Upper #AnimasRiver: A whitewater hidden gem — The Durango Herald

No Name Rapid, Class V, mile 10, Upper Animas River, Mountain Waters Rafting.
No Name Rapid, Class V, mile 10, Upper Animas River, Mountain Waters Rafting.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo):

For years, the railroad has offered to haul boaters and their gear up to one of the four “put-ins” at Silverton, Needleton, Tacoma Power Plant and Rockwood Gorge.

Aside from embarking on a grueling hike – carrying rafts, kayaks, food and, of course, the celebratory beer, the train is about the only way to access the roaring rapids of the Upper Animas.

Then, after taking in the dramatic scenery of the train’s slow ride into the San Juan Mountains, rafters are faced with up to 30 miles of Class IV/V continuous rapids, known for their bitterly cold water, punishing flows and rocky river bottom.

Hundreds of visitors from all over the world each year pay for the experience. Over the years, commercial rafting companies have fine-tuned how they offer trips, slowly edging toward a more cautious approach.

As Mountain Waters founder Casey Lynch explained a few years ago, the Upper Animas is the only two-day, Class V run in the Southwestern United States, with the highest commercial launch in the U.S. at 9,000 feet, which requires travel in an 1880s steam train along the edge of the largest wilderness in Colorado.

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