A Brief History of Durango
In the southwestern pocket of Colorado lies a town whose story lies just beneath its mountainous exterior. Our story starts in 1765 as a group of conquistadors, lead by Juan Maria de Rivera, ventured into the present day American South West to discover lands in the name of Spain. The legend says that many of the adventures lost their lives along the banks of the Animas, or the El Río de las Ánimas Perdidas en Purgatorio (The River of Lost Souls in Purgatory). It was also said that the ruins of the ancient pueblo civilization, who mysteriously disappeared in 1300 c.e, on the shores of the animas made the explorers uneasy thus giving the Animas her title. The land stayed mostly populated by the Ute natives until about 1860 when a prospector discovered gold in the San Juan Mountains due north of present day Durango. This caused a population boom of miners, farmers, prospectors, and family established homes to take root in Durango. Come 1880 plans were drafted up to put railroads, rail yards, and rail stations through Durango and also set up Main, 2nd, and 3rd avenue. A year after the railroad’s were installed Durango had 134 businesses open their doors, including a doctor, multiple saloons, and many news papers. The rail road made Durango a hot spot for the Rio Grande’s San Juan extension. During the winter and the spring of 1881-1882 railroad crews blasted a hole through the northern mountains, built bridges over swollen rivers and connected Durango to Silverton (a smaller mining town with “silver by the ton”) by July of 1882. This 8 month feat was recognized by the American Society of Engineers as a National Historic Civil Engineer Landmark in 1968. During and after this period Durango began to bloom. Trimble hot springs opened their first hotel, and within a few years Durango had its first Victorian building, the Strater Hotel, open its doors. In 1906 the creation of the Mesa Verde National Park opened tourist’s minds to the possibilities of the Animas River Valley. The tourism boomed until the Great Depression, in which Durango suffered along with the rest of the country. With the onset of WWII Durango supported the efforts with their mining, and farming. The 1950’s brought on another economic boom and Durango opened Fort Lewis College, which went from a 2 year agriculture school to the 4 year college it is today. The College and the Purgatory Ski Resort, now known as Durango Mountain Resort, helped land Durango as a long standing tourist destination for the Southwest.
Present day Durango is now a town filled with nature enthusiasts, hiking, hunting, biking, rock climbing, mountaineering, and whitewater rafting. Come join Southwest Raft and Jeep and discover what secrets Durango has to offer in its rivers and cliffs!
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To reserve your rafting trip, or to find out more information about our adventure packages and other exciting outdoor services, please contact us today at 970-259-8313 or swing into our office located at 305 S. Camino Del Rio, Suite V in the Office Depot Complex.
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