- The Animas is a rather large river by southwestern Colorado standards, but unlike other large rivers which are sometimes not as beautiful, the Animas is gorgeous. The Animas is popular with both fishermen and whitewater enthusiasts. Fishermen love it because the chances of landing a trophy are as good here as anywhere in western Colorado. Those who enjoy the Animas' rapids enjoy its varied opportunities, which include class II through IV. The Upper Animas is a gorgeous, long run with plenty of challenge even for expert boaters, and the Town Run is a perfect stretch for a short afternoon run.
Recreation - Mining operations have contaminated some of the upper river with heavy metals. Fortunately, by the time the river flows through the city of Durango its been diluted by feeder streams and is a fine fishery.
Starting about nine miles north of Durango the river meanders and in some places is deep, slow, large, open, and generally windy. There is public access to the river through the city and three miles downstream to the "Purple Cliffs" below town.
Water for the Animas comes from a huge drainage area and is affected by snowmelt and summer storms. During heavy snow years the Animas may not clear until July and can be high and roily throughout the caddis hatches. The heavy runoff usually lasts until mid-June, so the river starts fishing very well when it is high and clearing. Durango summers are warm and midday fishing is slow. Things really pick up in the fall when the browns are spawning. The Animas is also a good winter fishery with a surprising number of moderate days. Water temperatures near forty degrees usually mean good fishing.
In the case of boating, the Upper Animas is not too difficult, but difficult in places; long, but short enough to run in a day; wilderness, yet paralleled by a narrow gauge train; the Upper Animas flows through the heart of the majestic San Juan Mountains.
The Upper Animas is a Class IV between 1,000 and 2,500 c.f.s. and a class IV+ when the flows are greater 2,500 c.f.s. The put-in is at Silverton and the takeout is at the Rockwood R.R. depot. The average gradient is 80 per mile.
The run is spit into thirds by the major drops: Garfield Slide, No Name Falls and Broken Bridge. The kicker to the Upper Animas comes at the end in the form of a two-mile section of canyon known as the First Rockwood Box. Paddlers who do not consider themselves experts should take-out before the canyon. But for the expert paddler, the Rockwood Box is the just reward at the end of a long run.
The Animas as it runs through Durango is known as the Durango Town Run. The town run has four main features: Smelter Rapid, Santa Rita Hole, a great set of haystacks, and finally the town. The town run rates as Class III whitewater. This run is relatively short at just 5 miles. The put-ins are at 32nd or 9th streets, and the take-outs are at Four Corners Sports or High Bridge.
Climate - The Animas River is situated in high mountainous altitudes. Persons coming from lower elevations should be aware that time is needed to adjust to the higher elevations. The water in the spring comes from snow run-off, so it will be cold. Be prepared with wet suits through the Spring, early Summer months.
Warm days and cool to freezing nights can be expected in the mountains during the summer. July and August are usually the warmest months. During this time afternoon thunderstorms are common. Be prepared for both warm and chilly weather, as well as for rain showers.
Being at high elevation and fueled mainly by melting snow, the Animas is a rather cold river. During the spring runoff the river is full of freshly melted snow, and the temperature of the water is especially cold.
Please make sure that you dress appropriately when participating in whitewater sports. Wear shoes that can protect feet if you bounce off rocks or walk out of a canyon in the event of an accident. Wet suits are mandatory when air and water temperature added together total 100 degrees or less. If total is less than 80 degrees, a full set of waterproof or wool garments on top of the wet suit should be worn.
To get to the Animas, head to southern Colorado and make your way to either Highway 160, which runs east to west, or take scenic Highway 550 which runs north to south. Both get you to Durango, but the latter runs along the upper section of the river.