History of Durango

Early History
The Anasazi, also known as the Pueblo Indians, are generally accepted as the first identifiable people group in the area. Archeologists believe they were settled there before Europeans landed in North America. The adobe cliff homes that they built are still standing, and bear testimony to a culture that disappeared around 1300.

The Ute Indians, which still live in the area, may have been the motivation for the Pueblo Indians to build their strong homes. Some believe that the Utes traveled down the east side of the mountains to get there. They may have been looking for food.

The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad established the town of Durango, Colorado in 1880 when ore was discovered in the San Juan Mountains. Passenger service came into being two years later. At that time, the men who worked on the railroad earned $2.25 per day. The town was named for the Animas River that flows through the town. "El Rio de las Animas Perdidas" was the full name, and it meant "The River of Lost Souls"in Spanish.

Mesa Verde National Park
This park was founded by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. It is a veritable treasure chest of Pueblo culture and history, and has 5000 protected archaeological sites. You can hit the highlights in less than a day, but you will not regret lingering longer. The children's program in the park registers children ages four to twelve to be Junior Rangers. The children receive an activity booklet, and may be awarded a Junior Ranger badge for doing well on the projects.

Durango and Silverton Railroad
This narrow gauge railroad was finished in 1887 and was intended to be both a picturesque trip for passengers, and a way to carry gold and silver ore from the mines. Around the time of World War I, due to multiple natural disasters and tapped out mines, the Silverton Railroad was shut down. It almost became a bit of forgotten history. In the late 1960s, the railroad became a National Historic Landmark. It was not until the 80s that the railroad chugged back to life as a tourist attraction.

Historic Downtown Durango
You won't want to overlook downtown Durango. You will find many historic buildings in the town. The railroad depot and the Strater Hotel are two of them. Louis Lamour chose the Strater as the place where he wrote his western series about the Sacketts.