Animas - 03. Silverton to Tacoma

Animas, Colorado, US


03. Silverton to Tacoma (Upper Animas)

Usual Difficulty IV-V (for normal flows)
Avg. Gradient 80 fpm

Garfield Slide

Garfield Slide
Photo of Mike Giddings by Harry House taken 06/04/97 @ 3600 cfs

Gauge Information

Name Range Difficulty Updated Level
usgs-09359020 300 - 2000 cfs IV-V 65d09h30m 68.9 cfs (too low)

River Description

LOGISTICS: The put-in at Silverton is on Mineral Creek south of town where Hwy. 550 crosses the creek. Alternatively you can put in directly on the Animas along the train tracks to the southeast of town. The take-out is at Rockwood and can be reached where Hwy. 200 turns off to the east from Hwy. 550. You have three options once you reach Tacoma Powerplant all of which take you to a parking spot near the Rockwood rail yard. You can continue boating downstream into the more challenging Rockwood Box (if you decide on this option you must scout the take-out or go with someone who knows the run to make sure you do not enter the unrunnable lower box), catch the train from Tacoma to the Rockwood Rail Yard (check to make sure you can put your gear on the train), or you can hike out along the tracks. This final option is considered trespassing and is only normally done after the last train passes through for the day. This is a long shuttle especially if you are planning to do the run in one day. Consider a two-day trip, run your shuttle the night before, or plan for a very long day.

DESCRIPTION: With more than 24 miles of continuous class IV whitewater, the Animas is one of the finest day trips in the U.S. The run has a definite wilderness character but the narrow gauge railroad that runs up the valley provides convenient access for those who get in a little over their heads or non-paddling friends who want to meet up with you through the run (have someone bring in the camping gear and you can make a great overnight trip).

The run starts in the old mining town of Silverton and then gradually builds as you head downstream. You'll find long rollercoaster rides of wave trains with many holes to avoid. Most of the rapids are straightforward class IV and free of obvious hazards. Due to the continuous nature of the run and challenge of rescue along with the very cold water temperature (even when it's t-shirt weather in Durango), swims can be serious and this river is no place for anyone with a shaky roll. There have been fatalities on this run.

There are three primary rapids that deserve special attention and rate class V-. Boaters should recognize something big coming up and if you have any question in your abilities to recognize these drops it's best to go with someone who knows the run. They are Garfield Slide, No Name Falls, and Broken Bridge. All can be scouted from river right and the railroad grade provides a convenient portage trail.

After Broken Bridge you have several more miles of excellent and continuous whitewater. Once you reach the Tacoma Powerplant and the railroad trestle overhead you have three basic options as described in the logistics: keep boating (only if you're hungry for additional challenge and have scouted the take-out), take the train out, or if it's after the last train you'll have to hike out along the tracks.

For additional information see: Banks, G. and D. Eckhardt. 1999. Colorado Rivers and Creeks, 2nd edition.


StreamTeam Status: Not Verified
Last Updated: 2017-07-11 16:15:14


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Rapid Descriptions

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User Comments

Users can submit comments.
February 28 2003 (5805 days ago)
Michael GiddingsDetails
A couple of notes to add to Tom's excellent
Above about 3,500 CFS, those class V- rapids
become more like class V rapids, particularly
No Name, with dire swim consequences (a
mile or more of continuous IV+ following).

Also, Tom doesn't mention the Rockwood Box.
It is a notch up in difficulty (and danger) from
the rest of the run. So if you're running the rest
of the river and on your edge, the Box is NOT
recommended. I've run it at 4,500, and that
was the most intense 20 minutes I've spent in
30 years of boating (very different from the run
at 2,500 cfs). I don't know what to call it rating-
wise, but adrenaline-wise it was V++ at the
high water. It's great if you're capable of
staying in control in the box, but rescues at
high water will be impossible and swims
deadly. If in doubt, take one of the alternative
routes out.

Associated Projects

  • Colorado River Access (CO)
    The decades old debate over public use of waterways in Colorado continues, and AW is working to protect the rights of all paddlers to enjoy Colorado's Rivers.
  • Tacoma-Ames Hydro (CO)
    American Whitewater is working to formalize access at the historic Tacoma Hydroelectric Plant on the Animas River. In 2011, FERC issued a licensing order listing AW as a consulting NGO in the case...