Animas Forks history

Situated at 11.200 feet above sea level, the town of Animas forks once laid claim to the title ”The largest city in the world” with the small print reading “at this altitude”.

The once prosperous mining camp also held the only newspaper ever printed at such a high altitude in the United States – The Animas Forks Pioneer”.

A former gold town

In 1873 prospectors built the first log cabin in what was then called “Three Forks of the Animas”. They came in search of silver and gold. The town grew and in 1875 changed its name to Animas Forks by request of the Post Office Department.

In 1883 around 450 people were living in Animas forks during the summer. The town held several stores, saloons, a hotel and two assay offices. Eventually the town came to have electricity, telephone and telegraph.

There were five to seven mines around the town, producing galena and silver-bearing gray copper. In addition to mining, speculation and processing mills helped Animas Forks grow.

Rough conditions

Most residents left the town during the winter months, usually for the town of Silverton. In 1884 sources claim a 23 day blizzard completely isolated the town, burying the houses under a 25 feet snow-cover. The residents reportedly had to dig tunnels in the snow to move from house to house.


The “Animas Forks Pioneer” published its last issue in October of 1886 and in 1891 a big fire ravaged the town. The pace of life was beginning to slow.At the end of the century several of the most productive mines were beginning to peter out forcing the closure of some of the town’s mills. In 1904 the town felt a brief revival with the construction of the Gold Prince Mill.

The Gold Prince Mill

To that time it was the most expensive mill ever built in Colorado, at a price of 500 000 USD. Ore was brought to the mill from the Gold Prince mine in buckets on a 12000 ft long cable tramway. The Mill processed over 500 tons of ore a day.

The same year an extension was made to the Silverton Northern railroad, connecting Animas Forks to both Silverton and Eureka. The railway carried the refined ore concentrates from the mill to Silverton. The Gold Prince mill would only be operational for six years, closing down in 1910. Most of the mills major parts were salvaged and used in the Sunnyside mill in Eureka in 1917.

After the disassembly of the mill Animas Forks led a dying existence and the final blow came in the early 1920´s when metal prices fell all across the world, transforming Animas Forks into the Ghost town it is today.

Why visit Animas Forks ?

The ghost town of Animas Forks is a place one has to visit on order to fully grasp its charm. The area is stacked with old wooden cottages and cabins, used by the gold miners during its peak.

Visitors to Animas Forks can also find the remains of old mines and processing equipment. It’s a site which, even though it speaks nothing, has a lot to tell its visitors.

Animas Forks location

Animas Forks is located in central United States, 19 kilometers northeast of Silverton in San Juan County, Colorado. Animas Forks can be accessed by car. The unimproved road from Silverton to Animas Forks is passable in summer by two-wheel drive vehicles.

However, beyond Animas Forks, the road over Engineer Pass to Lake City recommends four-wheel drive. For the exact location of Animas Forks, check out the location map to the right!

Animas Forks Video

Write A Comment