Durango, Colorado

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Durango, Colorado
City of Durango [1]
Durango Colorado from Rim Drive.jpg
Durango as seen from Rim Drive.
"Open Spaces and Familiar Faces"
La Plata County Colorado Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Durango Highlighted 0822035.svg
Location of the City of Durango in La Plata County, Colorado.
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of the City of Durango in the United States.
Coordinates: 37°16′24″N107°52′18″W / 37.273267°N 107.871692°W / 37.273267; -107.871692 Coordinates: 37°16′24″N107°52′18″W / 37.273267°N 107.871692°W / 37.273267; -107.871692 [2]
Country Flag of the United States.svg  United States
State Flag of Colorado.svg  Colorado
County La Plata County [3]
City Durango [1]
Incorporated April 27, 1881 [4]
  Type Home Rule Municipality [1]
  MayorDean Brookie [5]
  Mayor Pro TemporeKim Baxter [5]
  City ManagerJose Madrigal [6]
  City CouncilBarbara Noseworthy

Chris Bettin

Melissa Youssef [5]
  Total17.09 sq mi (44.26 km2)
  Land14.69 sq mi (38.06 km2)
  Water2.40 sq mi (6.20 km2)
6,512 ft (1,988 m)
(2019) [8]
  Density1,291.30/sq mi (498.56/km2)
Durangotan (informal) Durangatang (informal)
Time zone UTC−7 (MST)
  Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
ZIP codes [9]
Area code(s) 970
FIPS code 08-22035
GNIS feature ID 0202983
Website City of Durango

The City of Durango is the Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous municipality of La Plata County, Colorado, United States. It is home to Fort Lewis College. The United States Census Bureau reported a population of 16,887 in the 2010 census. [10]



Durango is located at 37°16′N107°52′W / 37.267°N 107.867°W / 37.267; -107.867 at an elevation of 6,512 ft (1,988 m). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.8 square miles (18 km2).


The town was organized from September 1880 to April 1881 by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG, later known as the Denver and Rio Grande Western railroad) as part of their efforts to reach Silverton, Colorado, and service the San Juan mining district, the goal of their "San Juan Extension" built from Alamosa Colorado. The D&RG chose a site in the Animas Valley close to the Animas River near what's now the Downtown Durango Historic Business District for its railroad facilities following a brief and most likely perfunctory negotiation with the other establishment in the area known as Animas City, two miles to the north. [11] The city was named by ex-Colorado Governor Alexander C. Hunt, a friend of D&RG President William Jackson Palmer, after Durango, Mexico, based on his favorable impression of that city resulting from a scouting trip undertaken on behalf of Palmer. [12]

Palmer among other D&RG associates such as William Bell started a subsidiary company known as the Durango Trust to sell land and plan a Main Street, 2nd, and 3rd Avenue, and so on to organize the town, taking inspiration from how Palmer founded the city of Colorado Springs. Sales from the Durango Trust skyrocketed by the completion of the D&RG's Silverton Branch, by 1885 Durango’s business district had seven hotels and restaurants, eleven saloons, dancehalls and stores, two bakeries and blacksmith shops, and a variety of other businesses, also boosting the town of Silverton’s population to 2,000 at the time. [12]

The D&RG(W) and the Rio Grande Southern Railroad were vital resources to many places including Durango before the major introduction of the automobile, helping transport goods such as produce and mineral traffic in and out of the Southwestern Colorado area, along with other businesses such as the Durango Smelter, immensely supporting the town's economy. However, the Great Depression and aftermath of World War II ended up hurting the area's railroad industry, resulting in the Rio Grande Southern losing most of its traffic in 1951, which later closed and removed from 1952-3. The D&RGW ended their San Juan Express passenger service from Durango to Alamosa as well. However, the natural scenery along their Silverton Branch had been recognized as a major tourist attraction. In turn, the D&RGW introduced the major tourism industry into the Durango area, transporting visitors up to Silverton and back and attracting Hollywood into La Plata County for a time. Once the D&RGW ended up losing its freight traffic in 1968, the tracks from Durango east to Chama, New Mexico, and south to Farmington, New Mexico were removed, but the Silverton Branch remained in operation until 1981 when it was sold and became the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. [12] [13]

