Animas Forks is significant as a representative and relatively well-preserved ghost town for its association with commerce, industry, exploration and settlement, social history and architecture. It was active during the peak of hard-rock silver and gold mining in the San Juan mountains. When established in 1875, the community was strategically situated at the confluence of the East and West Forks of the Animas River, in the center of a region being extensively prospected and developed for hard-rock silver and gold mining. After the initial boom of the early and middle 1880s, the town gradually declined in prosperity.
Animas Forks suffered a cataclysmic fire in 1891 that resulted in it becoming a virtual ghost town. The establishment of the Gold Prince Mill on the eastern edge of the town resulted in a resurgence from 1905 to 1910. With closure of the Gold Prince Mill in 1910, another devastating fire in 1913, and the shutdown of the Bagley Tunnel in 1914, the town once again fell into obscurity, with only sporadic residential use from the 1920s to 1960s. It meets the requirements under the Multiple Property Documentation Form titled Mining Resources of San Juan County representing the property type Mining Settlement and Residence - Unincorporated Settlement, and also meets the requirements of the Mining Industry in Colorado Multiple Property Documentation Form.