Oh hey there! Nice to see you again!
So this is my take on how to fully enjoy our beautiful Animas River.
First: you can walk the Animas River Trail which is a great activity any time of day (if you don’t like the heat I would not suggest avoiding 11- 3 pm). Make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and water. A hot Colorado summer is something that should be taken seriously so do not push yourself.
Here’s how I would start on the trail. For a nice morning walk, get to the small parking lot at E 3rd Ave and 29th street around 9 am. You will see the paved river trail where you can start your merry little walk. Follow the path along the river until you reach a bridge. To continue on the trail, cross the brigde or get off the beaten path by going straight on the dirt path. This will lead you to a few nice little beach areas (depending on time and day of the week, these beaches could be overrun with college-age kids). Do not continue on the path when it starts to ascend away from the river. You will find yourself hot, tired and in the middle of a Durango neighborhood.
Once you cross the bridge you can either take a left or right. Right: you will end up at the Durango Rec Center. Left: continues along the river, towards downtown.
Be sure to wave at any rafters that may be on the river that day! Everyone is neighborly in Durango so we enjoy when people wave or cheer to those on the river & vice-versa. Soon you will pass over Junction creek which is a good place to dip your toes in if you are feeling a little hot. Next you will pass the Durango Public Library which is always a good place to stop in and maybe look at some good books or find a recommendation. After the next bridge you will be approaching Rotary Park. There is a bench on a grassy knoll just to the left of the bridge that is great for a picnic or just to rest for a minute. Rotary Park is a gorgeous little park that is tucked away and is perfect for a sunny afternoon picnic or to just lie out on the grass. Sometimes we will have festivals in the park and the gazebo is a great place to take pictures. Near the park you will find Animas Brewing Company so if you are feeling a need for a snack or a beer, stop in.
Continueing on, you will pass under Camino Del Rio and behind China Café (which is one of the few places in Durango that has a patio overlooking the Animas River). You will soon find you can go straight to continue along the river or turn right to cross a bridge, continue along the river (over the bridge the trail will dead end at W Park Ave). You will cross a bridge up ahead that will bring you to Schneider Skate Park. When you hit West 9th St you'll go over another bridge and can exit the path to get to downtown Durango or go right to continue along the trail.
If you decide to continue further you will eventually pass behind the Durango Downtown Inn, Albertsons and then the Double Tree by Hilton before the trail heads out of town. Personally, I like the stretch from the Durango Rec Center to 9th street. This is also where I have floated down an inner tube.
Now here is what you do to float the river.
The first thing I would suggest if you want to go on a raft trip is to find one of our many rafting companies and book a trip with them. Mild to Wild is one of my favorites!
If you want to attempt going down on your own here is what you need to do.
THE FIRST THING IS TO CHECK THE USGS WEBSITE FOR RIVER WARNINGS!
Say “I, (state your name), will never float the Animas River by myself and will not go with a group before I check the USGS website for river warnings.”
I learned this the hard way. I know shocking, a girl 21 years of age not fully being informed about floating the river and just going on a whim with her friends for fun. Do not make the same mistake. I currently have a scrape on my backside from a rock. The river may seem more fun while it’s full, but it’s a lot more dangerous. This is not for the faint of heart at high-water. I would suggest going when the water is at 500 CFS and around 60 degrees on a hot day. Do not go when it is 2500 CFS and 40 degrees. You will have one heck of a ride and when you get off the river you will want to kiss the ground you are standing on.
The best section of the river to float in a tube would be the stretch from the 32nd Street put in to the 9th street bridge (given the ideal conditions stated above).
Wear a swim suit that will stay put. Do not wear your sexy little strapless bikini or your board shorts that are too big. You do not want to be worrying about your clothing whilst navigating the river. Also before you put on your swimsuit, put on sunscreen everywhere. Lock yourself in the bathroom, take off all your clothes, and put it on. This way you don’t have any of those burned spots that are around the edges of your swim suit. And make sure to use a high enough SPF and an actual sunscreen lotion. The spray does not work as well as the lotion. I know it’s faster to spray, but your skin will thank you later if you use lotion that is water and sweat resistant. Once you get that all rubbed in and it’s had adequate time to soak in, put on your swim suit and a loose fitting pair of shorts and a t-shirt or a sundress. You don’t want to wear anything tight because it might rub off your sunscreen (sorry, nix the really tight, tiny jean shorts, because they will rub off the sunscreen and you will end up with bright red thighs). I know this from experience.
Next, find a good, filling breakfast and meet up with your group to make a plan. Where are your starting and stopping points? Who has keys that can go in water? Who has a big enough car to carry the tubes? Park the car that has water proof keys at the end spot. Make sure you are wearing close toed shoes that can get wet because if you do fall out, the rocks hurt a lot and we would like you to come out of the water with all ten toes. Wear some old tennis shoes or water shoes. Do not wear flip flops. You will lose them and they don't protect your tootsies. It wouldnt hurt to bring a helmet and PFD depending on water-level and age.
When you get to the start spot, make sure you have the right keys and that your tubes are inflated. You can either go down individual or if possible you can tie your floats together. This makes you less likely to flip but you are heavier and harder to maneuver. We just had a few inner tubes that we tied together and even though we didn’t flip it was really hard to move to where we needed to go. Take your chances with either method.
Once you get in make a plan and make sure to keep a look out for your ending spot, any rocks or obstacles in the river, and other rafters. Also if you see some rapids up ahead that you are not comfortable with either try to get off the river and walk around or if you are feeling brave and you are an expert rafter, go through the calmest park. Once you see your ending point coming up, try to paddle to that side of the river and find a good place to come ashore. This isn’t always the easiest park so make sure to be careful and have a plan for dismount.
Once you are on shore you might feel a little shaky and cold. It’s nice to leave a towel or two in the cars you left at the ending point so that during the day they are warmed by the sun and when you get back to them, you can dry off with a warm towel. I’d say after, go get the other car, check for any bumps, bruises or scrapes and treat them accordingly. Go home, eat something and take a nap. This was hard work so you need to take a break.
Well reader this is how I would enjoy the Animas River! Make sure to check weather and river conditions before you head out and make sure to always play it safe. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and here in Durango we would like you to have a good time and come back and visit again with us!
So would you walk or raft the animas river after this? What else do you think would be good to know before heading out or after you get back?
As always I am open to your suggestion, questions or comments about anything I have said. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear what you have to say!
Have a peachy day on the Animas River and be safe out there!