Colorado

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This article is about the U.S. state of Colorado. For the river, see Colorado River. For the physiographic region, see Colorado Plateau. For other uses, see Colorado (disambiguation).
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 song(s): "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 (612 km)
 - Length 280 miles (451 km)
 - % water 0.36%
 - Latitude 37°N to 41°N
 - Longitude 102°03'W to 109°03'W
Population Ranked 22nd
 - Total 5,268,367 (2013 estimate)[1]
 - Density 50.8/sq mi  (19.6/km2)
Ranked 37th
 - Median household income $57,685[2] (11th)
Elevation
 - Highest point Mount Elbert[3][4][5][6] in Lake County
14,440 ft (4401.2 m)
 - Mean 6,800 ft  (2070 m)
 - Lowest point Arikaree River[4][5] at the Kansas border
3,317 ft (1011 m)
Before statehood Colorado Territory
Admission to Union August 1, 1876 (38th)
Governor John Hickenlooper (D) (2011–)
Lieutenant Governor Joseph A. García (D) (2011–)
Legislature General Assembly
 - Upper house Senate
D-18, R-17 (2013-2015)
R-18, D-17 (2015-2017)
 - Lower house House of Representatives
D-37, R-28 (2013-2015)
D-34, R-31 (2015-2017)
U.S. Senators

2. Mark Udall (D) (2009-2015)
Cory Gardner (R) (2015–)

3. Michael Bennet (D) (2009–)
U.S. House delegation

1. Diana DeGette (D) (1997–)
2. Jared Polis (D) (2009–)
3. Scott Tipton (R) (2011–)
4. Cory Gardner (R) (2011-2015)
Ken Buck (R) (2015–)
5. Doug Lamborn (R) (2007–)
6. Mike Coffman (R) (2009–)

7. Ed Perlmutter (D) (2007–) (list)
Time zone Mountain: UTC-07/UTC-06
Abbreviations CO, Colo. US-CO
Website www.colorado.gov

Colorado (Listeni/kɒləˈræd/,[7] or /kɒləˈrɑːd/[8]) is a U.S. state encompassing most of the Southern Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains. Colorado is part of the Western United States, the Southwestern United States, and the Mountain States. Colorado is the 8th most extensive and the 22nd most populous of the 50 United States. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Colorado was 5,268,367 on July 1, 2013, an increase of 4.76% since the 2010 United States Census.[1]

The state was named for the Colorado River, which Spanish travelers named the Río Colorado for the ruddy (Spanish: colorado) silt the river carried from the mountains. The Territory of Colorado was organized on February 28, 1861, and on August 1, 1876, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation admitting Colorado to the Union as the 38th state. Colorado is nicknamed the "Centennial State" because it became a state in the centennial year of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Colorado is bordered by the northwest state of Wyoming to the north, the Midwest states of Nebraska and Kansas to the northeast and east, on the south by New Mexico and Oklahoma, on the west by Utah, and Arizona to the southwest. The four states of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona meet at one common point known as the Four Corners, which is known as the heart of the American Southwest. Colorado is noted for its vivid landscape of mountains, forests, high plains, mesas, canyons, plateaus, rivers, and desert lands.

Denver is the capital and the most populous city of Colorado. Residents of the state are properly known as "Coloradans", although the archaic term "Coloradoan" is still used, albeit rarely.[9][10]

Geography[edit]

Main article: Geography of Colorado

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. The borders of Colorado were originally defined to be lines of latitude and longitude, making its shape a latitude-longitude* quadrangle which stretches from 37°N to 41°N latitude and from 102°03'W to 109°03'W longitude (25°W to 32°W from the Washington Meridian).[11] Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are the only states which have boundaries defined solely by lines of latitude and longitude

Mountains and lakes near Breckenridge, Colorado

Mountains[edit]

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.[3] Colorado is the only U.S. state that lies entirely above 1000 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,[4][12] is higher than the high elevation points of 18 states and the District of Columbia.

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

Plains[edit]

A little less than one half of the area of Colorado is flat and rolling land. East of the Rocky Mountains are the Colorado Eastern Plains of the High Plains, the section of the Great Plains within Nebraska at elevations ranging from roughly 3,350 to 7,500 feet (1,020 to 2,290 m).[13] The Colorado plains are usually thought of as prairies, but actually they have many patches of deciduous forests, buttes, and canyons, much like the high plains in New Mexico as well. Eastern Colorado is presently mainly covered in farmland, along with small farming villages and towns. Precipitation is fair, averaging from 15 to 25 inches (380 to 640 mm) annually.[14] 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. As well as the farming of crops, Eastern Colorado has a good deal of livestock raising, such as at cattle ranches and hog farms and irrigation water is available from the South Platte, the Arkansas River, and a few other streams, and also from subterranean sources, including artesian wells. However, heavy use of ground water from wells for irrigation has caused underground water reserves to decline.

Front Range Peaks west of Denver

Front range[edit]

Most 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 only other significant population centers are at Grand Junction and Durango in western and southwestern Colorado, respectively.

Continental Divide[edit]

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 so-called "parks" or high broad basins. In the north, on the east side of the Continental Divide is the North Park of Colorado. The North Park is drained by the North Platte River, which flows north into Wyoming and Nebraska. Just to the south of North Park, but on the western side of the Continental Divide, is the Middle Park of Colorado, which is drained by the Colorado River. The South Park of Colorado is the region of the headwaters of the South Platte River.

Southern region[edit]

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. The valley sits between the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and San Juan Mountains, and consists of large desert lands that eventually run into the mountains. The Rio Grande drains due south into New Mexico, Mexico, and Texas. 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 of the Rocky Mountains, and its branches.

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

Peaks[edit]

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.

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.[15] These mountains are largely covered with trees such as conifers and aspens up to the tree line, at an elevation of about 12,140 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.

Rim Arch in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness in western Colorado
Sandstone cliffs along the Colorado River north of Wolcott

Colorado Western Slope[edit]

The Grand Valley is 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 Green River and the San Juan River), or by evaporation in its arid areas. Prominent in the southwestern area of the Western Slope is the Grand Mesa and the high San Juan Mountains, a rugged mountain range, and to the west of the San Juan Mountains, the Colorado Plateau, a high arid region that borders Southern Utah. The Colorado River flows through Glenwood Canyon and then through an arid valley made up of desert from Rifle to Parachute, through the desert canyon of De Beque Canyon, and into the arid desert of Grand Valley, of which the city of Grand Junction is located.

The city of Grand Junction, Colorado, is the largest city on the Western Slope, Grand Junction and Durango are the only major centers of television broadcasting west of the Continental Divide in Colorado. Most mountain resort communities publish daily newspapers. Higher education on the Western Slope can be found at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison, Fort Lewis College in Durango and Colorado Mountain College in Glenwood Springs and Steamboat Springs.

