We’ve been tracing the arrival of the railroad into San Juan and Pagosa Country. Concerning a related subject, we’ve been tracing local stage coaches, particularly as stage lines relate to Pagosa Springs.
The connection between stage coaches and the railroad is this: Most freight and passengers bound for the San Juan Country rode the railroad as far as they could. When they reached the end of the railroad, they boarded stage coaches and freight wagons to complete their journeys.
When the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad approached Chama, two stage lines daily made the journey between the railhead and Animas City, the north part of today’s Durango. They were called the “Lumber Line” because the coaches carried pieces of lumber for crossing muddy holes and ruts in the road. The lumber scraps were thrown into the holes so the wheels riding on them could get across without sinking in the mud.
When the railroad terminus moved westward to Amargo, wagons and coaches moved back and forth between Amargo and Animas City. Again, when the terminus reached Arboles the coaches and wagons connected Arboles with Animas City.
Finally, when the railroad reached newly-created Durango in 1881, the only need for coaches and wagons was for cities other than Durango. For example, a stage coach and freight wagons continued to connect Pagosa Springs with the railroad first at Amargo, and starting in about 1895, at Lumberton.
When the railroad reached Pagosa Springs late in 1900, there was no longer a need for stage coaches into Pagosa Springs. Now, let’s back up in time to 1880/1881 when daily stages ran between Pagosa Springs and Durango. Last week, we traced the stage route from Pagosa Springs to Bayles a few miles west of Pagosa Springs.
We should note that the westbound route did not go through Aspen Springs as it does today. Instead of swinging north into the canyon leading into Aspen Springs as U.S. 160 does today, the route continued almost due west across the hills just south of Aspen Springs until reaching the small community of Dyke. A small, false-front, former store and post office building remain at Dyke today.
From Dyke the route moved north of Chimney Rock across Devil Creek and westward. Instead of turning right a few miles past the Chimney Rock Cafe, the route dropped over the hill and down to the Piedra River valley floor before turning right. It then followed the base of those hills northerly to a point about one mile south of today’s Piedra River Bridge. The road crossed the Piedra on a bridge about a mile south of the present bridge. John Peterson’s farm and boarding house stood at the west end of the bridge. From Peterson’s house, the road followed the west side of the Piedra to about where present U.S. 160 goes west up Yellow Jacket Creek. The older road also followed Yellow Jacket Creek.