There are significant archaeological sites surrounding the Durango area featured on the State and National historical registers, including:


According to the Köppen climate classification system, Durango has either a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Csb) or a humid continental climate (Dsb) depending on which variant of the system is used. The average annual precipitation is 19.33 in (491 mm). [14] Its hardiness zone is 5b. [15]

Durango (1971-2000 normals)
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: [14]
Climate data for Durango, Colorado, 1991–2015 normals, extremes 1894–present
Record high °F (°C)65
Average high °F (°C)40.9
Average low °F (°C)14.5
Record low °F (°C)−30
Average precipitation inches (mm)2.30
Average snowfall inches (cm)19.9
Source: [16]


Historical population
1890 2,726
1900 3,31721.7%
1910 4,68641.3%
1920 4,116−12.2%
1930 5,40031.2%
1940 5,8879.0%
1950 7,45926.7%
1960 10,53041.2%
1970 10,333−1.9%
1980 11,64912.7%
1990 12,4306.7%
2000 13,92212.0%
2010 16,88721.3%
2019 (est.)18,973 [8] 12.4%
U.S. Decennial Census [17]

As of the 2000 census, [18] there were 13,922 people, 5,492 households, and 2,603 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,052.4 people per square mile (792.8/km2). There were 5,819 housing units at an average density of 857.8 per square mile (331.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.8% White, 0.5% African American, 5.5% Native American, 0.7% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4.1% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.3% of the population.

There were 5,492 households, out of which 22.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 34.2% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a single female householder, and 52.6% were non-families. 31.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.83.

In the city, 16.6% of residents were under the age of 18, 26.1% from 18 to 24, 27.2% from 25 to 44, 19.4% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females, there were 104.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 103.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,892, and the median income for a family was $50,814. Males had a median income of $31,812 versus $25,022 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,352. 17.2% of the population and 7.3% of families were living below the poverty line. 11.2% of those younger than 18 and 8.9% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.

Arts and culture


Main Avenue

The Strater Hotel in 2010 Strater Hotel.jpg
The Strater Hotel in 2010

Main Avenue is a Nationally Registered Historic District that cuts through downtown Durango and is home to galleries, boutiques, restaurants, bars, and other businesses. Two notable and historic hotels, The General Palmer and The Strater, lie at the south end of the avenue, near the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad depot. With its combination of historic architecture, entertainment, and shopping, Main Avenue has historically comprised the center of Durango and is a popular year-round tourist destination.

Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad

Durango is known worldwide for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, a heritage railroad that operates what was the Denver & Rio Grande Western's Branchline to the historic mining town of Silverton, Colorado, also still notably using historic D&RGW Steam Locomotives and other historic rail equipment.

Animas River Valley

The Animas River Valley begins in the heart of the San Juan Mountains and runs through downtown Durango. It boasts gold medal fly fishing waters and is popular for whitewater rafting, kayaking and canoeing. On warm summer afternoons a popular diversion is to buy an inflated inner tube and float from Animas City to Schneider Park or below.

D&RGW steam locomotive on the Durango turntable, 1965. D^RGW 492 Durango turntable 8-65x - Flickr - drewj1946.jpg
D&RGW steam locomotive on the Durango turntable, 1965.

Purgatory Ski Resort

Purgatory Resort, located 25 miles north of downtown Durango, has 99 trails, 12 lifts, a vertical drop of over 2,000 feet, and more than 1,500 acres of skiable terrain. The resort features lodging, ski rentals, shopping, and dining. Purgatory is also a popular summertime recreation destination.

Snowdown Festival

Durango is home to Snowdown, an annual midwinter event popular for its Parade of Lights and other events. The event lasts 5 days, with competitions and costumes.

Music in the Mountains

Music in the Mountains is an annual classical summer music festival with performances at Purgatory Resort, Ft. Lewis College, in downtown Durango, and Cortez.

