Scenic USA - Colorado

Animas Forks

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Duncan/Walsh House - Animas Forks, Colorado

Photos by Roger Gillette
Duncan/Walsh House inset photo by Andy Cook

     One of the most popular highlights on Colorado's Alpine Loop Backcountry Byway, Animas Forks is one of many ghost towns found among the San Juan Mountains. Engineer Pass - Alpine Loop Back Country Byway, Colorado This off-road destination, originally named Three Forks of the Animas, entertains more than 100,000 visitors every year. The back-country loop, covering 65 miles of rugged unpaved road, offers plenty of four-wheeling excitement as well as a connection from Silverton and Ouray to Lake City in the east. The scenic Alpine Loop passes five of the tallest mountain peaks in the San Juans, often called the 14ers.
     Living as close to their claims as possible, prospectors built cabins on the mountainside at an elevation of 11,584 feet. By 1876, just three years after the first miners moved in, Three Forks of the Animas became a bustling community. By 1883 the town's population grew to 450 people, supporting a general store, newspaper, boarding house, saloons, post office and two assay offices. Fraught with a variety of problems at this high elevation, townspeople saw the worst in 1884 when a winter storm dumped 25 feet of snow. Supplies were cut off for over two Duncan/Walsh House - Alpine Loop Back Country Byway, Colorado months by a 23-day blizzard. Residents were forced to dig tunnels through the snow to get from one building to another. The following year most residents wintered over in Silverton.
     Suffering the same fate as many of Colorado's mining towns, when the precious metals were depleted prospectors moved on. Enjoying a brief resurgence in 1904, the Gold Prince Mine began to fizzle in 1910, and by 1917 the mine's equipment was moved out along with the majority of the town's residents. Lately, the bustle has returned to Animas Forks. Having been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, new funds provide an opportunity to stabilize and restore some of the historic structures. One of the most prominent buildings, left in the best condition, is the two story Duncan/Walsh House pictured here in a snowstorm. Built by postman and miner William Duncan in 1879, the wood-frame house features a large bay window. The house was later purchased by Tom Walsh, another area miner. Today the ghost town site is managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and they continue to restore buildings and add interpretive signage.

      Area Map
      BLM Alpine Loop Map (Animas Forks almost centered)


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