Las Animas, Colorado

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Not to be confused with Las Animas County, Colorado.
City of Las Animas, Colorado
The City of Souls
Statutory City
Las Animas City Hall
Las Animas City Hall
Location in Bent County and the state of Colorado
Location in Bent County and the state of Colorado
Coordinates: 38°4′1″N 103°13′33″W / 38.06694°N 103.22583°W / 38.06694; -103.22583Coordinates: 38°4′1″N 103°13′33″W / 38.06694°N 103.22583°W / 38.06694; -103.22583
Country  United States
State  State of Colorado
County Bent County Seat[1]
Incorporated May 15, 1886[2]
 • Type Statutory City[1]
 • Total 1.7 sq mi (4.3 km2)
 • Land 1.6 sq mi (4.2 km2)
 • Water 0.04 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation[3] 3,898 ft (1,188 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 2,410
 • Density 1,488/sq mi (574.4/km2)
Time zone Mountain (MST) (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6)
ZIP code[4] 81054
Area code(s) 719
FIPS code 08-43660
GNIS feature ID 0195526

The City of Las Animas is the Statutory City that is the county seat and the only incorporated municipality in Bent County, Colorado, United States.[5] The city population was 2410 at the 2010 United States Census.[6] Las Animas is located in southeast Colorado east of Pueblo, near the historic Bent's Fort.

Geography and climate[edit]

U.S. Post Office in Las Animas

Las Animas is located in northwest Bent County at 38°4′1″N 103°13′33″W / 38.06694°N 103.22583°W / 38.06694; -103.22583 (38.066980, -103.225937),[7] along the Arkansas River. U.S. Highway 50 is the main highway through the city, leading west 82 miles (132 km) to Pueblo and east 36 miles (58 km) to Lamar.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.7 square miles (4.3 km2), of which 1.6 square miles (4.2 km2) is land and 0.039 square miles (0.1 km2), or 2.75%, is water.[6] Summers in Las Animas can be extremely hot. On June 24, 2012 the temperature soared to 114 °F (46 °C).[8] Each year there are roughly 74 days that hit 90 °F (32 °C) or warmer and 16 that reach at least 100 °F (38 °C).[9]

Climate data for Las Animas, Colorado (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 47.7
Average low °F (°C) 15.3
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.39
Average snowfall inches (cm) 4.3
Source: NOAA[10]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 52
1890 611 1,075.0%
1900 1,192 95.1%
1910 2,008 68.5%
1920 2,252 12.2%
1930 2,517 11.8%
1940 3,232 28.4%
1950 3,223 −0.3%
1960 3,402 5.6%
1970 3,148 −7.5%
1980 2,818 −10.5%
1990 2,481 −12.0%
2000 2,758 11.2%
2010 2,410 −12.6%
Est. 2014 2,198 [11] −8.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[12]
St. Mary's Catholic Church in Las Animas

As of the census[13] of 2000, there were 2,758 people, 1,091 households, and 716 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,134.2 people per square mile (825.5/km²). There were 1,264 housing units at an average density of 978.1 per square mile (378.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 74.87% White, 0.91% African American, 2.86% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 15.34% from other races, and 5.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 42.60% of the population.

There were 1,091 households out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.0% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 24.0% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,157, and the median income for a family was $29,815. Males had a median income of $26,168 versus $23,250 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,893. About 19.7% of families and 25.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.3% of those under age 18 and 14.4% of those age 65 or over.

Historical perspective[edit]

Las Animas is located on the Arkansas River, just west of its confluence with the Purgatoire River (or "Purgatory River").

A famous legend says that the town and the Purgatoire River were named for a group of conquistadors, probably part of Coronado's expedition, who died without the last rites sacrament of a priest. According to Catholic belief, their souls would go to Purgatory as a result. The original Spanish name for Las Animas ("The Souls," in Spanish) was purported to be La Ciudad de Las Animas Perdidos en Purgatorio, "The city of lost souls in Purgatory."

