Located in an area with a road network connecting mountain towns, the land on which Animas Forks sits on is managed by the Bureau of Land Management or the U.S. Forest Service. The road network connecting the mountain town in this area is known as the Alpine Loop and these towns include Silverton, Lake City and Ouray.
It is estimated that more than 100,000 individuals visit the Alpine Loop on a yearly basis. There is an unimproved road that is passable by two-wheel drive vehicles in summer from Silverton to Animas Forks but if you are planning to go to Lake City via Engineer Pass, a four-wheel drive will be most appropriate.
In 1873, the first log cabin in this town was built and by 1876, this town was a busy mining town with a post office, a general store, 30 cabins, a hotel and a saloon. The town’s newspaper was called Animas Forks Pioneer and lasted four years after it began publication in 1882. This was until October 1886 when publication of this paper ceased.
Being a cold environment, residents here would move in their masses to Silverton every fall, which was quite warm at the time but what seems to be the height of the extreme weather condition at Animas Forks was the blizzard that hit the town in 1884, lasting a period of 23 days. The situation was so severe such that residents had to use tunnels to access one building after the other once they had dug the tunnels.
The processing mills in this area and a lot of speculation helped this town grow but after some time mining profits declined before construction of Gold Prince Mill in 1904, which caused the economy of Animas Forks to make a comeback. Also stimulating growth once again, was the rail line that passed through the town though in the long run whatever it was expected to achieve, was never realized.
Gold Prince Mill finally closed business in 1910, its major parts were removed and dedicated to a new mill in Eureka in 1917 and by the 1920s Animas Forks was already a ghost town. A grant that was given by the Colorado State Historical Fund to San Juan County that helped stabilize the structures that remained after this town was deserted between 1997 and 1998. This was in cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management.
This town has since been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and a comprehensive restoration of buildings was done between 2013 and 2014 with completion coming at a time when the 25th Anniversary of the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway was due. Animas Forks is now a popular tourist attraction with many sceneries and buildings to explore including the Animas Forks jail which is still standing strong as the oldest building in the area.
This jail structure now has an interpretive sign on it after its gable roof was reconstructed in 2014 just to give more details of what the town was like in its hay days and therefore, there is a lot to see and learn for visitors to the place.