7 Reasons Durango is Colorado’s Hidden Pot o’ Gold
From mining for it to winning it, Durango is no stranger to gold. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we've compiled a lucky-numbered list of ways Durangoan's have found - and continue to find - this rare treasure. Ádh mór ort!
- Gold Metal Fever: Durango is not only steeped in a rich history of hard rock mining; it was founded on it. When the Neigold brothers staked their claim of the promising Old Hundred Gold Mine north of Silverton in 1872, gold fever officially struck the Animas and the town that would soon unfold 50-miles downstream. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad companies saw these mining camps that had sprung up on the banks of the Animas as the perfect spot to build their next depot. And so, in 1881, the town of Durango was incorporated, thanks to its more tolerable climate and access to water and coal supplies, necessary ingredients for running the smelters that would help to pull the precious metals out of the ores. Panning for gold these days is now a hobby taken seriously by not just bearded men in overalls but by families who travel from as far away as Texas in search of that million-dollar nugget.
- Gold Medal Waters: As one of the last free-flowing rivers in Colorado, the Animas River is rife with smart, strong rainbow and brown trout happily feasting on a bounty of sculpin and caddisflies. The headwaters for this lively ecosystem begin in meadows off the flanks of Cinnamon Mountain north of Silverton. As it makes its way to the Animas Valley, the river is joined by streams pouring from the mighty Needle Mountains. The Animas eventually meets with the San Juan River just south of the New Mexico border, which eventually feeds into the Colorado River. As it passes through the heart of Durango, the Animas boasts four miles of Gold Medal Waters between Lightner Creek and Rivera Crossing Bridge. To meet this high standard, a river must be accessible to the public and able to produce a minimum of 12 quality (that is, 14+ inches) trout per acre and 60 pounds of standing stock (that is, living organisms, including fish, plant life and micro invertebrates) per acre. In the 1950's, an angler wrestled a 20-pound trout from the Animas to set the state record!
- Gold Medal Beer: Beer: the nectar of the gods and the water of life for many a Durangoan. This other type of gold medal water flowing in Durango is enhanced with hops and infused with passion. A jackpot for craft-beer lovers, Durango swanks six breweries within city limits: Ska Brewing, Brew, Animas Brewing Company, Steamworks, Carver Brewing Company, and Durango Brewing Company. These breweries don't just brew gold; they win it, too. From Steamworks Steam Engine Lager, which took home gold at the 2016 World Beer Cup, to Ska's True Blonde at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, these smile-inducing beverages come in pints, cans, growlers and kegs fit for kings. Onto the next sudsy chapter of Durango's history soaked in all things gold... Cheers!
- Gold Medal Athletes: With some of the steepest terrain in the West, a dedicated nonprofit trails maintenance organization (Trails2000), and a community defined by competition, it's little surprise that the outdoor recreationists' paradise of Durango touts more national, world and Olympic athletes than any other town in the US. While we've yet to have an athlete bring home Olympic gold, the droves of skiers, mountain bikers, cyclists, and ultrarunners keep swooping in to train on Colorado's toughest topography. At 6,512-feet above sea level, conditions are prime for working the lungs hard before taking them to compete against the world's top athletes at lower elevations. Ask any of these athletes with their eyes on the prize why they choose Durango: turns out it's not just the training potential but the gold-medal quality of life.
- Gold in Your Pocket: Voted one of the Best Places to Start a Business in Colorado (Nerd Wallet, 2015), Durango is home to more than 3,800 businesses ranging from technology start-ups to dog treateries. One of the most successful companies, Mercury (now Vantiv), grew to over 400 employees before selling for $1.65 billion in 2014. Home to Fort Lewis College and a bright community overflowing with PhD's, Durango clearly takes a pro-entrepreneurial mindset and serves to encourage folks to pursue their money-making dreams. From one of the state's first co-working spaces (DurangoSpace) to mentoring programs, like SCAPE, Durango is becoming a hotbed for hard workers who want to make sure they still have time to fly-fish these Gold Medal Waters and sip some golden beers.
- Golden Foliage: When Sunset Magazine gave Durango a coveted nod in their Top Spots for Fall Color (2013), nary a local batted an eye. Because, duh, of course the San Juan Mountains are the place to be come late September. Thanks to our elevation and climate, leaves turn a bit earlier than other parts of the country. The color of choice? Why, gold, of course! Aware that light is lessening as winter approaches, deciduous trees cut off their chlorophyll supply to leaves so they can save their energy for the colder months ahead. During this transition, a sea of golden aspens gilds the hillsides of the San Juan Skyway. Leaf peepers try their darndest to time an excursion for the peak, and the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad even takes riders on a photography experience like no other in late September to commemorate the culmination.
- Golden Years: Besides winning mention in publications like National Geographic, Outside Magazine, and Travel + Leisure for Best Ski Destination, Best Bike Shops, and Best Place to Spend Christmas, Durango is also considered an enchanting destination for lovers. Voted into Sunset Magazine's Top 20 Romantic Getaways, Durango serves as the ideal backdrop for first dates, weddings, honeymoons, and even 60-year anniversaries. From riding horseback through snowy woods in winter to sharing a picnic in a field of wildflowers on a blue-bird summer's day, this hamlet doesn't lose its shine as the years roll by. Here's to never fading, Durango!
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