According to the book Trinidad, Colorado Territory by Morris F. Taylor,[14] this explanation is not consistent with Spanish Catholic belief. Souls in purgatory are not lost; they are in limbo for a short time of purification before ascending to heaven. According to Taylor, the French developed the connotation of souls in Purgatory.

The Spanish version, El Rio de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio, was considered an embellishment of the French version. No 19th-century map shows this full Spanish name or any translation of it. Existing maps have different names for the river: Rio de Las Animas, Purgatory River, and "Picatoire", a corruption of Purgatoire (which today is anglicized as Picketwire). French fur traders of the 19th century referred to the river as the Purgatoire. Another anglicization was Pick of Ware.

Santa Fe Trail Day[edit]

Las Animas sits along the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail and served as the major city in southeast Colorado until the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad established operations in La Junta, 20 miles (32 km) to the west of Las Animas.

Las Animas celebrates an annual Santa Fe Trail Day, a celebration of the pioneers and traders who used this trail. This local holiday is the oldest student council-sponsored event in the US. The Las Animas High School Student Council organizes the day, with assistance from the Bent County Chamber of Commerce. Festivities have included a parade, a costume contest, square dancing, a demolition derby, and a traditional "Ranchburger" lunch, as well as many other activities. In past years, students have spread out events over a two-day period, sometimes making this a weekend event. The event occurs on the last Friday in April.

On April 24, 2009, Las Animas celebrated its 75th Annual Santa Fe Trail Day with events throughout the weekend. Past Santa Fe Trail Day Queen Royalty, dating to the 1940s, were invited, as well as Student Council Presidents since 1944.

Columbian Elementary School[edit]

Columbian Elementary School (1916), photographed 2005

Built in 1916 to replace the old Columbian School (1887), Columbian Elementary School was the only building of Spanish architecture style in Las Animas. It was also the only open-courtyard school in the state of Colorado. In 2004, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places because of its significance, and, needing renovation for continued use, it was on the 2004 Colorado Preservation, Inc. List of Endangered Places.[15][16][17][18]

Considered by the School Board and all but a hand full of citizens to be too costly to renovate, this 90-year-old building was demolished on February 21, 2006.[16] Following demolition, the school was delisted on July 26, 2006.[15][19] The city constructed a new elementary school just west of the old school location.

Water issues[edit]

Water is a central issue in Las Animas. Like many cities in southeastern Colorado, Las Animas competes with wealthier cities on the Front Range for the water to sustain life and the local agricultural economy. Developers and municipalities have capitalized upon drought and low crop prices by buying water from desperate farmers. As this water is diverted upstream to serve the larger cities, Las Animas loses access to this important resource.

Because of the poor quality of the city's water supply, a reverse-osmosis filtration plant was installed in the mid-1990s. The loss of minerals in the water resulted in the collapse of many water mains, which had been supported by mineral deposits that formed on the insides of the pipes.

Notable natives and residents[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Active Colorado Municipalities". State of Colorado, Department of Local Affairs. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  2. ^ "Colorado Municipal Incorporations". State of Colorado, Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives. 2004-12-01. Retrieved 2007-09-02. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ "ZIP Code Lookup" (JAVASCRIPT/HTML). United States Postal Service. Retrieved November 14, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  6. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Las Animas city, Colorado". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  7. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  8. ^ Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  9. ^ Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  10. ^ "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved May 4, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  13. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  14. ^ Taylor, Morris F. (1966). Trinidad, Colorado Territory. Pueblo, Colorado: O'Brien and Stationery Co. pp. 1–7. 
  15. ^ a b "Columbian Elementary School, Las Animas", National Park Service
  16. ^ a b Mestas, Anthony A. "Old Columbian school falls to wrecker's ball", The Pueblo Chieftain, 25 February 2006
  17. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Columbian Elementary School" (PDF). 
  18. ^ "Endangered Places Archive". Colorado Preservation, Inc. 
  19. ^ Colorado Historical Society description of removal

External links[edit]