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State of Colorado
State flag of Colorado State seal of Colorado
(Flag of Colorado) (Seal of Colorado)
State nickname: The Centennial State
Map of the U.S. with Colorado highlighted
Other U.S. States
Capital Denver
Largest city Denver
Governor Bill Owens (R)
Senators Wayne Allard (R)

Ken Salazar (D)

Official language(s) English
Area 269,837 km² (8th)
 - Land 268,879 km²
 - Water 962 km² (0.36%)
Population (2000)
 - Population 4,301,261 (24th)
 - Density 16.01 /km² (37th)
Admission into Union
 - Date August 1, 1876
 - Order 38th
Time zone Mountain: UTC-7/DST-6
Latitude 37°N to 41°N
Longitude 102°W to 109°W
Width 451 km
Length 612 km
 - Highest point 4,401 m
 - Mean 2,100 m
 - Lowest point 1,010 m
 - ISO 3166-2 US-CO
Web site
Colorado state insignia
Motto Nil sine numine (Latin, "Nothing without Providence")
Slogan none
Bird Lark Bunting
Animal Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Fish Greenback cutthroat trout
Insect Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly
Flower Rocky Mountain Columbine
Tree Colorado Spruce or Blue Spruce
Fossil Stegosaurus
Song "Where the Columbines Grow"
Folk dance Square dance
Gemstone Aquamarine
Mineral Rhodochrosite
Rock Yule Marble
Grass Blue grama
Quarter Colorado quarter
To be released in 2006

Colorado is a state in the western United States. Colorado is best known as the home of the highest peaks of the Rocky Mountains, which dominate the western half of the state; eastern Colorado is largely high plains. The state capital and largest city is Denver, Colorado; the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area contains over half of the state's population (2.5 million out of 4.3 million). The state was named after the Spanish word "Colorado" which means "reddish colored" that presumably refers to the red sandstone formations in the area or reddish brown color of the Colorado River.

The U.S. Postal abbreviation for the state is CO. The USS Colorado was named in honor of this state.


History of Colorado

Main article: History of Colorado

The territory which ultimately became Colorado was added to the United States by the 1803 Louisiana Purchase and the 1848 Mexican Cession. The Colorado Gold Rush of 1859 (see also Fifty-Niner) brought large numbers of settlers to the Denver area, although the population collapsed following an initial mining boom. The Colorado Territory was organized as a United States territory on February 28, 1861 and Colorado attained statehood in 1876 (earning it the moniker the "Centennial State"). Colorado women were granted the right to vote starting on November 7, 1893.

Law and government

Colorado State Capitol in Denver
Colorado State Capitol in Denver

Like the majority of the states, Colorado's current constitution provides for three branches of government: the legislative, executive and judicial branches. The legislative body is the General Assembly made up of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House of Representatives has 65 members and the Senate has 35. Currently, Democrats are in control of both chambers of the General Assembly. The 2005 Colorado General Assembly is the first to be controlled by the Democrats in forty years.

Colorado is considered a very independent state politically, with 17 of the governors Democrat and 12 of them Republican in the last 100 years. The state supported Democrat Bill Clinton in 1992, and the Republican presidential nominees in 1996 and 2000. Recently, the state appears to be going more towards the center. George W. Bush won the state's 9 electoral votes in 2004 by a margin of 5 percentage points with 51.7% of the vote, considerably less than the 9% margin Bush won by in 2000 [1]. Democrats also gained in every open seat race in the state, picking up a seat in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Democrats are strongest in metropolitan Denver, Boulder, southern Colorado, and a few western ski resort counties, while Republicans are strongest in the rural plains region, Colorado Springs, the Western Slope, and some of the Denver suburbs.

The two Senators from Colorado are Wayne Allard (Republican) and Ken Salazar (Democrat). The governor heads the state's executive branch. The current governor of Colorado is Bill Owens (Republican). See: List of Colorado Governors


See: list of Colorado counties, list of Colorado rivers

Colorado is one of only three states (the others are Wyoming and Utah) that has only lines of latitude and longitude for borders. It stretches exactly from 37°N to 41°N, and 102°W to 109°W. The Four Corners Monument at its southwestern-most point is at 37°N and 109°W.

East of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains are the Colorado Eastern Plains, the section of the Great Plains within Colorado at elevations ranging from 3500 to 7000 ft (1,000 to 2,000 m). Kansas and Nebraska border Colorado to the east. The plains are sparsely settled with most population along the South Platte and the Arkansas rivers and the I-70 corridor. Rainfall is meager, averaging about 15 in/year (380 mm/year). There is some irrigated farming, but much of the land is used for dryland farming or ranching. Winter wheat is a typical crop and most small towns in the region boast both a water tower and a grain elevator.

The major cities and towns lie just east of the Front Range, in the I-25 corridor. The majority of the population of Colorado lives in this densely urbanized strip.

