State of Colorado
Flag of Colorado State seal of Colorado
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): The Centennial State
Motto(s): Nil sine numine
(English: Nothing without providence)
State anthem: "Where the Columbines Grow" and "Rocky Mountain High"
Map of the United States with Colorado highlighted
Demonym Coloradan/Coloradoan
Capital
(and largest city)
Denver
Largest metro Denver-Aurora CSA
Area Ranked 8th
 - Total 104,094 sq mi
(269,837 km2)
 - Width 380 miles (610 km)
 - Length 280 miles (450 km)
 - % water 0.36%
 - Latitude 37°N to 41°N
 - Longitude 102°03'W to 109°03'W
Number of people Ranked 21st
 - Total 5,540,545 (2016 est)
 - Density 52.0/sq mi  (19.9/km2)
Ranked 37th
 - Average income $66,596 (10th)
Height above sea level
 - Highest point Mount Elbert in Lake County
14,440 ft (4401.2 m)
 - Average 6,800 ft  (2070 m)
 - Lowest point Arikaree River at the Kansas border
3,317 ft (1011 m)
Became part of the U.S. August 1, 1876 (38th)
Governor John Hickenlooper (D)
U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D)
Cory Gardner (R)
U.S. House delegation 4 Republicans and 3 Democrats (list)
Time zone Mountain: UTC-07/UTC-06
Abbreviations CO, Colo. US-CO
Website www.colorado.gov
Colorado State symbols
Flag of Colorado.svg
The Flag of Colorado.

Seal of Colorado.svg
The Seal of Colorado.

Animate insignia
Amphibian Western tiger salamander
Ambystoma mavortium
Bird(s) Lark bunting
Calamospiza melanocoryus
Fish Greenback cutthroat trout
Oncorhynchus clarki somias
Flower(s) Rocky Mountain columbine
Aquilegia caerulea
Grass Blue grama grass
Bouteloua gracilis
Insect Colorado hairstreak butterfly
Hypaurotis cysaluswas
Mammal(s) Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Ovis canadensis
Reptile Western painted turtle
Chrysemys picta bellii
Tree Colorado blue spruce
Picea pungens

Inanimate insignia
Beverage Mountain Dew
Fossil Stegosaurus
Stegosaurus armatus
Gemstone Aquamarine
Mineral Rhodochrosite
Slogan(s) Colorful Colorado
Soil Seitz
Song(s) "Where the Columbines Grow" (1915) and
"Rocky Mountain High" (secondary song added 2007)
Sport Pack burro racing
Tartan Colorado State Tartan

Route marker(s)
Colorado Route Marker

State Quarter
Quarter of Colorado
Released in 2006

Lists of United States state insignia

Colorado is a state of the United States. Its capital and largest city is Denver. Other big cities are Colorado Springs and Aurora. It became a state in 1876.Colorado recently legalized the use and possession of the drug marijuana, and it is the first state in US history to have done so.

The state was named for the Colorado River

Colorado is bordered by Wyoming to the north, Nebraska to the northeast, Kansas to the east, Oklahoma to the southeast, New Mexico to the south, Utah to the west, and Arizona to the southwest at the Four Corners.

Colorado is noted for its vivid landscape of mountains, forests, high plains, mesas, canyons, plateaus, rivers, and desert lands.

Geography

Colorado is notable for its diverse geography, ranging from alpine mountains, arid plains and deserts with huge sand dunes, deep canyons, sandstone and granite rock formations, rivers, lakes, and lush forests.

Elkmts
The Elk Mountains near Aspen, Colorado showing the Maroon Bells
Tenmile
Ten Mile Range and Dillon Reservoir near Breckenridge, Colorado

Mountains

The summit of Mount Elbert at 14,440 feet (4,401.2 m) elevation in Lake County is the highest point in Colorado and the Rocky Mountains of North America. Colorado is the only U.S. state that lies entirely above 1,000 meters elevation. The point where the Arikaree River flows out of Yuma County, Colorado, and into Cheyenne County, Kansas, is the lowest point in Colorado at 3,317 feet (1,011 m) elevation. This point, which holds the distinction of being the highest low elevation point of any state, is higher than the high elevation points of 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Picketwire Canyon
A view of the arid high plains in Southeastern Colorado
Calhanpm
The Calhan Paint Mines on the Colorado Eastern Plains

Plains

A little less than one half of the area of Colorado is flat and rolling land. Corn, wheat, hay, soybeans, and oats are all typical crops, and most of the villages and towns in this region boast both a water tower and a grain elevator. Irrigation water is available from the South Platte, the Arkansas River, and a few other streams, and also from subterranean sources, including artesian wells. As well as crop agriculture, eastern Colorado hosts considerable livestock, such as cattle ranches and hog farms.

