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No railroad? Take the stage

Prior to the railroad’s arrival in Pagosa Springs in 1901, stage coaches and freight wagons brought people and supplies to town. In fact, freight bound for the mining towns up river from Durango was passing through Pagosa Springs before there was a town.

The first stage coaches through town started up after the Denver & Rio Grande tracks crossed Cumbres Pass. While the end of the rail line was still a little east of Chama, stagecoaches rumbled between the end of the tracks and Animas City, later to become Durango. The route passed through Pagosa Springs. At one time two stage companies operated along the busy route.

One of them was called the “Lumber Line” because of the number of mud holes along the route. The stage driver carried several pieces of lumber used to get out of the mud holes should the vehicle become stuck. That particular history of staging through Pagosa Springs ended when the railroad reached newly-formed Durango in 1881. That event ended Durango’s need for a stage to the east, but it didn’t help Pagosa Springs, which remained some 25-30 miles from the railroad.

The nearest connection for Pagosa Springs after 1881 was the road to Amargo, a road most of which still remains.

In general, the route to Amargo left town near the Great Pagosa Hot Springs moving in a southerly direction until it hit Mill Creek (Agua Frio in those days).

The route then followed Mill Creek in an easterly direction for a short distance, then turned south again about where U.S. 84 is today.

From there the route continued southerly until after crossing Four-Mile Hill and entering Squaw Valley. In Squaw Valley, the route veered to the eastern end of Eight Mile Mesa where it passed through a small notch in the hills in order to drop into the Blanco River Valley just a short distance downstream from where the Rito Blanco joins the main Blanco.

More next week on the stage route connecting Pagosa Springs with Amargo.