Upper Animas 2-day Trip Silveron to Rockwood Train Station

June 3, 2022// Leave a comment

Ah…spring time in Durango CO. The weather gets better, the snow starts to melt, and the rivers and creeks begin to flow. For those of us who live in the area, we gauge watch flows religiously waiting for certain runs to come in. Vallecito, Bakers, 3rd Gorge, and the Upper Animas. When they start happening, paddlers start getting giddy.


Among this group of awesome runs is the Upper Animas River from Silverton to Rockwood. 

The town of Silverton CO and the put in

It’s 45 km of continuous whitewater with stretches in the Grade IV range with one notable exception, No Name Rapid, which I would consider Grade V at proper flows mainly because of the consequences of cocking it up and swimming. A swim here would be brutal and could easily cover 1km or more or shallow, rocky, freezing cold beatering. 


The River cuts through the heart of the San Juan mountains with the Weminuche Wilderness, CO’s largest, bordering the east side of the river the entire time. Massive snow-capped peaks line the river with many tributaries gushing into it, and you feel like you’re really out there paddling. 

The first 5km or so is filled with continuous Grade III/III+ rapids until you come to Snowshed, a steeper Grade IV drop that makes a right-hand bend named after the avalanche path that crosses the river. Snowshed is great because it’s continuous and long with lots of waves crashing on you.

Snowshed Rapid.

Another kilometer of paddling or so before the canyon opens up again and you’re at Elk Park. This is where the Colorado Trail crosses the Animas River and is a popular camping spot for through-hikers on the CT. It’s also where we spend the night when we put on late in the afternoon as we did. The scenery here is all time and classic San Juan magic.

Camp at Elk Park

Putting on the next day, you find yourself cruising through a lot of Grade II/III before you get to 10 Mile Rapid, and here’s where the action starts. From here on the rapids get harder and stay continuous.

10 Mile Rapid

The next rapid and the one that gives everyone the biggest concern on this run is No Name Rapid named after the creek that comes into the river just upstream of the drop. This has been the site of a lot of carnage over the years. What’s problematic with the rapid is that once done, you’re still paddling down into many kilometers of continuous grade IV rapids through steep, rocky, freezing cold water. Swimming here sucks :(

Main drop in No Name Rapid

After No Name Rapid, you’ll get 8km of some of the best Grade IV/IV+ boogie in the state. The higher the flows, the better the whitewater, and at richter levels, this stretch rivals anywhere.

The last-named rapid in the upper Animas section before heading into the Rockwood Box is Broken Bridge aptly named because you paddle under an old broken bridge. There are two line options, both have you hole dodging. Once done with Broken Bridge, you can sit back and enjoy the next 10 km of cruising through Grade III/IV whitewater. That is until you hit Rockwood Box. Here the canyon gorge up, the granite walls towering above you. The first and most consequential drop in Rockwood is called Mandatory Thrashing. At 2000cfs and up, this rapid dishes out a beating. Basically, the gorge constricts forcing the flow up and over some bedrock creating a punchy v-hole. The idea is to pierce the left lateral with some speed and get up and over it. I’ve seen some horrific beat down in here and if you swim, the speed and constricted nature of the gorge has you headed downstream for quite some time. Again…fast, cold water. 


Rockwood Box has about 6 rapids of concern the higher the water gets and swimming could easily result in you losing your boat.

The center boof at Mandatory Thrashing

Classic Rockwood Box whitewater

The Upper Animas 2-day stretch is one of the best overnighters in Colorado for so many reasons.

45km of epic continuous whitewater

Cuts through the heart of the San Juan mountains


No traffic

Epic camping

Amazing scenery and wildlife

From the put-in to Rockwood Box all rapids can be scouted and walked. 


It's the easiest and best run with a shuttle driver. It’s 38 road miles over two 10000ft passes and running a shuttle at the end of the trip is not ideal. Prime Time flows are mid-May - Mid June.


By: David Farkas





Upper animas

Shhhhh! Don’t share the secret! Access out of rockwood is tenuous, and this run doesn’t need an influx of internet folks.

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