The stretch of the Animas River in and around downtown Durango is fairly calm, offering a few gentler rapids including Smelter, Pinball, and Santa Rita Hole. Rafting companies take out travelers aged 5 and older from May to September; during this time, you can also go tubing on your own. City-operated shuttles run from the take-out at 9th Street at Schneider Park to the put-in near the Recreation Center, which offers free air fills for tubes.
For those preferring rod and reel, the 4-mile (6.4-kilometer) stretch of river just south of town has become well-known for its Gold Medal rainbow and brown trout, or you can head up to the San Juan’s high mountain creeks and test your luck.
Things to know before you go
The river can be low in late summer, and that’s when tubing is your best bet.
Go with a guide to better your experience. Outfitters for everything from fly fishing to tubing can be found in Durango, concentrating on Main Avenue.
For anglers, go with a guide to avoid needing your own fishing license. Otherwise, you can get one online from the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website.
Regardless of your activity, check the forecast and the river’s water levels before heading out, as water levels can fluctuate quickly.
How to get there
In Durango, you’ll see signs for the river, and there are several public access points and launch sites at parks including Santa Rita Park, Cundiff Park, and Dallabetta Park. Of course, there are many rafting, fishing, and kayaking outfitters who’d love to take you out for a guided experience and provide round-trip transport. Beyond that, there’s also the Animas River Trail & Greenway, a scenic 7-mile (11.3-kilometer) paved stretch that follows the water and travels right through Durango.
When to get there
When to hit up the Animas River entirely depends on what you’re looking to do. For tubing, consider summer into fall; for kayaking and paddling, plan to go between May and September. And lucky for anglers, the river never freezes, so technically you can fish year-round—just avoid the spring run-off around April and May.
Enjoying the Animas River by land
For those looking to experience the Animas from solid ground, you have several options. The famed Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad follows the water, giving you fabulous views from the old-school viewing cars. At spots like Schneider Park in Durango, there are picnic pavilions, benches, and even a pedestrian bridge to get safely on top of the currents. You can also walk, run, or bike the aforementioned 7-mile (11.3-kilometer) Animas River Trail & Greenway, a multi-use trail with consistently stellar views.