Grand Junction is located along Interstate 70, the only major highway of Western Colorado. Grand Junction is also along the major railroad of the Western Slope, the Union Pacific, which also provides the tracks for Amtrak's California Zephyr passenger train, which crosses the Rocky Mountains between Denver and Grand Junction via a route on which there are no continuous highways.

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

To the southeast of Grand Junction is the Grand Mesa, said to be the world's largest flat-topped mountain. Other towns of the Western Slope include 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 streambeads. 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.[16]

The 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.

The Four Corners Monument, with Ute Mountain in the distance

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[edit]

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.

As a general rule, with an increase in elevation comes a decrease in temperature and an increase in precipitation. 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[edit]

The climate of the Eastern Plains is semiarid (Köppen climate classification: BSk) with low humidity and moderate precipitation, usually from 15 to 25 in (380 to 640 mm) annually. 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 the space during clear nights, the heat radiation not being trapped by clouds.

In summer, this area can have many days above 95 °F (35 °C) and often 100 °F (38 °C).[17] 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.[18]

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. The Front Range cities closer to the mountains tend to be warmer in the winter due to chinook winds which warm the area, sometimes bringing temperatures of 70 °F or higher in the winter.[18] The average July temperature is 55 °F (13 °C) in the morning and 90 °F (32 °C) in the afternoon. The average January temperature is 1 °F (−8 °C) in the morning and 48 °F (9 °C) in the afternoon, although variation between consecutive days can be 40 °F (4 °C).

West of the plains and foothills[edit]

West of the plains and foothills, the weather of Colorado is much less uniform. Even places a few miles apart can experience entirely different weather depending on the topography of the area. Most valleys have a semi-arid climate, which becomes an alpine climate at higher elevations. Humid microclimates also exist in some areas. Generally, the wettest season in western Colorado is winter while June is the driest month.

The mountains have mild summers with many days of high temperatures between 60 and 85 °F (16 and 29 °C), although thunderstorms can cause sudden but brief drops in temperature. The winters bring abundant, powdery snowfall to the mountains with plenty of sunshine between major storms. The western slope has high summer temperatures similar to those found on the plains, while the winters tend to be slightly cooler due to the lack of warming winds common to the plains and Front Range. Other areas in the west have their own unique climate.

Extreme weather[edit]

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.[14]

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.[19] 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. Denver's record in 1901 for the number of consecutive days above 90 °F (32 °C) was broken during the summer of 2008. The new record of 24 consecutive days surpassed the previous record by almost a week.[20]

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.[21] The lack of precipitation contributes to the severity of wildfires in the state, such as the Hayman Fire, one of the largest wildfires in American history, and the Fourmile Canyon Fire of 2010, which until the Waldo Canyon Fire of June 2012, and the Black Forest Fire about a year later, was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado's recorded history.

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, Cherry Creek, the North Platte River, and the South Platte 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.

Records[edit]

The highest ambient air temperature ever recorded in Colorado was 118 °F (48 °C) on July 11, 1888, at Bennett. The lowest air temperature was −61 °F (−52 °C) on February 1, 1985, at Maybell.[22][23]

Monthly normal high and low temperatures for various Colorado cities[24] (°F) (°C)
City Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Alamosa 35/−2
2/−19
40/6
4/−14
51/17
11/−8
60/24
16/−4
70/33
21/1
79/41
26/5
83/47
28/8
80/46
27/8
73/37
23/3
62/25
17/−4
47/12
8/−11
36/1
2/−17
Colorado Springs 43/18
6/−8
45/20
7/−7
52/26
11/−3
60/33
16/1
69/43
21/6
79/51
26/11
85/57
29/14
82/56
28/13
75/47
24/8
63/36
17/2
51/25
11/−4
42/18
6/−8
Denver 44/19
7/−7
46/21
8/−6
54/27
12/−3
61/35
16/2
71/44
21/7
82/53
28/12
89/59
32/15
86/58
30/14
78/49
26/9
65/37
18/3
52/26
11/−3
43/18
6/−8
Grand Junction 38/18
3/−8
46/25
8/−4
57/32
14/0
66/39
19/4
76/48
24/9
88/57
31/14
94/64
34/18
90/62
32/17
81/53
27/12
67/41
19/5
51/29
11/−2
39/19
4/−7
Pueblo 47/14
8/−10
51/18
11/−8
60/26
16/−3
68/34
20/1
77/44
25/7
88/53
31/12
93/59
34/15
90/58
32/14
82/48
28/9
70/34
21/1
57/23
14/−5
46/14
8/−10

Earthquakes[edit]

Despite its mountainous terrain, Colorado is relatively quiescent seismically. The U.S. National Earthquake Information Center is located in Golden.

On August 22, 2011, a 5.3 magnitude earthquake occurred nine miles WSW of the city of Trinidad.[25] No casualties and only small damage was reported. It was the second largest earthquake in Colorado. A magnitude 5.7 earthquake was recorded in 1973.[26]

History[edit]

The ruins of the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde as photographed by Gustaf Nordenskiöld in 1891.
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 Lindenmeier Site in Larimer County contains artifacts dating from approximately 11200 BC to 3000 BC. The eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains was a major migration route that was important to the spread of early peoples throughout the Americas. The Ancient Pueblo peoples lived in the valleys and mesas of the Colorado Plateau.[27] The Ute Nation inhabited the mountain valleys of the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Western Rocky Mountains, even as far east as the Front Range of present day. The Apache and the Comanche also inhabited Eastern and Southeastern parts of the state. At times, the Arapaho Nation and the Cheyenne Nation moved west to hunt across the High Plains.

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. The treaty took effect February 22, 1821. Having settled its border with Spain, the U.S. admitted the southeastern portion of the Territory of Missouri to the Union as the state of Missouri on August 10, 1821. The remainder of Missouri Territory, including what would become northeastern Colorado, became unorganized territory, and remained so for 33 years over the question of slavery. After 11 years of war, Spain finally recognized the independence of Mexico with the Treaty of Córdoba signed on August 24, 1821. Mexico eventually ratified the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1831. The Texian Revolt of 1835–1836 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.

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, and instead followed the North Platte River and Sweetwater River to South Pass (Wyoming), the lowest crossing of the Continental Divide between the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Central Rocky Mountains. In 1849, the Mormons of the Salt Lake Valley organized the extralegal State of Deseret, claiming the entire Great Basin and all lands drained by the rivers Green, Grand, and Colorado. The federal government of the U.S. flatly refused to recognize the new Mormon government, because it was theocratic and sanctioned plural marriage. Instead, the Compromise of 1850 divided the Mexican Cession and the northwestern claims of Texas into a new state and two new territories, the state of California, the Territory of New Mexico, and the Territory of Utah. On April 9, 1851, Mexican American settlers from the area of Taos settled the village of San Luis, then in the New Mexico Territory, later to become Colorado's first permanent Euro-American settlement.

The Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores

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. Each new territory was to decide the fate of slavery within its boundaries, but this compromise merely served to fuel animosity between free soil and pro-slavery factions.

The gold seekers organized the Provisional Government of the Territory of Jefferson on August 24, 1859, but this new territory failed to secure approval from the Congress of the United States embroiled in the debate over slavery. 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. Seeking to augment the political power of the Union states, the Republican Party dominated Congress quickly 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[edit]

The territories of New Mexico, Utah, Kansas, and Nebraska before the creation of the Territory of Colorado

Thirty days later on February 28, 1861, outgoing U.S. President James Buchanan signed an Act of Congress organizing the free Territory of Colorado.[28] The original boundaries of Colorado remain unchanged today. The name Colorado was chosen because it was commonly believed that the Colorado River originated in the territory.[29] In 1776, Spanish priest Silvestre Vélez de Escalante recorded that Native Americans in the area knew the river as el Rio Colorado for the red-brown silt that the river carried from the mountains.[30] In 1859, a U.S. Army topographic expedition led by Captain John Macomb located the confluence of the Green River with the Grand River in what is now Canyonlands National Park in Utah.[31] The Macomb party designated the confluence as the source of the Colorado River.

On April 12, 1861, South Carolina artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter to start the American Civil War. While many gold seekers held sympathies for the Confederacy, the vast majority remained fiercely loyal to the Union cause.

In 1862, a force of Texas cavalry invaded the Territory of New Mexico and captured Santa Fe on March 10. The object of this Western Campaign was to seize or disrupt the gold fields of Colorado and California and to seize ports on the Pacific Ocean for the Confederacy. A hastily organized force of Colorado volunteers force-marched from Denver City, Colorado Territory, to Glorieta Pass, New Mexico Territory, in an attempt to block the Texans. On March 28, the Coloradans and local New Mexico volunteers stopped the Texans at the Battle of Glorieta Pass, destroyed their cannon and supply wagons, and ran off 500 of their horses and mules. The Texans were forced to retreat to Santa Fe. Having lost the supplies for their campaign and finding little support in New Mexico, 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 1864, Territorial Governor John Evans appointed the Reverend John Chivington as Colonel of the Colorado Volunteers with orders to protect white settlers from Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors who were accused of stealing cattle. Colonel Chivington ordered his men to attack a band of Cheyenne and Arapaho encamped along Sand Creek. Chivington reported that his troops killed more than 500 warriors. The militia returned to Denver City in triumph, but several officers reported that the so-called battle was a blatant massacre of Indians at peace, that most of the dead were women and children, and that bodies of the dead had been hideously mutilated and desecrated. Three U.S. Army inquiries condemned the action, and incoming President Andrew Johnson asked Governor Evans for his resignation, but none of the perpetrators was ever punished. This event is now known as the Sand Creek massacre.

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

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. On September 14, 1864, James Huff discovered silver near Argentine Pass, the first of many silver strikes. In 1867, the Union Pacific Railroad laid its tracks west to Weir, now Julesburg, in the northeast corner of the Territory. The Union Pacific linked up with the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, to form the First Transcontinental Railroad. The Denver Pacific Railway reached Denver in June the following year, and the Kansas Pacific arrived two months later to forge the second line across the continent. In 1872, rich veins of silver were discovered in the San Juan Mountains on the Ute Indian reservation in southwestern Colorado. The Ute people were removed from the San Juans the following year.

Statehood[edit]

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.[11] 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".[32]

The discovery of a major silver lode near Leadville in 1878 triggered the Colorado Silver Boom. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 invigorated silver mining, and Colorado's last, but greatest, gold strike at Cripple Creek a few months later lured a new generation of gold seekers. 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). The repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 led to a staggering collapse of the mining and agricultural economy of Colorado, but the state slowly and steadily recovered.

Colorado became the first western state to host a major political convention when the Democratic Party met in Denver in 1908. By the U.S. Census in 1930, the population of Colorado first exceeded one million residents. Colorado suffered greatly through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but a major wave of immigration following World War II boosted Colorado's fortune. Tourism became a mainstay of the state economy, and high technology became an important economic engine. The United States Census Bureau estimated that the population of Colorado exceeded five million in 2009.

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 hence went unscathed.

Demographics[edit]

Colorado Population Density Map.
Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 34,277
1870 39,864 16.3%
1880 194,327 387.5%
1890 413,249 112.7%
1900 539,700 30.6%
1910 799,024 48.0%
1920 939,629 17.6%
1930 1,035,791 10.2%
1940 1,123,296 8.4%
1950 1,325,089 18.0%
1960 1,753,947 32.4%
1970 2,207,259 25.8%
1980 2,889,964 30.9%
1990 3,294,394 14.0%
2000 4,301,262 30.6%
2010 5,029,196 16.9%
Est. 2013 5,268,367 4.8%
Sources: 1910–2010[33]

The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Colorado was 5,268,367 on July 1, 2013, a 4.8% increase since the 2010 United States Census.[1] Colorado's most populous city, and capital, is Denver. The Denver-Aurora-Boulder Combined Statistical Area with an estimated 2011 population of 3,157,520, has 61.90% of the state's residents.

The largest increases are expected in the Front Range Urban Corridor, especially in the Denver metropolitan area. The state's fastest-growing counties are Douglas and Weld.[34] The center of population of Colorado is located just north of the village of Critchell in Jefferson County.[35]

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

Colorado Racial Breakdown of Population
Racial composition 1970[36] 1990[36] 2000[37] 2010[38]
White (includes White Hispanics) 95.7% 88.2% 82.8% 81.3%
Black 3.0% 4.0% 3.8% 4.0%
Asian 0.5% 1.8% 2.2% 2.8%
Native 0.4% 0.8% 1.0% 1.1%
Native Hawaiian and
other Pacific Islander
0.1% 0.1%
Other race 0.4% 5.1% 7.2% 7.2%
Two or more races 2.8% 3.4%

People of Hispanic and Latino American (of any race made) heritage, made up 20.7% of the population.[39] According to the 2000 Census, the largest ancestry groups in Colorado are German (22%) including of Swiss and Austrian nationalities, Mexican (18%), Irish (12%), and English (12%). Persons reporting German ancestry are especially numerous in the Front Range, the Rockies (west-central counties) and Eastern parts/High Plains.