As of 2019, the festival is no longer being held at Purgatory Resort.

Durango Ragtime & Early Jazz Festival

The annual Durango Ragtime & Early Jazz Festival features noted musicians from around the country. It is held in the Strater Hotel, a historic Victorian hotel in Durango.

Iron Horse Bicycle Classic

Founded in 1972, the Iron Horse is a 61 mile bicycle road race held annually in Durango, CO. Every year cyclist from around the world come together and race the Durango Narrow Gauge Train on its journey from Durango to Silverton.


Durango has a number of media outlets, which include The Durango Herald , 99x Durango, The Point, KDGO, XRock 105.3, KDUR 91.9/93.9, Four Corners Broadcasting (KIQX 101.3, KRSJ 100.5, KKDC 93.3, and KKDC AM 930) and many others.


Public Transportation

Durango is served by U.S. Highway 160 (the Old Spanish Trail), running east–west, and U.S. Highway 550, running north–south. Part of U.S. 550 offers high-speed access (primarily a 4-lane, divided highway) to Albuquerque, New Mexico. North of Durango, 550 is nicknamed the Million Dollar Highway, and is part of the scenic San Juan Skyway.

Durango is served by a major regional airport for southwestern Colorado, Durango-La Plata Regional Airport, near Ignacio. Durango-La Plata County Airport (IATA code: DRO) is serviced year-round by regional carriers Mesa Airlines (American Eagle), SkyWest Airlines (American Eagle and United Express), Republic Airways (United Express), and American Eagle (Envoy Air).

As of 2014, regional connecting hubs to DRO include Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), and Denver International Airport (DEN).

Durango Transit provides several loop bus routes in the community, including Fort Lewis College. Normal hours of operation are weekdays from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm. Ignacio Road Runner provides bus service to the nearby towns of Ignacio, Colorado and Bayfield, with four trips daily on weekdays and one on Saturdays. Both services share the Durango Transit Center as a hub.

Greyhound Bus Lines formerly served Durango, but after budget cuts the service was discontinued. Since 2014, Road Runner Transit (a service of Southern Ute Community Action Programs) has restored daily bus service between Grand Junction and Durango. [19] Since 2018, Road Runner's service has been incorporated into the larger mantle of the state-run program Bustang. [20]


Notable people

Sister cities

Durango has two sister cities , as designated by Sister Cities International :

References in television and film

The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad began to advertise the La Plata County Area to Hollywood beginning in the mid 1930s, kick starting Durango's future in film appearances. [22]

See also

Related Research Articles

Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad

The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, often shortened to Rio Grande, D&RG or D&RGW, formerly the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, was an American Class I railroad company. The railroad started as a 3 ft narrow-gauge line running south from Denver, Colorado, in 1870. It served mainly as a transcontinental bridge line between Denver, and Salt Lake City, Utah. The Rio Grande was also a major origin of coal and mineral traffic.

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad Heritage railroad in Colorado and New Mexico, U.S.

The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, often abbreviated as the C&TSRR, is a 3 ft narrow-gauge heritage railroad that operates on 64 miles (103 km) of track between Antonito, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico in the United States. The railroad is named for two geographical features along the route, the 10,015-foot (3,053 m)-high Cumbres Pass and the Toltec Gorge. Originally part of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad's narrow-gauge network, the line has been jointly owned by the states of Colorado and New Mexico since 1970. Today, the C&TSRR is one of only two remaining parts of the former D&RGW narrow-gauge network, the other being the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNG), which runs between the communities of Durango and Silverton, Colorado. The railroad has a total of ten narrow-gauge steam locomotives and two narrow-gauge diesel locomotives in their current roster. The railroad also operates two smaller former D&RGW steam locomotives, Nos. 315 and 168, for special events.

