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Rio Grande County, Colorado facts for kids

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Rio Grande County
Map of Colorado highlighting Rio Grande 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 February 10, 1874
Named for Rio Grande
Seat Del Norte
Largest city Monte Vista
 • Total 912 sq mi (2,360 km2)
 • Land 912 sq mi (2,360 km2)
 • Water 0.4 sq mi (1 km2)  0.04%%
 • Estimate 
 • Density 13/sq mi (5/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
Congressional district 3rd

Rio Grande County is one of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 11,982. The county seat is Del Norte. The county is named for the Rio Grande (Spanish language for "Big River"), which flows through the county.


The gateway to the San Juan Mountains, Rio Grande County is one of the highlights of the San Luis Valley. The county covers 913 square miles (2,360 km2) ranging from approximately 7,000 feet (2,100 m) on valley floor to several 13,000-foot peaks. There are three municipalities within the county, Monte Vista, Del Norte, and South Fork and all have been historically developed along the rail line that follows the Rio Grande.

Monte Vista is the county's largest community situated on the valley floor. "Monte", as locals people call it, is the center of the agricultural aspect of the county. There are numerous festivals, events, and clubs that take place in and around Monte Vista, and the Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge is a stop for migratory Sand Hill Cranes every year. Del Norte is a quaint town with a focus on its historic past; it is the county seat, home to the Rio Grande County Museum, and maintains a historic façade in its main street.

The newest town in Rio Grande County is South Fork. South Fork is surrounded by the Rio Grande National Forest and other public lands and has easy access to Wolf Creek Ski Area. Developed as a logging center it has become a gem of the Valley with a booming housing market, world-class 18-hole golf course, and the distinction of being the "Gateway to the Silver Thread" scenic byway.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 912 square miles (2,360 km2), of which 912 square miles (2,360 km2) is land and 0.4 square miles (1.0 km2) (0.04%) is water.

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Trails and byways


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 1,944
1890 3,451 77.5%
1900 4,080 18.2%
1910 6,563 60.9%
1920 7,855 19.7%
1930 9,953 26.7%
1940 12,404 24.6%
1950 12,832 3.5%
1960 11,160 −13.0%
1970 10,494 −6.0%
1980 10,511 0.2%
1990 10,770 2.5%
2000 12,413 15.3%
2010 11,982 −3.5%
Est. 2015 11,543 −3.7%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2015

As of the census of 2000, there were 12,413 people, 4,701 households, and 3,417 families residing in the county. The population density was 14 people per square mile (5/km²). There were 6,003 housing units at an average density of 7 per square mile (3/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 73.93% White, 0.35% Black or African American, 1.26% Native American, 0.23% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 21.45% from other races, and 2.76% from two or more races. 41.67% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 4,701 households out of which 35.10% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.80% were married couples living together, 11.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.30% were non-families. 24.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the county, the population was spread out with 28.10% under the age of 18, 8.00% from 18 to 24, 25.30% from 25 to 44, 23.90% from 45 to 64, and 14.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 97.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $31,836, and the median income for a family was $36,809. Males had a median income of $30,432 versus $23,005 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,650. About 11.30% of families and 14.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.40% of those under age 18 and 11.20% of those age 65 or over.




Census-designated places

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