“Surely a good beginning is more than half the whole,” Aristotle tells us. Beginning your journey on the San Juan Skyway in the town of Durango certainly qualifies as a good beginning. Durango represents all of the superlative attributes of Southwest Colorado and the San Juan Mountains. Maybe the best description of Durango was given by local Durango Herald columnist Mike Smedley in his 14 Feb 11 column: “Durango is a train town, a ski town, a college town, a kayak town, a boomtown, an energy town, a tourist town, a cowboy town, a mountain town, a cycling town—a town of a thousand faces and innumerable possibilities. Durango is a place so many aspire to and a place so many draw inspiration from.” With all of those aspects, Durango is a place that’s easy to make your own.
As the quote indicates, Durango was first and foremost a train town. Founded in 1881 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG), the railway came to the area to service the San Juan mining district. Originally, the D&RG planned to put their depot in Animas City, an already established town north of the current Railway depot, but Animas City politely declined to pay D&RG’s fee for establishing their depot there. The old Animas City has since been incorporated into Durango’s city limits, and the old Animas City School has become the Animas Museum, commemorating the early settlers in the area. The town was named for Durango, Mexico, which was, in turn, named for Durango, Spain. The word Durango originates from the Basque word urango meaning “water town.”
And so, let our San Juan Skyway journey begin in the best of all possible towns: Durango, Colorado.