The San Juan Skyway is an All-American Road and a component in the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway System. It forms a 233.0-mile (375.0 km) loop in the southwest part of the U.S. state of Colorado traversing the heart of the San Juan Mountains. It roughly parallels the routes of the narrow gauge railways: Rio Grande Southern ; and the unconnected Ouray and Silverton Branches of the Denver & Rio Grande along US 550 with the Silverton Railroad bridging a part of the gap. Its origin can be traced to the Around the Circle Route promoted by the D&RG.

Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad United States historic place

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, often abbreviated as the D&SNG, is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge heritage railroad that operates on 45.2 mi (72.7 km) of track between Durango and Silverton in the U.S. state of Colorado. The railway is a federally designated National Historic Landmark and was also designated by the American Society of Civil Engineers as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1968.

Ghost Town & Calico Railroad

The Ghost Town & Calico Railroad is a 3 ft narrow-gauge heritage railroad and amusement park attraction within Knott's Berry Farm, an amusement park located in Buena Park, California.

Rio Grande Southern Railroad

The Rio Grande Southern Railroad was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge railroad which ran in the southwestern region of the US state of Colorado, from the towns of Durango to Ridgway, routed via Lizard Head Pass. Built by Russian immigrant and Colorado toll road builder Otto Mears, the RGS operated from 1891 through 1951 and was built with the intent to transport immense amounts of silver mineral traffic that were being produced by the mining communities of Rico and Telluride. On both ends of the railroad, there were interchanges with The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which would ship the traffic the RGS hauled elsewhere like the San Juan Smelter in Durango.

Silverton Railroad

The Silverton Railroad, now defunct, was an American 3 ft narrow gauge railroad constructed between Silverton, Colorado and mining districts near Red Mountain Pass, Colorado.

Rio Grande class K-36

The Denver and Rio Grande Western K-36 is a class of ten 3 ft narrow gauge 2-8-2 "Mikado" type steam locomotives built for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) by Baldwin Locomotive Works. They were shipped to the Rio Grande in 1925 and were first used along the Monarch Branch and Marshall Pass, but were later sent to the Third Division out of Alamosa. Of the original ten, four are owned by the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad (D&SNG) and five by the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TSRR). Number 485 fell into the turntable pit at Salida and was scrapped in Pueblo in 1955, with many parts being saved.

Rio Grande class K-27

The Denver and Rio Grande Western K-27 is a class of 3 ft narrow gauge 2-8-2 "Mikado" type steam locomotives built for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1903. Known by their nickname "Mudhens," they were the first and the most numerous of the four K classes of Rio Grande narrow gauge engines to be built. Of the original fleet of 15 locomotives, two survive to this day and operate on heritage railways in the United States. No. 463 is operational on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad (C&TSRR) in Chama, New Mexico and No. 464 is operational on the Huckleberry Railroad in Genesee Township, Michigan.

<i>Denver and Rio Grande</i> (film) 1952 American film by Byron Haskin

Denver and Rio Grande is a Technicolor western film, directed by Byron Haskin and released by Paramount Pictures in 1952. The film is a dramatization of the building of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which was chartered in 1870. It was filmed in the summer of 1951 on location on actual D&RG track near Durango, Colorado.

Utah Division (D&RGW)

The Utah Division of the former Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) is a rail line that connects Grand Junction, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah in the Western United States. It is now incorporated into the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) system as part of the Central Corridor. The modern Union Pacific has split the line into two subdivisions for operational purposes, the Green River Subdivision between Grand Junction and Helper, Utah and the Provo Subdivision from Helper to Salt Lake City. Daily passenger service is provided by Amtrak's California Zephyr; the BNSF Railway and Utah Railway have trackage rights over the line.

Rio Grande class K-37

The Denver and Rio Grande Western K-37 is a class of 2-8-2 "Mikado" type narrow-gauge steam locomotives built for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. They were originally built by Baldwin as part of an order for thirty standard gauge 2-8-0 "Consolidation" type locomotives, class 190, in 1902. They were renumbered into class C-41 during the railroad's reorganization in 1924 and were converted to 3 ft gauge in 1928-30 at the railroad's Burnham Shops in Denver, Colorado with many new parts including new frames and smaller drivers. They then became class K-37.