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 is well known for its strong Latino culture and presence. Southern, Southwestern, and Southeastern Colorado has a large number of Hispanos, the descendants of the early Mexican settlers of colonial Spanish origin. In 1940, the Census Bureau reported Colorado's population as 8.2% Hispanic and 90.3% non-Hispanic white.[40] The Hispanic population of Colorado has continued to grow quickly over the past decades. By 2012, Hispanics made up 21% of Colorado's population, and Non-Hispanic Whites made up 69%.[2]

The 2000 United States Census found that 10.5% of people aged five and over in Colorado speak only Spanish at home, with the 2009 estimate being roughly 14%. Colorado also has a large immigration presence all throughout the state, which has led to Colorado cities being referred to as "Sanctuary Cities" for illegal immigrants as well. Colorado has the 4th highest percentage of undocumented people in the U.S., only behind Nevada, Arizona, California, and tied with Texas. An estimated 5.5–6.0% of the state's population is composed of illegal immigrants. Also, over 20% of the state's prisoners are undocumented inmates.[41][42] Colorado, like New Mexico, is very rich in archaic Spanish idioms.[43]

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. A relatively large population of African Americans are also found in Colorado Springs on the east and southeast side of the city. The state has sizable numbers of Asian-Americans of Mongolian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Southeast Asian and Japanese descent. The highest population of Asian Americans can be found on the south and southeast side of Denver, as well as some on Denver's southwest side. The Denver metropolitan area is considered more liberal and diverse than much of the state when it comes to political issues and environmental concerns.

There were a total of 70,331 births in Colorado in 2006. (Birth Rate of 14.6). In 2007, non-Hispanic whites were involved in 59.1% of all the births.[44] Some 14.06% of those births involved a non-Hispanic white person and someone of a different race, most often with a couple including one Hispanic. A birth where at least one Hispanic person was involved counted for 43% of the births in Colorado.[45] As of the 2010 Census, Colorado has the seventh highest percentage of Hispanics (20.7%) in the U.S. behind New Mexico (46.3%), California (37.6%), Texas (37.6%), Arizona (29.6%), Nevada (26.5%), and Florida (22.5%). Per the 2000 census, the Hispanic population is estimated to be 918,899 or approximately 20% of the state total population. Colorado has the 5th largest population of Mexican-Americans behind California, Texas, Arizona, and Illinois. In percentages, Colorado has the 6th highest percentage of Mexican-Americans behind New Mexico, California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada.[46]


Religion[edit]

The Chapel on the Rock at Camp Saint Malo near Allenspark.
The Cadet Chapel at the United States Air Force Academy near Colorado Springs.

Major religious affiliations of the people of Colorado are 64% Christian, of whom there are 44% Protestants, 19% Roman Catholics, 3% Latter Day Saint/Mormon,[47] 2% Jews, 1% Muslim, 1% Buddhist and 0.5% Hindu. The religiously unaffiliated make up 25% of the population.[48]

The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Catholic Church with 811,630; non-denominational Evangelical Protestants with 229,981; and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 142,473.[49]

Health[edit]

Colorado also has a reputation for being a state of active and athletic people. According to several studies, Coloradans have the lowest rates of obesity of any state in the US.[50] As of 2007, 18% of the population was considered medically obese, and while the lowest in the nation, the percentage had increased from 17% from 2004. Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter commented: “As an avid fisherman and bike rider, I know first-hand that Colorado provides a great environment for active, healthy lifestyles,” although he highlighted the need for continued education and support to slow the growth of obesity in the state.[51]

Culture[edit]

Street art in Denver

Fine arts[edit]

Film[edit]

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. There are also a number of scenic highways and mountain passes that helped to feature the open road in films such as Vanishing Point, Bingo and Starman. Some Colorado landmarks have been featured in films, such as the The Stanley Hotel in Dumb and Dumber and the Sculptured House in Sleeper. The Colorado Office of Film and Television has noted that over 400 films have been shot in Colorado.[52]

There are also a number of established film festivals in Colorado, including Aspen Shortsfest, Boulder International Film Festival, Castle Rock Film Festival, Denver Film Festival, Festivus film festival, Mile High Horror Film Festival, Moondance International Film Festival, Mountainfilm in Telluride, Rocky Mountain Women's Film Festival, and Telluride Film Festival.

Cuisine[edit]

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.[53] 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.[54]

The Food & Wine Classic held annually each June in Aspen, Colorado. Aspen also has a reputation as the culinary capital of the Rocky Mountain region.[55]

Denver is known for steak, but now has a diverse culinary scene with many top-tier restaurants.[56]

Wine and beer[edit]

Main article: Colorado wine

Colorado wines include award-winning varietals that have attracted favorable notice from outside the state.[57] 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.[58] Colorado's grape growing regions contain the highest elevation vineyards in the United States,[59] with most viticulture in the state practiced between 4,000 and 7,000 feet (1,219 and 2,134 m) feet above sea level. The mountain climate ensures warm summer days and cool nights. Colorado is home to two designated American Viticultural Areas of the Grand Valley AVA and the West Elks AVA,[60] where most of the vineyards in the state are located. However, an increasing number of wineries are located along the Front Range.[61]

Main article: Colorado beer

Colorado is home to many nationally praised microbreweries,[62] including New Belgium Brewing Company, Odell Brewing Company, Great Divide Brewing Company, and Oskar Blues Brewery. The area of northern Colorado near the city of Fort Collins is known as the "Napa Valley of Beer" due to its high density of craft breweries.[63]

Cannabis[edit]

Colorado is one of four states to legalize both the medicinal (2000) and recreational (2014) use of marijuana.

Amendment 64 also states that the Colorado state legislature "shall enact legislation governing the cultivation, processing and sale of industrial hemp" by July 1, 2014.[64] On April 4, 2014 Senate Bill 14-184 addressing oversight of Colorado's industrial hemp program was first introduced, ultimately being signed into law by Governor John Hickenlooper on May 31, 2014.[65] This legislation makes Colorado the only source of domestically grown industrial hemp in the United States.

Medicinal use[edit]

On November 7, 2000, 54% of Colorado voters passed Amendment 20, which amends the Colorado State constitution to allow the medical use of cannabis.[66] Patients can possess no more than two ounces of "usable cannabis" and not more than six cannabis plants.