Front range

Condiv
Front Range Peaks west of Denver

Roughly 70% of Colorado's population resides along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in the Front Range Urban Corridor between Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Pueblo, Colorado. This region is partially protected from prevailing storms that blow in from the Pacific Ocean region by the high Rockies in the middle of Colorado. The "Front Range" includes Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins, Loveland, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Greeley and other townships and municipalities in between. On the other side of the Rockies, the significant population centers in Western Colorado (which is not considered the "Front Range") are the cities of Grand Junction, Durango, and Montrose.

Continental Divide

Continental-Divide Monarch-Pass 2012-10-28
Continental Divide at Monarch Pass

The Continental Divide of the Americas extends along the crest of the Rocky Mountains. The area of Colorado to the west of the Continental Divide is called the Western Slope of Colorado. Drainage water west of the Continental Divide flows to the southwest via the Colorado River and the Green River into the Gulf of California.

Within the interior of the Rocky Mountains are several large parks which are high broad basins.

Southern region

Mt Herard sand
The tallest dunes in North America at Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado

In southmost Colorado is the large San Luis Valley, where the headwaters of the Rio Grande are located.

ChicoClosedBasin
The high desert lands that make up the San Luis Valley in Southern Colorado

Peaks

To the west of the Great Plains of Colorado rises the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. Notable peaks of the Rocky Mountains include Longs Peak, Mount Evans, Pikes Peak, and the Spanish Peaks near Walsenburg, in southern Colorado. This area drains to the east and the southeast, ultimately either via the Mississippi River or the Rio Grande into the Gulf of Mexico.

SANJUANMTNS
Peaks of the San Juan Mountains

The Rocky Mountains within Colorado contain about 53 peaks that are 14,000 feet (4,267 m) or higher in elevation above sea level, known as fourteeners. These mountains are largely covered with trees such as conifers and aspens up to the tree line, at an elevation of about 12,000 feet (3,700 m) in southern Colorado to about 10,500 feet (3,200 m) in northern Colorado. Above this only alpine vegetation grows. Only small parts of the Colorado Rockies are snow-covered year round.

Much of the alpine snow melts by mid-August with the exception of a few snowcapped peaks and a few small glaciers. The Colorado Mineral Belt, stretching from the San Juan Mountains in the southwest to Boulder and Central City on the front range, contains most of the historic gold- and silver-mining districts of Colorado. Mount Elbert is the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains. The 30 highest major summits of the Rocky Mountains of North America all lie within the state.

BlackCanyon
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park near Montrose
East rim arch
Rim Arch in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness in western Colorado
Redcanyon
Sandstone cliffs along the Colorado River north of Wolcott
Lake CO
Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs

Colorado Western Slope

Grand Valley, Colorado
The Grand Valley in Western Colorado, a large valley made up of high desert terrain. The city of Grand Junction is located in the heart of the valley

The Western Slope of Colorado is drained by the Colorado River and its tributaries (primarily the Gunnison River, Green River and the San Juan River) or by evaporation in its arid areas.

The city of Grand Junction, Colorado is the largest city on the Western Slope.

Colorado National Monument (4939640266)
The Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction. The monument is made up of high desert canyons and sandstone rock formations

The Western Slope lies in close proximity to multiple notable destinations in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, including Glenwood Springs, with its resort hot springs, and the ski resorts of Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs, and Telluride.

The northwestern corner of Colorado is a sparsely populated region, and it contains part of the noted Dinosaur National Monument, which is not only a paleontological area, but is also a scenic area of rocky hills, canyons, arid desert, and streambeds. Here, the Green River briefly crosses over into Colorado.

From west to east, the land of Colorado consists of desert lands, desert plateaus, alpine mountains, National Forests, relatively flat grasslands, scattered forests, buttes, and canyons in the western edge of the Great Plains. The famous Pikes Peak is located just west of Colorado Springs. Its isolated peak is visible from nearly the Kansas border on clear days, and also far to the north and the south.

