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Custer County, Colorado facts for kids

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Custer County
The Westcliffe Jail is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Westcliffe Jail is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Official seal of Custer County
Map of Colorado highlighting Custer County
Location within the U.S. state of Colorado
Map of the United States highlighting Colorado
Colorado's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Colorado
Founded March 9, 1877
Named for George Armstrong Custer
Seat Westcliffe
Largest town Silver Cliff
 • Total 740 sq mi (1,900 km2)
 • Land 739 sq mi (1,910 km2)
 • Water 1.3 sq mi (3 km2)  0.2%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 6.4/sq mi (2.5/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
Congressional district 3rd

Custer County is a county located in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2020 census, the population was 4,704. The county seat is Westcliffe.


Custer County was created by the Colorado legislature on March 9, 1877, out of the southern half of Fremont County. It was named in honor of Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who had died the previous year. Originally set in Ula, the county seat moved to Rosita in 1878, and to Silver Cliff in 1886 before settling in Westcliffe in 1928.

The county was the site of a silver rush during the 1870s. Thousands of men poured into the county during this time in the hunt for silver. Some of the notable mines include the Geyser Mine (on the north edge of the town of Silver Cliff), the Bassick Mine (near the ghost town of Querida) and the Bull Domingo (north of Silver Cliff).

During the late 19th century a railroad line was connected through the Grape Creek Canyon but was permanently closed after a few disastrous floods. The old railhouse has been turned into a historical landmark in the town of Westcliffe.

After the mines were exhausted, the population dropped considerably and was replaced by cattle ranchers. An extensive system of irrigation ditches was built throughout the valley. Ranching in the Wet Mountain Valley continues to this day.


The Wet Mountain Valley of Custer County is nestled beneath the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 740 square miles (1,900 km2), of which 739 square miles (1,910 km2) is land and 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2) (0.2%) is water.

The county is very rugged and would be virtually inaccessible without roads. The lowest point of the county is around 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in elevation, but most of the county is rugged and mountainous. The county seat of Westcliffe is about 7,800 feet (2,400 m) and along with nearby town Silver Cliff lies in the Wet Mountain Valley which sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west reach heights in excess of 14,000 feet (4,300 m) with Crestone Peak being the highest at 14,294 feet (4,357 m) and 7th highest fourteener in Colorado.

A large percentage of the county is National Forest land in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the west side and in the Wet Mountains on the east. The only lake of size is the Deweese Reservoir in the north end of the Wet Mountain Valley.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Bicycle trails

  • TransAmerica Trail Bicycle Route
  • Western Express Bicycle Route


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 8,080
1890 2,970 −63.2%
1900 2,937 −1.1%
1910 1,947 −33.7%
1920 2,172 11.6%
1930 2,124 −2.2%
1940 2,270 6.9%
1950 1,573 −30.7%
1960 1,305 −17.0%
1970 1,120 −14.2%
1980 1,528 36.4%
1990 1,926 26.0%
2000 3,503 81.9%
2010 4,255 21.5%
2020 4,704 10.6%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2020

As of the census of 2000, there were 3,503 people, 1,480 households, and 1,077 families living in the county. The population density was 5 people per square mile (2/km2). There were 2,989 housing units at an average density of 4 per square mile (2/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 95.89% White, 0.37% Black or African American, 1.11% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.71% from other races, and 1.63% from two or more races. 2.51% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,480 households, out of which 25.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.60% were married couples living together, 5.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.20% were non-families. 23.80% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.77.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 22.50% under the age of 18, 4.50% from 18 to 24, 23.30% from 25 to 44, 35.00% from 45 to 64, and 14.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 104.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.00 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,731, and the median income for a family was $41,198. Males had a median income of $32,460 versus $20,868 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,817. About 9.80% of families and 13.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.10% of those under age 18 and 12.60% of those age 65 or over.

Median household income (adjusted for inflation) dropped from $49,184 in 2009 to $32,261 in 2014, which made the county the third worst performing county in this respect in the country.


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