Currently Colorado has listed "eight medical conditions for which patients can use cannabis – cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, muscle spasms, seizures, severe pain, severe nausea and cachexia or dramatic weight loss and muscle atrophy."[67] Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has allocated about half of the state's $13 million "Medical Marijuana Program Cash Fund"[68] to medical research in the 2014 budget.[69][70]

Recreational use[edit]

On November 6, 2012, voters amended the state constitution to protect "personal use" of marijuana for adults, establishing a framework to regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. The first recreational marijuana shops in Colorado, and by extension the United States, opened their doors on January 1, 2014.[71]

Economy[edit]

Denver World Trade Center.
The Denver financial district along 17th Street is known as the Wall Street of the West.
Main article: Economy of Colorado

CNBC's list of "Top States for Business for 2010" has recognized Colorado as the third best state in the nation, falling short to only Texas and Virginia.[72]

Corn growing in Larimer County

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the total state product in 2010 was $257.6 billion.[73] Per capita personal income in 2010 was $51 940, ranking Colorado 11th in the nation.[74] 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 (North American Aerospace Defense Command), United States Air Force Academy, Schriever Air Force Base located approximately 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Peterson Air Force Base, and Fort Carson, both located in Colorado Springs within El Paso County; NOAA, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder; U.S. Geological Survey and other government agencies at the Denver Federal Center near Lakewood; the Denver Mint, Buckley Air Force Base, and Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver; and a federal Supermax Prison and other federal prisons near Cañon City. In addition to these and other federal agencies, Colorado has abundant National Forest land and four National Parks that contribute to federal ownership of 24,615,788 acres (99,617 km2) of land in Colorado, or 37% of the total area of the state.[75] 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, the extraction of metals such as gold (see Gold mining in Colorado), silver, and molybdenum. Colorado now also has the largest annual production of beer of any state.[76] Denver is an important financial center.

A number of nationally known brand names have originated in Colorado factories and laboratories. From Denver came the forerunner of telecommunications giant Qwest in 1879, Samsonite luggage in 1910, Gates belts and hoses in 1911, and Russell Stover Candies in 1923. Kuner canned vegetables began in Brighton in 1864. From Golden came Coors beer in 1873, CoorsTek industrial ceramics in 1920, and Jolly Rancher candy in 1949. CF&I railroad rails, wire, nails and pipe debuted in Pueblo in 1892. Holly Sugar was first milled from beets in Holly in 1905, and later moved its headquarters to Colorado Springs. The present-day Swift packed meat of Greeley evolved from Monfort of Colorado, Inc., established in 1930. Estes model rockets were launched in Penrose in 1958. Fort Collins has been the home of Woodward Governor Company's motor controllers (governors) since 1870, and Waterpik dental water jets and showerheads since 1962. Celestial Seasonings herbal teas have been made in Boulder since 1969. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory made its first candy in Durango in 1981.

Colorado has a flat 4.63% income tax, regardless of income level. Unlike most states, which calculate taxes based on federal adjusted gross income, Colorado taxes are based on taxable income – income after federal exemptions and federal itemized (or standard) deductions.[77][78] Colorado's state sales tax is 2.9% on retail sales. When state revenues exceed state constitutional limits, according to Colorado's Taxpayer Bill of Rights legislation, full-year Colorado residents can claim a sales tax refund on their individual state income tax return. Many counties and cities charge their own rates in addition to the base state rate. There are also certain county and special district taxes that may apply.

Real estate and personal business property are taxable in Colorado. The state's senior property tax exemption was temporarily suspended by the Colorado Legislature in 2003. The tax break is scheduled to return for assessment year 2006, payable in 2007.

As of August 2014, the state's unemployment rate is 5.3%.[79]

Philanthropy[edit]

Major philanthropic organizations based in Colorado, include the Daniels Fund, the Anschutz Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, the El Pomar Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation grant each year from approximately $7 billion[80] of assets.

Natural resources[edit]

An oil well in western Colorado

Colorado has significant hydrocarbon resources. According to the Energy Information Administration, Colorado hosts seven of the Nation’s 100 largest natural gas fields and two of its 100 largest oil fields. Conventional and unconventional natural gas output from several Colorado basins typically account for more than 5 percent of annual U.S. natural gas production. Colorado’s oil shale deposits hold an estimated 1 trillion barrels (160 km3) of oil – nearly as much oil as the entire world’s proven oil reserves; the economic viability of the oil shale, however, has not been demonstrated.[81] Substantial deposits of bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite coal are found in the state.

Colorado's high Rocky Mountain ridges and eastern plains offer wind power potential, and geologic activity in the mountain areas provides potential for geothermal power development. Much of the state is sunny and could produce solar power. Major rivers flowing from the Rocky Mountains offer hydroelectric power resources. Corn grown in the flat eastern part of the state offers potential resources for ethanol production.

Transportation[edit]

A Colorado state welcome sign

Colorado's primary mode of transportation (in terms of passengers) is its highway system. Interstate 25 (I-25) is the primary north–south highway in the state, connecting Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Fort Collins, and extending north to Wyoming and south to New Mexico. I-70 is the primary east–west corridor. It connects Grand Junction and the mountain communities with Denver, and enters Utah and Kansas. The state is home to a network of US and Colorado highways that provide access to all principal areas of the state. Smaller communities are only connected to this network via county roads.

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[82] 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 U.S. Denver International Airport is the primary hub for low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines, with routes throughout North America. It is also the fourth-largest hub of the world's largest airline, United Airlines. DIA is a focus city for Southwest Airlines, which since commencing service to Denver in January 2006, has added over 50 destinations, making Denver its fastest-growing market. Denver International Airport is the only airport in the United States to have implemented an ISO 14001-certified environmental management system covering the entire airport.[83]

Extensive public transportation bus services are offered both intra-city and inter-city—including the Denver metro area's extensive RTD services. The Regional Transportation District (RTD) operates the popular RTD Bus & Light Rail transit system in the Denver Metropolitan Area. As of January 2013 the RTD rail system had 170 light rail vehicles, serving 47 miles (76 km) of track.

The westbound and eastbound California Zephyrs meet in the Glenwood Canyon.

Amtrak operates two rail passenger lines through Colorado, including the Glenwood Canyon route of the famed California Zephyr, one of America's legendary passenger trains. Colorado's contribution to world railroad history was forged principally by the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad which began in 1870 and wrote the book on mountain railroading. In 1988 the "Rio Grande" acquired, but was merged into, the Southern Pacific Railroad by their joint owner Philip Anschutz. On September 11, 1996, Anschutz sold the combined company to the Union Pacific Railroad, creating the largest railroad network in the United States. The Anschutz sale was partly in response to the earlier merger of Burlington Northern and Santa Fe which formed the large Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), Union Pacific's principal competitor in western U.S. railroading. Both Union Pacific and BNSF have extensive freight operations in Colorado.

