Looking to make a splash in Durango? Consider kayaking in Durango, Colorado on your next trip to the San Juan Mountains. The Lower Animas River is a spirited stretch of water essential to the Four Corners Region’s culture and heritage – and kayaking offers a great adventure for those seeking to paddle, spin and surf their way down these “Gold Medal Waters.”
History Of The Animas River
The Spanish explorers who first charted the region’s landscape named the rushing river “El Rio de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatório: The River of Souls Lost in Purgatory.” Legend has it that the Animas River was originally called El Rio de las Animas Perdidas in commemoration of a regiment of Spanish soldiers that mysteriously disappeared along with a box of gold coins. Today, those who travel the Animas are anything but lost: You’ll find lots of information and resources available to help you plan your next Durango kayak trip.
Know Before You Go Kayaking in Durango
Though the Lower Animas River is much tamer than the wild Upper Animas, you’ll find that kayaking here is an exciting river adventure full of heart-pumping thrills. You’ll definitely get wet when kayaking in Durango, and it’s essential to have strong swimming skills before you pick up a paddle.
Choosing Your Kayak
Kayaking on the Animas River can give you an adrenaline rush like you’ve never experienced before. You’ll likely find several kinds of kayaks at Durango’s river outfitter shops. Popular options among Durango kayakers include: inflatable kayaks, whitewater kayaks, fishing kayaks and hobby kayaks. The boat you choose determines the ride you experience as you paddle down the Animas River.
Many guides and paddlers say that inflatable kayaks, sometimes called “duckies,” offer the best of both worlds by combining the experience of both a whitewater raft and a kayak. Single and tandem options are available. These crafts are appropriate for beginners and offer a safe ride down the Animas River and her class II and III rapids.
More experienced paddlers seeking a bigger thrill might opt to conquer the Animas in a hard shell whitewater kayak. These crafts aren’t for newbies: Most Durango kayak rental shops require that you prove your kayaking skills before they’ll allow you to book your trip. To rent a whitewater kayak in Durango, you’ll likely be asked to demonstrate that you have the skills necessary to roll your kayak – or to right a capsized kayak without losing control of the boat or your paddles. Rolling a kayak doesn’t require any special strength; just skills and experience.
If you’re new to kayaking, it might be smart to hit the books before you hit the river. Paddle schools offered by many of the region’s river outfitters can help you make sure you have the skills you need to play it safe while having fun on the water.
Conquering the River
Kayaking the Lower Animas River starts with putting in at one of the region’s many river access points. The Animas River starts its stretch near Silverton and flows until its confluence with the San Juan River in New Mexico. Even with its long run, the most popular stretches for kayakers are right here in Durango.
Many kayakers choose to put in at the 32nd Street put-in on the north side of Durango. From here, folks paddle down about 5 miles, exit the river and take the River Trail to a Trolley Stop back to their cars parked at the put-in site. This trip lets you be back in time for dinner and maxes out with the Class III Smelter Rapids. Other popular places to put-in include parks and river access sites around town:
- 33rd Street (parking here can be limited)
- 29th Street at Memorial Park
- Santa Rita Park (Whitewater Park for skilled paddlers)
- Cundiff Park “4 Corners Take out”
- High Bridge
- Dallabetta Park
Ready to make a splash? It’s time to experience the magic and spirit of Durango’s Animas for yourself! Choose your craft, pick up a paddle and soak in the Durango kayak experience!