About believesteve

I am a photographer and have published a book of photography and accompanying text on running the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The first (print) edition is out of print, but a second edition is available as an iBook (eBook) through the iTunes bookstore. All Grand Canyon, river and nature lovers will enjoy my book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-grand/id672492447?ls=1
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