10 Reasons to Unite Together to Work for a Healthy Animas River

By Molly   •   August 14, 2015

The Animas River, also known as the River of Lost Souls, did indeed break hearts and souls this past week.  The tragic Gold King Mine Spill made headline news across the U.S. and was reported in many international media markets as well.



Our tears alone are not enough to cleanse the river and to keep it healthy for ourselves and future generations. Let’s learn from this tragedy, clear our eyes and our waters, and work together to prevent another contamination. Complacency in the face of this current catastrophe only guarantees further and potentially more devastating destruction in the future. By working together, we may even help save other river corridors as well.  Below are some facts exposed by the spill.


1. Mine waste leakage has been draining into Cement Creek for over 100 years. Over the years, there have been numerous lengthy periods of time where Cement Creek has been devoid of living fish. 


2. Discoloration is not new, nor uncommon, to the Animas River. Heavy rains frequently change the river’s color to shades of red, brown and orange.  This has been happening for decades. 


3. There are over 20,000 abandoned mines in Southwest Colorado. Many of these mines leach contaminated water into the Animas and nearby waterways daily.


4. Local anglers have been discussing declining fish counts in the Animas River for the past 10 years. 


5. This is not just a problem and concern for the Animas River.  Forty percent of the West’s headwaters are impacted by toxic mine leakage. 


6. Colorado’s abandoned mines are ticking time bombs just waiting to explode.


7. The Southwest is a mecca for recreation and adventure. The Animas River is the heart of it all. 


8. Many sections of the river are sparsely populated, but they are enveloped by farmland in an otherwise dry, desert terrain.  Farmers are dependent upon the river water to irrigate their crops and feed their livestock.


9. Per the EPA, the Animas River serves as the source for five downstream drinking water supply systems.


10. The downstream affect of a mine contamination spill is immense. The Gold King Mine Spill is affecting four states (CO, NM, UT, and AZ) and four rivers (Cement Creek, the Animas River, the San Juan River, and the Colorado River) and one grand lake (Lake Powell).


Rockwood Gorge of the Upper Animas RIver

A long-term solution is needed to protect our rivers, watersheds, and the surrounding habitat as well as the drinking water, wildlife, livestock, and crops that all depend upon them.  The mine leakage problem will not go away until we make it go away. Let’s not waste time pointing fingers and searching for the cause of this tragedy. Who should we blame? The EPA? Past mine owners? Those of us that ignored the declining health of the Animas River? There’s plenty of blame to go around and there are those who will spend years apportioning out those particular parcels of recrimination. That’s not our job. Instead, let’s put our hands together and unite our energies as we work towards a permanent solution that will protect the unique river resources that wind their way through our lands, our minds, our hearts, and our souls.


We need your help. Colorado’s historic mines have never been properly reclaimed and remediated. Join these organizations to help protect our rivers and the lifestyle and economy we all treasure as a direct result of these indispensible resources.

Animas River Stakeholders –
San Juan Citizens Alliance –
Mountain Studies Institute –
Trout Unlimited –
American Rivers –
American Whitewater –


For history of the Gold King Mine Spill:



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