The town was founded in 1873 when prospectors built log cabins near their claims. Because three rivers meet nearby it was called Three Forks of the Animas, later simplified to Animas Forks by the U.S. Postal Service.
At almost 11’200 feet, the town suffered from the elevation’s severe winters. Most of the miners would retreat in the fall and return the following spring. The hearty few who stayed were subjected to avalanches and isolation.
In 1884, the year Silverton endured ten weeks without relief supplies, Animas Forks was snowbound for twenty-three days. Provisions would have come from Silverton, which had none to spare.
In 1891, as mining declined, the town emptied. A brief resurgence occured in 1904 with the construction of the Gold Prince Mill, which was connected to its mine by a 2.4-mile tramway. Because of that mill, the Silverton Northern Railway was extended to Animas Forks, further raising expectations for the town.
But the mill closed in 1910, and Animas Forks lost its post office in 1915. In 1917, the mill was largely dismantled for use at Eureka’s Sunnyside Mill further down the canyon.