To the west lies the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains with notable peaks such as Long's Peak, Mount Evans, Pike's Peak, and the Spanish Peaks near Walsenburg in the south. This area drains to the east, is forested, and partially urbanized. With urbanization, utilization of the forest for timbering and grazing was retarded which resulted in accumulation of fuel. During the drought of 2002 devastating forest fires swept this area.

To the west of the Front Range lies the continental divide. To the west of the continental divide is the Western Slope. Water west of the continental divide drains into the Pacific Ocean via the Colorado River.

Digital elevation model relief map of Colorado — much of the state is flat, despite stereotypes
Digital elevation model relief map of Colorado — much of the state is flat, despite stereotypes

Within the interior of the Rocky Mountains there are several large parks or high broad basins. In the north, on the east side of the continental divide is North Park. North Park is drained by the North Platte River which flows north into Wyoming. Just south, but on the west side of the continental divide is Middle Park, drained by the Colorado River. South Park is the headwaters of the South Platte River. To the south lies the San Luis Valley, the headwaters of the Rio Grande which drains into New Mexico. Across the Sangre de Cristo Range to the east of the San Luis Valley lies the Wet Mountain Valley. These basins, particularly the San Luis Valley, lie along the Rio Grande Rift, a major geological formation, and its branches. See Great Rift Valley.

Snowpack accumulation at 14,255 ft. on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Snowpack accumulation at 14,255 ft. on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.

The Rocky Mountains within Colorado contain 54 peaks over 14,000 ft (4,270 m), known as fourteeners. The mountains are timbered with conifers and aspen to the tree-line, at an elevation of about 12,000 ft (4,000 m) in southern Colorado to about 10,500 ft (3,200 m) in northern Colorado; above this only alpine vegetation grows. The Rockies are snow-covered only in the winter; most snow melts by mid August with the exception of 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.

The Western Slope is generally drained by the Colorado River and its tributaries. Notable to the south are the San Juan Mountains, an extremely rugged mountain range, and to the west of the San Juans, the Colorado Plateau, a high desert bordering Southern Utah. Grand Junction is the largest city on the Western Slope. Grand Junction is served by Interstate Highway I-70. To the southeast of Grand Junction is Grand Mesa, a large flat-topped mountain. Further east lie the ski resorts of Aspen, Vail, Crested Butte, and Steamboat Springs. The northwestern corner of Colorado bordering Northern Utah and Western Wyoming is mostly sparsely populated rangeland.

From west to east, the state consists of desert-like basins, turning into plateaus, then alpine mountains, and then the grasslands of the Great Plains. Mount Elbert is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains within the continental United States. The famous Pike's Peak is just west of Colorado Springs. Its lone peak is visible from near the Kansas border on clear days.


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.

The federal government is also a major economic force in the state with many important federal facilities including NORAD and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, NOAA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, U.S. Geological Survey and other government agencies at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood, the Denver Mint, and 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, and a federal Supermax Prison and other federal prisons near Cañon City. There are of course various other federal agencies and federally owned lands in the state, especially with Colorado's abundant National Forests and four National Parks. There are also numerous private companies that have operations in Colorado that deal with the governmental agencies in the state.

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 an important financial center.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the total state product in 2003 was $187 billion. Per capital personal income in 2003 was $34,561, putting Colorado 8th in the nation.

To see a 2004 per capital personal income comparison table on a state basis: [2]


Historical populations

1860 34,277
1870 39,864
1880 194,327
1890 413,249
1900 539,700
1910 799,024
1920 939,629
1930 1,035,791
1940 1,123,296
1950 1,325,089
1960 1,753,947
1970 2,207,259
1980 2,889,964
1990 3,294,394
2000 4,301,261


The 2000 Census reported Colorado's population as 4,301,261 [3], and the state's 2004 population is estimated to be 4,601,403 [4]. Between 1990 and 2004, Colorado's population grew by 39.7%, a growth rate outpaced only by Nevada and Arizona's. According to estimates made in 2004, Colorado's population will increase to 7,150,000 by 2030 [5]. The largest increases are expected along the Front Range, especially in the Denver-Aurora metropolitan area.

As of 2004, 441,000 foreign-born persons (9.7% of the population) live in the state, including an estimated 144,000 illegal aliens (3.1% of the state population).

Race and ancestry

The racial makeup of the state and comparison to the prior census:

Census year: 2000 1990
White 82.8% 88.2%
Black 3.8% 4.0%
Asian 2.2% 1.8%
Native American 1.0% 0.8%
Other race 7.3% 5.1%
Mixed race 2.8%
White, non-Hispanic 74.5% 80.7%
Hispanic 17.1% 12.9%
* Not available; mixed race was first reported in the census of 2000.
Hispanics may be of any race and are included in applicable race categories.

