Southwest Colorado Rivers

Southwest Colorado Rivers

The Centennial State of Colorado is host to the Southwest portion of the Rocky Mountains and many rivers that continue to carve away at the earth’s crust. Most notably, the Colorado River flows 1,450 miles from the continental divide in northern Colorado through Moab, UT, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, Nevada, and California before meeting the Pacific Ocean. The Arkansas River begins in Leadville, Colorado before flowing nearly 1,500 miles into the Mississippi, and the South Platte River is a prominent feature of the northeastern part of Colorado.


Beyond these three rivers, there are many more that originate or flow through Colorado. Rafting, fishing, and swimming are among the plethora of activities one can enjoy on these rivers, not to mention the necessary water resources they provide for animals, cities, and ways of life. 


Rivers Near Durango

Animas River

Stretching 126 miles, this river is the most well known in Durango, CO as it flows through town. Beginning north of Silverton, CO and joining the San Juan River south of Farmington, it’s a Southwest Colorado staple. Summer is full of rafting trips, fishing days, and community events centered around the Animas. 


Florida River

The Florida River is split into two parts, separated by Lemon Reservoir. This river starts high in the San Juan National Forest and flows southeast in La Plata County. It flows into the Animas River and is a primary source for irrigation all the way to the New Mexico border. 


Los Pinos River 

Commonly known as the Pine River, the Los Pinos River flows through Bayfield, CO from its origins in the Weminuche Wilderness runs into Vallecito Reservoir, where the flow is then released via the Vallecito Dam. It continues south through Ignacio, across the state border, and into Navajo Reservoir, completing a 50 mile journey. 

La Plata River

On the west side of Durango, the La Plata River flows from Taylor Lake, near Kennebec Peak. It winds its way through La Plata Canyon, through Hesperus, CO ending its short journey and splitting into smaller irrigation ditches.


Farther to the East

The Piedra River begins in the San Juan Mountains at the confluence of the Middle Fork and East Fork. It then flows south between Bayfield and Pagosa, before meeting the northern part of  Navajo Reservoir. 


The San Juan River comes through Pagosa Springs, CO and eventually connects with the Animas and Mancos Rivers. Beginning northeast of Pagosa, it flows 383 miles west, with a pit stop in Navajo Reservoir and through Farmington, NM - where it meets the Animas - and Shiprock, NM. It then visits Colorado again near Four Corners National Monument before heading into Utah and becoming part of Lake Powell and ultimately the Colorado River. 


Farther to the West

The West and East Mancos Rivers meet to create the Mancos River which winds a whopping 85 miles to connect with the San Juan River just before it re-enters Colorado.


Highway 145, between Mancos and Dolores, CO, loosely follows the Dolores River which flows into McPhee Reservoir in Dolores, CO. The Dolores River begins from Sliderock Ridge and crosses the Colorado Trail.


Other notable Colorado rivers in our area include the Rio Grande, Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and San Miguel. We are thankful for everything these rivers offer, both recreationally and as critical water resources. If you have any questions about how these rivers play a part in Durango, please contact Max Hutcheson & Deven Meininger for local Durango knowledge.


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