The South Silverton mining area is immediately southeast of the town of Silverton, San Juan County, in southwestern Colorado (fig. 1). The town of Silverton itself lies in a relatively flat and open reach of the Animas Valley, called Bakers Park, in the western part of the San Juan Mountains. (See figs. 2 and 8.) The roughly circular area of the geologic map map (pl. 1) includes about 18½ square miles of the mountainous country southeast of Silverton. It is bounded on the west and north by the Animas River, on the east by Cunningham Creek, and on the south by Mountaineer Creek and Deer Park Creek. Altitudes range from 9,125 feet above sea level in the canyon of the Animas, at the southwest corner of the area, to 13,451 feet on Kendall Peak, 2¾ miles to the northeast.
Within this area nearly a dozen horn-like peaks and sharp ridges separated by deep glacial cirques rise to altitudes of 13,000 feet or more. (See figs. 3, 7, 10, and 24.) Exposures are excellent along the crests and upper flanks of the ridges, but the bedrock along the lower parts of the valley walls and floors of the cirques is largely concealed by accumulations of talus. The timbered slopes along the south side of the Animas Valley are extensively covered with glacial moraine. Several of the high basins within the cirques hold ponds or small lakes; the largest is Silver Lake (fig. 23).
Roads skirt the northern and eastern edges of the area but none give good access into the interior. Silverton is adjacent to U.S. Highway 550, which passes over the mountains by way of Red Mountain Pass from Ouray, 24 miles to the north, to Durango, 53 miles to the south. The community is also served by the narrow-gage line of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad that follows the Animas River upstream from Durango. A gravel road, State Highway 110, follows the Animas River upstream, eastward from Silverton. From this highway a side road branches off to Cunningham Gulch as far as the Highland Mary mill, and another goes up Arrastra Gulch for about 2 miles. The higher ridges east of Arrastra Basin are most easily reached by way of the Shenandoah-Dives aerial tram and mine workings. A few trails suitable for horses lead from the main valleys into the larger basins and across the intervening ridges, but much of the area is accessible only on foot. Most of the cirque heads and many of the high cliffs along Cunningham Gulch could not be examined at close range. Timberline is at about 11,500 feet.
|Title||Geology and ore deposits of the South Silverton mining area, San Juan County, Colorado|
|Authors||David J. Varnes|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Professional Paper|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|