Four Corners Monument (1)
The Four Corners Monument, with Ute Mountain in the distance

Desert lands in Colorado are located in and around areas such as the Pueblo, Canon City, Florence, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, San Luis Valley, Cortez, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Ute Mountain, Delta, Grand Junction, Colorado National Monument, and other areas surrounding the Uncompahgre Plateau and Uncompahgre National Forest.

Colorado is one of four states in the United States that share a common geographic point - the Four Corners together with Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. At this intersection, it is possible to stand in four states at once.

Climate

The climate of Colorado is more complex than states outside of the Mountain States region. Unlike most other states, southern Colorado is not always warmer than northern Colorado. Most of Colorado is made up of mountains, foothills, high plains, and desert lands. Mountains and surrounding valleys greatly affect local climate.

Northeast, east, and southeast Colorado are mostly the high plains, while Northern Colorado is a mix of high plains, foothills, and mountains. Northwest and west Colorado are predominantly mountainous, with some desert lands mixed in. Southwest and southern Colorado are a complex mixture of desert and mountain areas.

Eastern Plains

PivotWithDrops
Center-pivot irrigation of wheat growing in Yuma County

The climate of the Eastern Plains is a semi-arid climate. The area is known for its abundant sunshine and cool, clear nights, which give this area a great average diurnal temperature range. The difference between the highs of the days and the lows of the nights can be considerable as warmth dissipates to space during clear nights, the heat radiation not being trapped by clouds.

The Front Range urban corridor, where most of the population of Colorado resides, lies in a pronounced precipitation shadow as a result of being on the lee side of the Rocky Mountains.

In summer, this area can have many days above 95 °F (35 °C) and often 100 °F (38 °C). On the plains, the winter lows usually range from 25 to −10 °F (−4 to −23 °C). About 75% of the precipitation falls within the growing season, from April to September, but this area is very prone to droughts. Most of the precipitation comes from thunderstorms, which can be severe, and from major snowstorms that occur in the winter and early spring. Otherwise, winters tend to be mostly dry and cold.

In much of the region, March is the snowiest month. April and May are normally the rainiest months, while April is the wettest month overall.

Front range foothills

Just west of the plains and into the foothills, there are a wide variety of climate types. Locations merely a few miles apart can experience entirely different weather depending on the topography. Most valleys have a semi-arid climate, which transitions to an alpine climate at higher elevations. There are also pockets of subtropical highland and humid subtropical climates.

Extreme weather

October Snow in Colorado
Snow highlights the rugged mountains, as well as the urban and agricultural landscapes of the Colorado plains.

Extreme weather changes are common in Colorado, although the majority of extreme weather occurs in the least populated areas of the state. Thunderstorms are common east of the Continental Divide in the spring and summer, yet are usually brief. Hail is a common sight in the mountains east of the divide and in the northwest part of the state. The Eastern Plains have had some of the biggest hail storms in North America.

The Eastern Plains are part of the extreme western portion of Tornado Alley; some damaging tornadoes in the Eastern Plains include the 1990 Limon F3 tornado and the 2008 Windsor EF3 tornado, which devastated the small town. The plains are also susceptible to occasional floods, which are caused both by thunderstorms and by the rapid melting of snow in the mountains during warm weather.

Much of Colorado is a very dry state averaging only 17 in (430 mm) of precipitation per year statewide and rarely experiences a time when some portion of the state is not in some degree of drought. The lack of precipitation contributes to the severity of wildfires in the state.

However, some of the mountainous regions of Colorado receive a huge amount of moisture from winter snowfalls. The spring melts of these snows often cause great waterflows in the Yampa River, the Colorado River, the Rio Grande, the Arkansas River, the North Platte River, and the South Platte River.

Overlook of Yampa River
The Yampa River, from a high overlook

Water flowing out of the Colorado Rocky Mountains is a very significant source of water for the farms, towns, and cities of the southwest states of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, as well as the Midwest, such as Nebraska and Kansas, and the southern states of Oklahoma and Texas. A significant amount of water is also diverted for use in California; occasionally (formerly naturally and consistently), the flow of water reaches northern Mexico.

History

Mesa-Verde---Cliff-Palace-in 1891 - edit1
Ruins of Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde National Park as photographed by Gustaf Nordenskiöld in 1891.
Great Kiva at Chimney Rock Colorado
Great Kiva at Chimney Rock in the San Juan Mountains of Southwestern Colorado. It is said to have been built by the Ancient Pueblo peoples.