Colorado's freight railroad network consists of 2,688 miles of Class I trackage. It is integral to the U.S. economy, being a critical artery for the movement of energy, agriculture, mining, and industrial commodities as well as general freight and manufactured products between the East and Midwest and the Pacific coast states.[84]

Government and politics[edit]

The Five Executive Officers of the State of Colorado
Office Incumbent Party Term
Governor John Hickenlooper Democratic 2011–2015
Lieutenant Governor Joseph Garcia Democratic 2011–2015
Secretary of State Scott Gessler Republican 2011–2015
State Treasurer Walker Stapleton Republican 2011–2015
Attorney General John Suthers Republican 2005–2015

State government[edit]

Like the federal government and all other U.S. states, Colorado's state constitution provides for three branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branches.

The Governor of Colorado heads the state's executive branch. The current governor is John Hickenlooper, a Democrat. Colorado's other statewide elected executive officers are the Lieutenant Governor of Colorado (elected on a ticket with the Governor), Secretary of State of Colorado, Colorado State Treasurer, and Attorney General of Colorado, all of whom serve four-year terms.

Gubernatorial election results
Year Republican Democratic
2010 11.3% 199,034 51.0% 912,005
2006 40.16% 625,886 56.98% 888,096
2002 62.62% 884,584 33.65% 475,373
1998 49.06% 648,202 48.43% 639,905
1994 38.70% 432,042 55.47% 619,205
1990 35.43% 358,403 61.89% 626,032

The seven-member Colorado Supreme Court is the highest judicial court in the state. The state legislative body is the Colorado General Assembly, which is made up of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House has 65 members and the Senate has 35. As of 2013, the Democratic Party holds an 18 to 17 majority in the Senate and a 37 to 28 majority in the House.

Most Coloradans are native to other states (nearly 60% according to the 2000 census),[85] and this is illustrated by the fact that the state did not have a native-born governor from 1975 (when John David Vanderhoof left office) until 2007, when Bill Ritter took office; his election the previous year marked the first electoral victory for a native-born Coloradan in a gubernatorial race since 1958 (Vanderhoof had ascended from the Lieutenant Governorship when John Arthur Love was given a position in Richard Nixon's administration in 1973).

Counties[edit]

An enlargeable map of the 64 counties of the State of Colorado

The State of Colorado is divided into 64 counties.[86] Counties are important units of government in Colorado since the state has no secondary civil subdivisions such as townships. Two of these counties, the City and County of Denver and the City and County of Broomfield, have consolidated city and county governments.

Nine Colorado counties have a population in excess of 250,000 each, while eight Colorado counties have a population of less than 2,500 each. The ten most populous Colorado counties are all located in the Front Range Urban Corridor.

The 15 Colorado counties with a population of at least 50,000

Rank County 2013 Estimate 2010 Census Change
!000001 El Paso County !B9866075423120 655,044 !B9866588818880 622,263 !D0029435137536 +5.27%
!000002 DenCity and County of Denver !B9866160495831 649,495 !B9866950517671 600,158 !D0024985186472 +8.22%
!000003 Arapahoe County !B9866836006153 607,070 !B9867431004848 572,003 !D0027918837188 +6.13%
!000004 Jefferson County !B9867790626837 551,798 !B9868108325447 534,543 !D0034333102196 +3.23%
!000005 Adams County !B9869412305233 469,193 !B9870018334325 441,603 !D0027729579001 +6.25%
!000006 Larimer County !B9873365404828 315,988 !B9873896963408 299,630 !D0029078313058 +5.46%
!000007 Boulder County !B9873555175968 310,048 !B9874067382395 294,567 !D0029458930159 +5.26%
!000008 Douglas County !B9873687805414 305,963 !B9874381252913 285,465 !D0026337921092 +7.18%
!000009 Weld County !B9874946193755 269,785 !B9875595471712 252,825 !D0027018399194 +6.71%
!000010 Pueblo County !B9880080430299 161,451 !B9880229443708 159,063 !D0041988441546 +1.50%
!000011 Mesa County !B9880980505105 147,554 !B9881036982656 146,723 !D0051736719395 +0.57%
!000012 BroCity and County of Broomfield !B9890067559222 59,471 !B9890688771401 55,889 !D0027474462771 +6.41%
!000013 Garfield County !B9890439091938 57,302 !B9890599706169 56,389 !D0041232935024 +1.62%
!000014 La Plata County !B9891166086225 53,284 !B9891538914203 51,334 !D0032705239280 +3.80%
!000015 Eagle County !B9891321937465 52,460 !B9891372196990 52,197 !D0052906262687 +0.50%

Metropolitan areas[edit]

Map of the 14 Core Based Statistical Areas in the state of Colorado.

The United States Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has defined one Combined Statistical Area (CSA),[87] seven Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs),[88] and seven Micropolitan Statistical Areas (μSAs)[89] in the state of Colorado.[90]

The most populous of the 14 Core Based Statistical Areas in Colorado is the Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, CO Metropolitan Statistical Area. This area had an estimated population of 2,599,504 on July 1, 2011, an increase of +2.20% since the 2010 United States Census.[91]

The more extensive Denver-Aurora-Boulder, CO Combined Statistical Area had an estimated population of 3,157,520 on July 1, 2011, an increase of +2.16% since the 2010 United States Census.[91]

The most populous extended metropolitan region in Rocky Mountain Region is the Front Range Urban Corridor along the northeast face of the Southern Rocky Mountains. This region with Denver at its center had an estimated population of 4,423,936 on July 1, 2011, an increase of +2.06% since the 2010 United States Census.[91]

Municipalities[edit]

The state of Colorado currently has 271 active incorporated municipalities, including 196 towns, 73 cities, and two consolidated city and county governments.[92][93]

Colorado municipalities operate under one of five types of municipal governing authority. Colorado has one town with a territorial charter, 160 statutory towns, 12 statutory cities, 96 home rule municipalities (61 cities and 35 towns), and 2 consolidated city and county governments.

The skyline of downtown Denver with Speer Boulevard in the foreground
The 26 Colorado municipalities with a population of at least 25,000

