DURANGO, Colo (CBS4) – Durango locals and tourists alike welcomed the news that La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith opened the Animas River last Friday for recreational use after the devastating toxic mine spill. Now the small mountain city wants everyone to join them for end-of-summer fun and to help their local economy recover.

The spill from the Gold King Mine in San Juan County brought the Animas River into the national and international spotlight. But now that the sheriff has decided to open the river to recreational use, with a health advisory, the town is hoping to recover losses from tourism during the time the river was closed.

“My primary concern is the public health and safety of our community. With the release of preliminary results from the state health department and its accompanying recommendation, I am opening our river for recreation,” Smith said in a statement.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said collected data shows “the river has returned to pre-incident, stable conditions that are not a concern for human health during typical recreational exposure.”

Even Gov. John Hickenlooper took a drink of the river’s water to show it’s now safe to be open.

Additional Resources

Just some of the attractions visitors to Durango, which boasts “A Dozen Vacations in One Destination,” can enjoy include the following:

– Ancient ruins at Mesa Verde National Park
– Recreation adventures at Purgatory Resort
– Award-winning restaurants and craft brewpubs
– Art galleries
– The historic Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
– Jeep trail tours
– Rafting the Animas River
– Paddling at Vallecito Lake

Linda Carpenter of Thornton took this photo of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad on Sept. 24 while on a trip from Pagosa Springs to Silverton.

Linda Carpenter of Thornton took this photo of the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad on Sept. 24 while on a trip from Pagosa Springs to Silverton.

Below is a list of upcoming events in Durango with more information available at Durango.org:

August 29: San Juan Brewfest, Thirsty 13 Half Marathon
September 4-7: Four Corners Motorcycle Rally
September 8 & 9: The ‘Chuckwagon Jamboree’ at Bar D Chuckwagon
September 12: Durango Dirt Fondo
September 19 & 20: Durango Autumn Arts Festival
September 24: Carbon Leaf live at Henry Strater Theatre
September 26 & 27: Durango & Silvertson Narrow Gauge Railroad Fall Photographers Train
September 26 & 27: Oktoberfest

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