The region that is today the state of Colorado has been inhabited by Native Americans for more than 13,000 years.

The U.S. acquired a territorial claim to the eastern Rocky Mountains with the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. This U.S. claim conflicted with the claim by Spain to the upper Arkansas River Basin as the exclusive trading zone of its colony of Santa Fé de Nuevo Méjico. In 1806, Zebulon Pike led a U.S. Army reconnaissance expedition into the disputed region. Colonel Pike and his men were arrested by Spanish cavalrymen in the San Luis Valley the following February, taken to Chihuahua, and expelled from Mexico the following July.

The U.S. relinquished its claim to all land south and west of the Arkansas River and south of 42nd parallel north and west of the 100th meridian west as part of its purchase of Florida from Spain with the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819. Mexico eventually ratified the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1831. The Texian Revolt of 1835–36 fomented a dispute between the U.S. and Mexico which eventually erupted into the Mexican–American War in 1846. Mexico surrendered its northern territory to the U.S. with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the conclusion of the war in 1848.

Mexican Cession in Mexican View
Map of the Mexican cession, with the white representing the territory the United States received from Mexico. Well over half of Colorado was received during this treaty.

Most American settlers traveling overland west to the Oregon Country, namely the new goldfields of California, or the new Mormon settlements of the State of Deseret in the Salt Lake Valley, avoided the rugged Southern Rocky Mountains.

In 1854, Senator Stephen A. Douglas persuaded the U.S. Congress to divide the unorganized territory east of the Continental Divide into two new organized territories, the Territory of Kansas and the Territory of Nebraska, and an unorganized southern region known as the Indian territory.

The election of Abraham Lincoln for the President of the United States on November 6, 1860, led to the secession of nine southern slave states and the threat of civil war among the states. The Republican Party-dominated Congress and admitted the eastern portion of the Territory of Kansas into the Union as the free State of Kansas on January 29, 1861, leaving the western portion of the Kansas Territory, and its gold-mining areas, as unorganized territory.

Territory act

Thirty days later on February 28, 1861, outgoing U.S. President James Buchanan signed an Act of Congress organizing the free Territory of Colorado.

On April 12, 1861, South Carolina artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter to start the American Civil War.

Mount of the Holy Cross
Mount of the Holy Cross was photographed by William Henry Jackson in 1874

In 1862, a force of Texas cavalry invaded the Territory of New Mexico and captured Santa Fe on March 10. On March 28, the Coloradans and local New Mexico volunteers stopped the Texans at the Battle of Glorieta Pass and the Texans abandoned Santa Fe and returned to San Antonio in defeat. The Confederacy made no further attempts to seize the Southwestern United States.

In the midst and aftermath of Civil War, many discouraged prospectors returned to their homes, but a few stayed and developed mines, mills, farms, ranches, roads, and towns in Colorado Territory.

Statehood

Georgetown loop 1899
The Georgetown Loop of the Colorado Central Railroad as photographed by William Henry Jackson in 1899

The United States Congress passed an enabling act on March 3, 1875, specifying the requirements for the Territory of Colorado to become a state. On August 1, 1876 (28 days after the Centennial of the United States), U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation admitting Colorado to the Union as the 38th state and earning it the moniker "Centennial State".

The discovery of a major silver lode near Leadville in 1878 triggered the Colorado Silver Boom.

Colorado women were granted the right to vote beginning on November 7, 1893, making Colorado the second state to grant universal suffrage and the first one by a popular vote (of Colorado men).

Tourism became a mainstay of the state economy, and high technology became an important economic engine.

Three warships of the U.S. Navy have been named the USS Colorado. The first USS Colorado was named for the Colorado River. The later two ships were named in honor of the state, including the battleship USS Colorado which served in World War II in the Pacific beginning in 1941. At the time of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, this USS Colorado was located at the naval base in San Diego, Calif. and because of that wasn't harmed in the attack.