Rank Municipality 2012 Estimate 2010 Census Change
!000001 City and County of Denver !B9866397778728 634,265 !B9866950517671 600,158 !D0028676903120 +5.68%
!000002 City of Colorado Springs !B9870242034658 431,834 !B9870605335448 416,427 !D0032968892245 +3.70%
!000003 City of Aurora !B9872661561219 339,030 !B9873081795674 325,078 !D0031484422863 +4.29%
!000004 City of Fort Collins !B9880909058382 148,612 !B9881225286483 143,986 !D0034380235088 +3.21%
!000005 City of Lakewood !B9881119586748 145,516 !B9881295399606 142,980 !D0040321167237 +1.77%
!000006 City of Thornton !B9882708347600 124,140 !B9883150390321 118,772 !D0030967502892 +4.52%
!000007 City of Arvada !B9883940852281 109,745 !B9884247290418 106,433 !D0034699634426 +3.11%
!000008 City of Westminster !B9883993475807 109,169 !B9884277307331 106,114 !D0035477343952 +2.88%
!000009 City of Pueblo !B9884122268365 107,772 !B9884232081147 106,595 !D0045060677780 +1.10%
!000010 City of Centennial !B9884503280340 103,743 !B9884833116236 100,377 !D0033952080015 +3.35%
!000011 City of Boulder !B9884691560345 101,808 !B9885135725263 97,385 !D0030918539957 +4.54%
!000012 City of Greeley !B9885346169779 95,357 !B9885608394890 92,889 !D0036279971258 +2.66%
!000013 City of Longmont !B9886073343854 88,669 !B9886347628079 86,270 !D0035824299292 +2.78%
!000014 City of Loveland !B9888405688283 70,223 !B9888896587967 66,859 !D0029894551821 +5.03%
!000015 City of Grand Junction !B9889995849105 59,899 !B9890220903975 58,566 !D0037827222822 +2.28%
!000016 City and County of Broomfield !B9890266769335 58,298 !B9890688771401 55,889 !D0031441558572 +4.31%
!000017 Town of Castle Rock !B9891536187337 51,348 !B9892162427531 48,231 !D0027391309670 +6.46%
!000018 City of Commerce City !B9892123111170 48,421 !B9892654964196 45,913 !D0029072626785 +5.46%
!000019 Town of Parker !B9892385078238 47,169 !B9892790039158 45,297 !D0031862334270 +4.13%
!000020 City of Littleton !B9893131818428 43,775 !B9893608566954 41,737 !D0030194190907 +4.88%
!000021 City of Northglenn !B9894842771021 36,891 !B9895146041373 35,789 !D0034805138728 +3.08%
!000022 City of Brighton !B9895473511174 34,636 !B9895851269804 33,352 !D0032571375353 +3.85%
!000023 City of Englewood !B9896525640775 31,177 !B9896825832609 30,255 !D0034908715154 +3.05%
!000024 City of Wheat Ridge !B9896674284737 30,717 !B9896855292586 30,166 !D0040027359321 +1.83%
!000025 City of Fountain !B9898004530628 26,891 !B9898400888709 25,846 !D0032081389646 +4.04%
!000026 City of Lafayette !B9898444705061 25,733 !B9898954918132 24,453 !D0029498928298 +5.23%

Unincorporated communities[edit]

In addition to its 271 municipalities, Colorado has 187 unincorporated United States census designated places and many other small communities.

The 16 Census Designated Places in Colorado with a population of at least 10,000

Rank Census Designated Place 2010 Census 2000 Census Change
!000001 Highlands Ranch !B9885204968911 96,713 !B9888305371474 70,931 !D0010120309995 +36.35%
!000002 Security-Widefield !B9895993193254 32,882 !B9896962273993 29,845 !D0022851471355 +10.18%
!000003 Ken Caryl !B9896129141459 32,438 !B9896619093376 30,887 !D0029914354992 +5.02%
!000004 Dakota Ridge !B9896263525804 32,005 !O NA !O NA
!000005 Pueblo West !B9897032211402 29,637 !B9902649902724 16,899 !D0002826647966 +75.38%
!000006 Columbine !B9899025917548 24,280 !B9899102403709 24,095 !D0048694038039 +0.77%
!000007 Clifton !B9901020779059 19,889 !B9902389404405 17,345 !D0019195666349 +14.67%
!000008 Sherrelwood !B9901860542961 18,287 !B9902211124156 17,657 !D0033331677649 +3.57%
!000009 Cimarron Hills !B9903096437886 16,161 !B9903713441079 15,194 !D0027544573966 +6.36%
!000010 Welby !B9903945142523 14,846 !B9905293744464 12,973 !D0019353288511 +14.44%
!000011 Fort Carson !B9904666345433 13,813 !B9907346034222 10,566 !D0011799098056 +30.73%
!000012 Black Forest !B9905184118620 13,116 !B9905084736093 13,247 !H9953836709325 −0.99%
!000013 Berkley !B9906757061379 11,207 !B9907179903413 10,743 !D0031421251064 +4.32%
!000014 Cherry Creek !B9906834994321 11,120 !O NA !O NA
!000015 PinThe Pinery !B9907392517254 10,517 !B9911108295446 7,253 !D0007984617392 +45.00%
!000016 Edwards !B9907634072568 10,266 !B9909811833955 8,257 !D0014134242396 +24.33%

Special districts[edit]

The state of Colorado has more than 3,000 districts with taxing authority. These districts may provide schools, law enforcement, fire protection, water, sewage, drainage, irrigation, transportation, recreation, infrastructure, cultural facilities, business support, redevelopment, or other services.

Some of these districts have authority to levy sales tax and well as property tax and use fees. This has led to a hodgepodge of sales tax and property tax rates in Colorado. There are some street intersections in Colorado with a different sales tax rate on each corner, sometimes substantially different.

Some of the more notable Colorado districts are:

  • The Regional Transportation District (RTD), which affects the counties of Denver, Boulder, Jefferson, and portions of Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, and Douglas Counties
  • The Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD), a special regional tax district with physical boundaries contiguous with county boundaries of Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas, and Jefferson Counties
    • It is a 0.1% retail sales and use tax (one penny on every $10).
    • According to the Colorado statute, the SCFD distributes the money to local organizations on an annual basis. These organizations must provide for the enlightenment and entertainment of the public through the production, presentation, exhibition, advancement or preservation of art, music, theater, dance, zoology, botany, natural history or cultural history.
    • As directed by statute, SCFD recipient organizations are currently divided into three "tiers" among which receipts are allocated by percentage.
      • Tier I includes regional organizations: the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Botanic Gardens, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Zoo, and the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. It receives 65.5%.
      • Tier II currently includes 26 regional organizations. Tier II receives 21%.
      • Tier III has over 280 local organizations such as small theaters, orchestras, art centers, and natural history, cultural history, and community groups. Tier III organizations apply for funding to the county cultural councils via a grant process. This tier receives 13.5%.
    • An 11-member board of directors oversees the distributions in accordance with the Colorado Revised Statutes. Seven board members are appointed by county commissioners (in Denver, the Denver City Council) and four members are appointed by the Governor of Colorado.
  • The Football Stadium District (FD or FTBL), approved by the voters to pay for and help build the Denver Broncos' stadium Sports Authority Field at Mile High
  • Local Improvement Districts (LID) within designated areas of southeast Jefferson and Boulder counties
  • Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) taxes at varying rates in Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs, Gunnison County

Federal politics[edit]

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2012 46.12% 1,185,050 51.49% 1,322,998
2008 44.71% 1,073,584 53.66% 1,288,568
2004 51.69% 1,101,255 47.02% 1,001,732
2000 50.75% 883,745 42.39% 738,227
1996 45.80% 691,848 44.43% 671,152
1992 35.87% 562,850 40.13% 629,681
1988 53.06% 728,177 45.28% 621,453

Colorado is considered a swing state in both state and federal elections. Coloradans have elected 17 Democrats and 12 Republicans to the governorship in the last 100 years. In presidential politics, Colorado was considered a reliably Republican state during the post-World War II era, only voting for the Democratic candidate in 1964 and 1992. However, it became a competitive swing state by the turn of the century, and voted consecutively for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012.

