Thursday, August 18, 2011

Animas River Trail (south)-Durango

The Animas River Trail runs for about 6.75 miles connecting many riverside park and recreation areas in the Durango area in southwest Colorado. The trail continues to lengthen over the years with some of the newest extensions being on the south end.

Visitors to Durango can easily access the Animas River Trail near the midpoint at Santa Rita Park, about 0.5 miles south of the junction of Highways 550 and 160. In the summer, rafts and kayaks are often visible in this stretch of river near the Whitewater Park. From the park, there is a nearly equal distance of trail leading north or south.

The segment leading south to the Durango Mall is more in wooded riparian stream-side habitat than most of the trail segments. There is a short side trail at one point leading to some Flintstones style rock slab picnic tables. There is an interpretive sign describing the site of the Weidman Sawmill, which operated during the mining era and continued until the 1970s.

There are good river views from the new trail bridge that is a short distance south of the Durango Mall. The interpretive sign on the bridge describes the Gold Medal trout fishing on the Animas River.

The six stages of the life of a trout are briefly described. The life stage terms used include redds, alevins, fry, and parr before becoming mature. Fishermen are urged to give the hard working trout a break and avoid casting over the spawning areas, March for the Rainbow Trout and October for the Brown Trout.

Toward the south end of the trail, there are views across the stream toward the rock formation known as the Purple Cliffs. There is a road bridge with a pedestrian lane across the river leading to the small Dallabetta Park that is the current south end of the Animas River Trail.

It took me about 1:30 hours, one way, to walk the south trail segments from Santa Rita Park, about 3.5 miles. In August 2011, there is some trail reconstruction behind the Durango Mall that causes a detour.

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