Rio Grande class K-28

The Denver and Rio Grande Western K-28 is a class of ten 3 ft gauge narrow gauge 2-8-2 "Mikado" type steam locomotives built in 1923-1925 by the Schenectady Locomotive Works of the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) for the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad. They were the first new narrow gauge locomotives ordered by the railroad since 1903. They initially comprised class E-4-148-S, but were reclassified K-28 in 1924 when the railroad reorganized into the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad.

The Chili Line, officially known as the Santa Fe Branch, was a 3 ft narrow-gauge branch of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW). It ran 125.6 miles (202.1 km) from Antonito, Colorado, to Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Denver and Rio Grande Railway (D&RG) began construction of the line in 1880 and completed the line from Antonito to Española, New Mexico, but could not build any further because of an agreement with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF). The Texas, Santa Fe and Northern Railroad was incorporated to complete the line, and the line between Española and Santa Fe opened in 1886 and was transferred to the Denver and Rio Grande shortly thereafter. The D&RGW closed the Chili Line in 1941 because of competition from road transportation, and the line was abandoned shortly thereafter.

Rio Grande 315

Denver and Rio Grande Western No. 315 is a class "C-18" 2-8-0 "Consolidation" type narrow-gauge steam railway locomotive that was originally built for the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1895. It was later purchased by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG). No. 315 was retired in 1949 and had been on display at two City of Durango parks until the Durango Railroad Historical Society restored the locomotive from 1998 to August 2007. It has been operational since and will be receiving its Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) mandated 1,472-day inspection in 2022. Most "sister" locomotives to No. 315 were scrapped, but two others survive today such as is D&RGW No. 318 and F&CC No. 10. No. 318 is on display at the Colorado Railroad Museum and F&CC No. 10 is currently in storage at the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Rio Grande 169

Denver and Rio Grande Western No. 169 is a 4-6-0 "Ten Wheeler" type narrow gauge steam railway locomotive. It is one of twelve similar locomotives built for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad by Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1883. It was built as a passenger locomotive, with 46 in (1,200 mm) drivers, the second largest drivers used on any three foot gauge D&RGW locomotive.

Rio Grande 463

Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad No. 463 is a 3-foot narrow-gauge class "K-27" 2-8-2 "Mikado" type steam railway locomotive built for the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad (D&RG) by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1903. It is one of two remaining locomotives of D&RGW class K-27, the other one being No. 464 at the Huckleberry Railroad in Genesee Township, Michigan. The class eventually became known by the nickname "Mudhens". Today, No. 463 is operational on the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad between Chama, New Mexico and Antonito, Colorado.

<i>San Juan Express</i> Former American train line

The San Juan Express was a narrow gauge train that ran on the 3 feet (0.91 m) Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) route from Durango, Colorado via Chama, New Mexico; Cumbres Pass; and Antonito, Colorado to Alamosa, Colorado. The train ran from February 11, 1937 until January 31, 1951 as train numbers 115 and 116, though towards the end of the passenger service it took on the number 215 and 216.

Sublette is a railroad town in northern Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, United States, built as a section station in 1880. It is located north-east of Chama, just south of the Colorado state line and at milepost 306.1 of the former Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. When the Denver and Rio Grande abandoned its narrow gauge lines in the late 1960s, two parts of the system were preserved independently: the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad from Antonito to Chama, including Sublette itself, and the Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad. Sublette sits at an elevation of 9,281 feet in the southeastern San Juan Mountains.

Alamosa–Durango line

The Alamosa–Durango line or San Juan extension was a railroad line built by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, following the border between the U.S. states of Colorado and New Mexico, in the Rocky Mountains. The line was originally built as a 3 ft narrow-gauge line between Alamosa, Colorado, and Durango, Colorado. Portions of the route survive to this day: the now standard-gauged segment from Alamosa to Antonito, Colorado, and a narrow-gauge portion from Antonito to Chama, New Mexico.


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