Local History Timeline

**Click on the images for more information.**

10,000 BCE to 300 BCE

Paleoindians and Archaic peoples passed through the Animas Valley, hunting for big game and gathering plants.

Archaic Sandal

300 BCE to 500 CE

Basketmaker II peoples were living and farming year round in the Animas Valley.

Projectile point

1100 CE

Ancestral Puebloans start building the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, they are abandoned by 1285.

Cliff Palace


Juan Maria Antonio de Rivera, searching for gold and silver, names the Rio de los Animas.

Pre 1874

The Utes had summer camps and hunted throughout the Animas Valley.

Ute camp

August 8 & 9, 1776

Franciscan friars Francisco Dominquez and Silvestre Escalante pass through today’s La Plata County on their expedition to find an overland route from Santa Fe to Monterey, California.

1829 - 1848

Traders and travelers from Santa Fe pass through La Plata County on the Old Spanish Trail en route to California.

Learn more about the Old Spanish Trail.


Baker Party arrives in Animas Valley.

Bakers Bridge sign


Brunot Agreement signed by President Grant: Utes cede land in San Juan Mountains for mining and settlement.

September 6, 1876

Plat of Animas City filed in the United States Land Office, Lake City, Colorado.

Learn more about the history of Animas City.

September 13, 1880

First surveyor stake driven in Durango.

November 1880

Durango has 11 saloons, 7 hotels and no churches.

Early Durango view


Fort Lewis moves to a site near Hesperus.

Learn more about Fort Lewis.

April 11, 1881

Henry Moorman hanged by the "Committee of Safety" after shooting James Prindle in the Coliseum Dance Hall.

Hanging tree in Durango

July 28, 1881

Denver & Rio Grande Railroad arrives in Durango.

Learn more about the D&RG and play Railroad Bingo

November 1881

Durango named La Plata County seat (moved from Parrott City).

Parrott City

July 1882

Denver & Rio Grande railroad reaches Silverton.

D&RG train on Highline

August 1882

San Juan Smelter moved to Durango from Silverton.

New York and San Juan Smelter

December 28, 1882

Trimble Hot Springs Resort opens with a grand ball.

Trimble Hot Springs

December 16, 1883

The First National Bank of Durango was almost robbed.

First National Bank

January 15, 1887

Electric arc lights illuminate Durango's streets.

Learn more about electricity in Durango.

July 1, 1889

The Great Fire destroys much of downtown Durango.

Durango after the fire

December 20, 1891

Rio Grande Southern railroad arrives in Durango.

Rio Grande Southern train


Silver Panic destroys much of the economy of SW Colorado.

June 1, 1899

Durango's only major labor dispute occurs when the smelter workers go on strike.

Workers at the smelter


Construction begins on Animas City School.

Animas City School

June 3, 1905

San Juan National Forest created.

Learn more about the San Juan National Forest

January 9, 1906

Marshal Stansel (at right) fatally shoots Sheriff Thompson.

Jesse Stansel right

June 1906

Mesa Verde established as a national park with the signing of the Antiquities Act by Theodore Roosevelt.

August 18, 1906

The town of Bayfield was incorporated.

Town of Bayfield


Tacoma Power Plant opens sending power to the Gold King mine in Silverton.

Tacoma Power Plant

November 3, 1907

Secret Service Agent Joseph A. Walker assassinated at the Hesperus Coal Mine: the first agent to be killed in an investigation.

Joseph Walker


Two tracts of land, owned by H.L. Hall and Hans Aspaas were joined to form the town of Ignacio.

Aspaas Store at Ignacio

October 5-6, 1911

Worst flood in the history of Durango and La Plata County.

Animas Bridge at flood

October 31, 1919

Fire destroys the roof of the Animas City School.

Firetruck in Animas City

September 14, 1941

Vallecito Dam dedicated.


During World War II, the smelter (closed in 1930) was reactivated to process pitchblende, vanadium, and carnotite ores into uranium.

January 1, 1948

Ordinance Number 227 takes effect--Animas City annexed to Durango.

May 30, 1957

Fort Lewis College officially dedicated at its new location atop Reservoir Hill overlooking Durango.

Vist their website.

Summer 1967

Animas City School closes at the end of the 1966-1967 school year.

Class on school steps

August 13, 1980

The Animas Museum is officially dedicated with President Ford in attendance.

President Ford at Museum dedication

October 2019

Animas City School building is added to the National Register.

Dedication of National Register Plaque

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