The name Durango has an interesting and cloudy history. The
Basque word Urango means "well watered place." The
added D indicates Spanish alteration.
The name had been around the Southwest before the railroad
decided to plot out a town on the Animas River in 1880. A
Durango Mine was already in operation. When Colorado's former
territorial governor A.C. Hunt passed through Durango, Mexico,
on his way to the Animas Valley location, he saw similarities
between the two places and suggested the name. Today, the two
Durangos have become sister cities, joined by Durango, Spain
-- perhaps the ultimate origin of the term.
The Animas River has an equally colorful Spanish
connection. Early explorers named it El Rio de las Animas
Perdidas, River of Lost Souls.
Because of the mineral wealth in the San Juan Mountains,
several small Western towns sprang up with Durango as their
smelting and railroad center. In 1874 gold fever resulted in
the early mining settlement of Silverton, 50 miles north At
the same time Animas City, a farming community, began to
flourish, but lost out to its neighbor two miles to the south,
Durango, as the transportation hub of the area.
A new narrow gauge steam railroad connected mining in the
north with coal and smelting operations in Durango. Within a
year of its founding, Durango had a population of 2,000.
Today tourism drives Durango's economy, and the Durango
& Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad continues to follow the
spectacular Animas Valley route created more than 100 years