(Estimates for the year 2003 are available at: PDF.)

Colorado's Hispanic presence is one of the USA's largest—only five states have more Hispanics (per capita). Denver and some other areas have significant Mexican populations, while southern Colorado has a large number of Hispanos, the descendants of early New Mexican settlers of colonial Spanish origin.

The largest ancestry groups in Colorado are British, German, Scandinavian, Irish, and Spanish/Hispano. Persons reporting German ancestry are the largest group in the state and are especially strong in the Front Range and eastern Plains. People of British extraction are the largest group in the western Rocky Mountains.


Compared to the nation at large, Colorado—like many other Western states—has a high percentage of non-religious people. In addition, although quite small in number overall, Colorado has one of the highest concentrations of Tibetan Buddhists in North America, located primarily in Boulder and Crestone. Nonetheless, the state—specifically the city of Colorado Springs—is home to numerous Christian groups. Focus on the Family is among the most prominent of these.

More information

For detailed social information on Colorado, see here; for economic information, see here; and for housing information, see here.

Important cities and towns

Map of Colorado
Map of Colorado - PDF

Each grouping represents a U.S. Census metropolitan or micropolitan area, headed by its principal city (or cities). Each city named in bold has a population greater than 100,000.

Other notable cities (population under 10,000)

25 Richest Places in Colorado

Ranked by per capita income

1 Cherry Hills Village $99,996
2 Genessee CDP $79,180
3 Columbine Valley $71,758
4 Castle Pines CDP $70,456
5 Greenwood Village $69,189
6 Bonanza $66,857
7 Bow Mar $53,558
8 Heritage Hills CDP $50,041
9 Perry Park CDP $47,574
10 Lone Tree $46,287
11 Meridian CDP $46,031
12 The Pinery CDP $43,065
13 Eldorado Springs CDP $42,908
14 Vail $42,390
15 Foxfield $40,970
16 Aspen $40,680
17 Niwot $39,943
18 Mountain Village $39,920
19 Edwards CDP $39,784
20 Pitkin $39,182
21 Telluride $38,832
22 Woodmoor CDP $38,758
23 Castlewood CDP $37,891 (now a part of Centennial)
24 Vona $37,802
25 Eagle-Vail CDP $37,260
See complete list of Colorado places

Colorado tourism and recreation

Welcome to Colorado
Welcome to Colorado

National parks

National monuments

National recreational areas

National forests

National grasslands

Wilderness areas

National historic sites


Colleges and universities

Professional sports teams

Major highways


Further reading

  • Explore Colorado, A Naturalist's Handbook, The Denver Museum of Natural History and Westcliff Publishers, 1995, ISBN 1-56579-124-X for an excellent guide to the ecological regions of Colorado.
  • The Archeology of Colorado, Revised Edition, E. Steve Cassells, Johnson Books, Boulder, Colorado, 1997, trade paperback, ISBN 1-55566-193-9.
  • Chokecherry Places, Essays from the High Plains, Merrill Gilfillan, Johnson Press, Boulder, Colorado, trade paperback, ISBN 1-55566-227-7.
  • The Tie That Binds, Kent Haruf, 1984, hardcover, ISBN 0030719798, a fictional account of farming in Colorado.
  • Railroads of Colorado: Your Guide to Colorado's Historic Trains and Railway Sites, Claude Wiatrowski, Voyageur Press, 2002, hardcover, 160 pages, ISBN 0-89658-591-3

External links

Regions of Colorado Flag of Colorado
Eastern Plains | Denver-Aurora metropolitan area | Front Range | Mineral Belt | San Luis Valley | Western Slope
Largest cities
Arvada | Aurora | Boulder | Broomfield | Centennial | Colorado Springs | Denver | Englewood | Fort Collins | Grand Junction | Greeley | Lafayette | Lakewood | Littleton | Longmont | Loveland | Northglenn | Parker | Pueblo | Westminster | Wheat Ridge
Adams | Alamosa | Arapahoe | Archuleta | Baca | Bent | Boulder | Broomfield | Chaffee | Cheyenne | Clear Creek | Conejos | Costilla | Crowley | Custer | Delta | Denver | Dolores | Douglas | Eagle | El Paso | Elbert | Fremont | Garfield | Gilpin | Grand | Gunnison | Hinsdale | Huerfano | Jackson | Jefferson | Kiowa | Kit Carson | La Plata | Lake | Larimer | Las Animas | Lincoln | Logan | Mesa | Mineral | Moffat | Montezuma | Montrose | Morgan | Otero | Ouray | Park | Phillips | Pitkin | Prowers | Pueblo | Rio Blanco | Rio Grande | Routt | Saguache | San Juan | San Miguel | Sedgwick | Summit | Teller | Washington | Weld | Yuma

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