Landslide Alters Animas’ No Name Rapid

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Paddlers braving Class V No Name rapid on Colorado’s Upper Animas River near Durango might have an easier—or rougher—go of it next time around. On July 22, following a week of torrential thunderstorms that blanketed southern Colorado, a rockslide careened down the San Juan mountains, burying the train tracks for the Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad as well as one of the section’s most marquee rapids.

“It covered the tracks, for sure,” says Four Corner Riversports’ John Wade, who had a commercial raft trip going out on Wednesday, three days after the slide, and was still awaiting word from the first group to paddle it after the slide. “But it doesn’t surprise me. We were up at Vallecito Creek over the weekend and it was much higher than usual for this time of year. Everything was pretty wet, and it just kept raining.”

With an average gradient of 80 feet per mile, paddlers tackling the Upper Animas usually await the climax of the first Rockwood box at the 26-mile run’s end. But to get there they first have to negotiate such rapids as Garfield Slide, No Name and Broken Bridge. No Name will likely be markedly different next time around.

“It was a lot bigger than the usual rock slide,” La Plata County Office of Emergency Management Director Butch Knowlton told radio station KSUT. “It’s a little more than you typically see up in the canyon. The debris is probable 50 feet or more deep above the railroad tracks and at one time totally blocked the Animas River…before finally opening up a narrower channel through.”

Now pushed to the left bank, the river used to be about 130 feet wide at the site of the slide at No Name. The recent debris that cascaded in from a 200-foot-high cliff on the right bank has narrowed the river to only about 50 feet wide….