We’ve been writing about stagecoach lines through Pagosa Country.
The earliest stagecoaches through Pagosa Springs ran in 1880 when the incoming terminus of the D. & R.G. R.R ended at Chama. Two daily stage lines ran back and forth between the railroad terminus and Animas City, Durango’s precursor.
The route followed by those stages was similar to the current route of U.S. 160. We’ve traced the route in a westerly direction as far as the crossing of the Piedra River where that river is joined by Yellow Jacket Creek.
The current Piedra River bridge crossing is a close enough corollary to continue tracing the 1880 route westward. That route followed Yellow Jacket Creek upstream to its junction with Squaw Creek. Currently, U.S. 160 follows Yellow Jacket Creek all of the way across Yellow Jacket Pass. In 1880, the route turned to the right and followed Squaw Creek and didn’t return to the current route until reaching almost to Beaver Creek.
I’m assuming that the route from Beaver Creek was close to the current path of U.S. 160 until reaching Bayfield.
Then, things get complicated.
In 1880, there was no Bayfield, just a scattering of houses identified as Pine River. I think the road crossed Pine River about where the current bridge is, continued up the slope on the other side of the river, then, before reaching Gem Village, veered north through a valley draining into the Florida River. The road then followed the Florida upstream before again turning due west and dropping into the Animas River Valley near the location of the old Mercy Hospital. The community there was called Animas City. Durango was not created until 1880/1881 when the railroad arrived.
When the railroad terminus moved westward to Amargo in 1881, located about between today’s Monero and Lumberton in New Mexico, the daily stages lumbered first from Amargo to Pagosa Springs and then to Animas City and after 1895, from Lumberton to Pagosa Springs and points west. This route for the stagecoaches probably prevailed until the railroad terminus reached Arboles.
The next railroad terminus was Arboles, a wild and wicked city at that time. From Arboles it would have been easier to cut across to Durango by staying south of the HD Mountains. As the railroad terminus continued to move westward and after it reached Durango, Pagosa Springs was connected by stagecoach with the railroad first at Amargo and later at Lumberton. I don’t believe there ever was a stage connecting Cat Creek with Pagosa Springs, simply because Amargo and Lumberton are closer to Pagosa Springs.
After Robert Sullenburger built the Pagosa and Northern Railroad from Cat Creek to Pagosa Springs, there was no longer a need for a stage coach connection.