Demographics

According to the 2010 United States Census, Colorado had a population of 5,029,196. Racial composition of the state's population was:

  • 81.3% White American (70.0% Non-Hispanic White, 11.3% Hispanic white)
  • 20.7% Hispanic and Latino American (of any race) heritage
  • 7.2% Some Other Race
  • 4.0% Black or African American
  • 3.4% Multiracial American
  • 2.8% Asian American
  • 1.1% American Indian and Alaska Native
  • 0.1% Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander

Colorado has a high proportion of Hispanic, mostly Mexican-American, citizens in Metropolitan Denver, Colorado Springs, as well as the smaller cities of Greeley and Pueblo, and elsewhere.

Colorado also has some large African-American communities located in Denver, in the neighborhoods of Montbello, Five Points, Whittier, and many other East Denver areas.

Language

Spanish is the second-most-spoken language in Colorado, after English. There is one Native Coloradan language still spoken in Colorado, Colorado River Numic (Ute).

Religion

Colorado Rocky Mtn Church
The Chapel on the Rock at Camp Saint Malo near Allenspark.

Colorado's most common religion is Christianity, and its most common denomination is Catholicism. Colorado, and mostly the city of Colorado Springs, serves as the headquarters of many Christian groups, many of them Evangelical.

Economy

Corn production in Colorado
Corn production in Colorado

The state's economy broadened from its mid-19th century roots in mining when irrigated agriculture developed, and by the late 19th century, raising livestock had become important. Early industry was based on the extraction and processing of minerals and agricultural products. Current agricultural products are cattle, wheat, dairy products, corn, and hay.

In the second half of the 20th century, the industrial and service sectors have expanded greatly. The state's economy is diversified and is notable for its concentration of scientific research and high-technology industries. Other industries include food processing, transportation equipment, machinery, chemical products, minerals such as gold and molybdenum, and tourism. Denver is also an important financial center.

Culture

HistoryColoradoCenter1
History Colorado Center in Denver
Denver Colorado Art
Street art in Denver

Film

A number of film productions have shot on location in Colorado, especially prominent Westerns like True Grit, The Searchers and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A number of historic military forts, railways with trains still operating, mining ghost towns have been utilized and transformed for historical accuracy in well known films.

Cuisine

Colorado is known for its Southwest and Rocky Mountain cuisine. Mexican restaurants are prominent throughout the state.

Boulder, Colorado was named America's Foodiest Town 2010 by Bon Appétit. Boulder, and Colorado in general, is home to a number of national food and beverage companies, top-tier restaurants and farmers' markets. Boulder, Colorado also has more Master Sommeliers per capita than any other city, including San Francisco and New York.

The Food & Wine Classic is held annually each June in Aspen, Colorado. Aspen also has a reputation as the culinary capital of the Rocky Mountain region.

Denver is known for steak, but now has a diverse culinary scene with many top-tier restaurants.

Wine and beer

Colorado wines include award-winning varietals that have attracted favorable notice from outside the state. With wines made from traditional Vitis vinifera grapes along with wines made from cherries, peaches, plums and honey, Colorado wines have won top national and international awards for their quality. Colorado's grape growing regions contain the highest elevation vineyards in the United States, with most viticulture in the state practiced between 4,000 and 7,000 feet (1,219 and 2,134 m) above sea level.

Transportation

Colorado
A Colorado state welcome sign

Colorado's primary mode of transportation (in terms of passengers) is its highway system. Smaller communities are only connected to this network via county roads.

DIA
The main terminal of Denver International Airport evokes the peaks of the Front Range.

Denver International Airport (DIA) is the fourth busiest domestic U.S. airport and thirteenth busiest world airport DIA handles by far the largest volume of commercial air traffic in Colorado, and is the busiest U.S. hub airport between Chicago and the Pacific coast, making Denver the most important airport for connecting passenger traffic in the western United States.

California Zephyr--Eastbound meets Westbound in Glenwood Canyon
The westbound and eastbound California Zephyrs meet in the Glenwood Canyon.

Amtrak operates two legendary passenger rail lines in Colorado, the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief.

Protected areas

Lowry Pueblo ruins
Lowry Pueblo in Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Coloradodunes
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve
SpruceTreeHouseLong
Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde National Park

Colorado is home to 4 national parks, 8 national monuments, 2 national recreation areas, 2 national historic sites, 3 national historic trails, a national scenic trail, 11 national forests, 2 national grasslands, 42 national wilderness areas, 2 national conservation areas, 8 national wildlife refuges, 44 state parks, 307 state wildlife areas, and numerous other scenic, historic, and recreational areas.

Some examples of the National Park System in Colorado are:

Images


Colorado Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.