Colorado politics has the contrast of conservative cities such as Colorado Springs and liberal cities such as Boulder and Denver. Democrats are strongest in metropolitan Denver, the college towns of Fort Collins and Boulder, southern Colorado (including Pueblo), and a few western ski resort counties. The Republicans are strongest in the Eastern Plains, Colorado Springs, Greeley, and far Western Colorado near Grand Junction.

The state of Colorado is represented by its two United States Senators:

Colorado is represented by seven Representatives to the United States House of Representatives:

Significant bills passed in Colorado[edit]

On the November 8, 1932 ballot, Colorado approved the repeal of alcohol prohibition more than a year before the federal government passed the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In 2012, voters amended the state constitution to protect "personal use" of marijuana for adults, establishing a framework to regulate cannabis in a manner similar to alcohol. The first recreational marijuana shops in Colorado, and by extension the United States, opened their doors on January 1, 2014.[95]

Education[edit]

Colleges and universities in Colorado:

Military installations[edit]

Colorado is currently the home of seven major military bases and installations.

Former Military installations and outposts include

Protected areas[edit]

Spruce Tree House in Mesa Verde National Park

Colorado is home to four national parks, seven national monuments, two national recreation areas, two national historic sites, three national historic trails, one national scenic trail, 11 national forests, two national grasslands, 41 national wilderness areas, two national conservation areas, eight national wildlife refuges, 44 state parks, 307 state wildlife areas, and numerous other scenic, historic, and recreational areas.

Units of the National Park System in Colorado:

Sports[edit]

The Colorado Rockies baseball club at Coors Field.
Main article: Sports in Colorado

Colorado has five major professional sports leagues, all based in the Denver metropolitan area. Colorado is the least populous state with a franchise in each of the major professional sports leagues.

Professional sports teams[edit]

Professional Sports Clubs in Colorado
Club Home First game Sport League
Denver Broncos Denver !B9832089134993 September 9, 1960 Football National Football League
Denver Barbarians Denver !B9832053693396 Spring 1967 Rugby Union Pacific Rugby Premiership
Denver Nuggets Denver !B9832053476831 September 27, 1967 Basketball National Basketball Association
Colorado Springs Sky Sox Colorado Springs !B9831947441547 June 18, 1988 Baseball Minor League Baseball (AAA)
Colorado Rockies Denver !B9831922429868 April 5, 1993 Baseball Major League Baseball
Colorado Avalanche Denver !B9831912098739 October 6, 1995 Ice hockey National Hockey League
Colorado Rapids Commerce City !B9831907384799 April 13, 1996 Soccer Major League Soccer
Colorado Mammoth Denver !B9831872531500 January 3, 2003 Lacrosse National Lacrosse League
Colorado Eagles Loveland !B9831872075198 October 17, 2003 Ice hockey ECHL
Denver Outlaws Denver !B9831857357376 May 20, 2006 Lacrosse Major League Lacrosse
Glendale Raptors Glendale !B9831852233697 Fall 2006 Rugby Union Pacific Rugby Premiership
Grand Junction Rockies Grand Junction !B9831827443815 June 18, 2012 Baseball Minor League Baseball (Rookie)

College athletics[edit]

The following universities and colleges participate in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I. The most popular college sports program is the University of Colorado Buffaloes, who used to play in the Big-12 but now play in the Pac-12.

NCAA Division I athletic programs in Colorado
Team School City Conference
Air Force Falcons United States Air Force Academy Colorado Springs Mountain West
Colorado Buffaloes University of Colorado at Boulder Boulder Pac-12
Colorado College Tigers Colorado College Colorado Springs WCHA[100]
Colorado State Rams Colorado State University Fort Collins Mountain West
Denver Pioneers University of Denver Denver Summit
Northern Colorado Bears University of Northern Colorado Greeley Big Sky
Western State Colorado Univ. Mountaineers Western State Colorado University Gunnison Rocky Mountain
Colorado Mesa Mavericks Colorado Mesa University Grand Junction Rocky Mountain
Colorado School of Mines Orediggers Colorado School of Mines Golden Rocky Mountain

State symbols[edit]

Colorado state symbols
Flag of Colorado.svg
Seal of Colorado.svg
Animal and Plant insignia
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
Dance Square dance
Chorea quadra
Fossil Stegosaurus
Stegosaurus armatus
Gemstone Beryl
Aquamarine and maxixe
Mineral Rhodochrosite
Motto Nil sine numine
Latin: Nothing without providence.
Rock Yule Marble
Slogan(s) Colorful Colorado (unofficial)
Soil Seitz (soil)
Song(s) Where the Columbines Grow
Rocky Mountain High
Tartan Colorado State Tartan
Route marker(s)
Colorado Route Marker
State Quarter
Quarter of Colorado
Released in 2006
Lists of United States state symbols

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  89. ^ The United States Office of Management and Budget defines a Micropolitan Statistical Area (μSA) as a Core Based Statistical Area having at least one urban cluster of at least 10,000 but less than 50,000 population, plus adjacent territory that has a high degree of social and economic integration with the core as measured by commuting ties.
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  94. ^ Governor Bill Ritter appointed Michael Bennet to serve the remaining two years of United States Senator Ken Salazar term of office which was left vacant on January 20, 2009, when new United States President Barack Obama appointed the Colorado Senator to serve in his Cabinet as United States Secretary of the Interior.
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  96. ^ By legislative act enacted August 1, 2012, approved by Governor John Hickenlooper.
  97. ^ a b Managed by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Forest Service.
  98. ^ Managed by the United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management.
  99. ^ Jointly managed by the United States Department of Agriculture, National Forest Service, and the United States Department of the Interior, National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management.
  100. ^ The Western Collegiate Hockey Association is a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I ice hockey-only conference.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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 0-03-071979-8, 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[edit]

State government
Federal government
Other
Preceded by
Nebraska
List of U.S. states by date of admission to the Union
Admitted on August 1, 1876 (38th)
Succeeded by
North Dakota

Coordinates: 39°00′N 105°30′W / 39°N 105.5°W / 39; -105.5