Paonia, Colorado

Coordinates: 38°52′22″N 107°35′45″W / 38.87278°N 107.59583°W / 38.87278; -107.59583
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Paonia, Colorado
Paonia's Grand Avenue, looking south
Paonia's Grand Avenue, looking south
Location of Paonia in Delta County, Colorado.
Location of Paonia in Delta County, Colorado.
Coordinates: 38°52′22″N 107°35′45″W / 38.87278°N 107.59583°W / 38.87278; -107.59583
Country United States
State Colorado
Incorporated (town)September 3, 1902[2]
 • TypeStatutory Town[1]
 • State RepresentativeMarc Catlin
 • Total0.82 sq mi (2.13 km2)
 • Land0.82 sq mi (2.13 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
Elevation5,676 ft (1,730 m)
 • Total1,447
 • Density1,800/sq mi (680/km2)
Time zoneUTC-7 (Mountain (MST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-6 (MDT)
ZIP code[6]
Area code970
FIPS code08-57300
GNIS feature ID2413109[4]
Aerial photo of Paonia, 2009

Paonia is a statutory town in Delta County, Colorado, United States. The population was 1,447 at the 2020 census.[5]


The area was first explored by a white man of European descent in 1853, Captain John W. Gunnison of the United States Army. Gunnison was on an expedition for the Corps of Topographical Engineers to locate a suitable pass through the Rocky Mountains.[7]

The North Fork Valley was inhabited by the Ute people until 1880, when the Ute Indian Reservation was closed by the federal government following the infamous Meeker Massacre.

Following the closure of the reservation, the site was settled in 1880 by Samuel Wade and William Clark, who had accompanied Enos Hotchkiss to the area. The town was officially incorporated in 1902 and had its first election in July of that year. The peony roots that Samuel Wade brought with him to Colorado in 1881 inspired him to submit the Latin name for peony, Paeonia, as a town name. The post office would not allow the extra vowel, so "Paeonia" became "Paonia". The full name of the flower is Paeonia mascula.


Paonia is located in eastern Delta County. It is situated on the North Fork Gunnison River ("North Fork River"), about 10 miles (16 km) northeast of (upstream from) neighboring Hotchkiss. It lies near the head of the North Fork Valley, an area about 150 miles (240 km) by air southwest of Denver. The valley lies at the foot of 11,396-foot (3,474 m) Mount Lamborn to the southeast and the Grand Mesa to the northwest.

Colorado State Highway 133 touches the northwest boundary of Paonia as the highway runs up the North Fork Valley; it leads southwest 9 miles (14 km) to Hotchkiss and northeast 58 miles (93 km) over McClure Pass to Carbondale.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town of Paonia has a total area of 0.85 square miles (2.2 km2), all of it land.[8]


Historical population


Coal mining[edit]

The valley's principal coal mines are all now closed except for Arch Coal's West Elk Mine,[9] Bucyrus International, a supplier of underground coal mining equipment, operates a small warehouse in Paonia for support of the underground longwall systems that are operating in the North Fork valley. Union Pacific provides service to the mine, loading 100 car trains in two hours. The most recent mine closure shuttered Bowie #2 Mine.

The community has mounted legal challenges to proposed oil and gas drilling fracking in the surrounding North Fork Valley.[10]


The area around Paonia is known for its orchards which produce peaches, apples, cherries, pears, and plums.[11] In addition, several vineyards and wineries have been established in the area, and are some of the highest wineries in North America. Five of the more well-known wineries are Alfred Eames Winery, Black Bridge Winery, Stone Cottage Cellars, Azura Cellars, and Endless Endeavor Winery.[12][13][14] This is one of the few regions of Colorado that has successfully cultivated and bottled a pinot noir. The Paonia wineries are part of the West Elk Wineries Trail and annual Tour held the second week of June.

Some of Colorado's best livestock also comes from this region. The livestock includes cattle, sheep, poultry, and pigs.


The Delta County School District Board of Education decided in February 2021 to close separate high schools in Paonia and Hotchkiss, Colorado, and build a joint high school, North Fork High School, located in Hotchkiss. Both schools have been losing students as coal mines in the area have closed. Kindergarten to 8th grade education will continue in both communities.[15]


The noted Western newspaper, High Country News, is based in Paonia. High Country News reports on the western United States and is focused on the environment, land use, and public lands issues.

Community radio station KVNF was founded in Paonia and continues to have studios in downtown Paonia. KVNF also now serves a number of towns in the North Fork and Uncompaghre valleys in western Colorado through a network of stations and translators.[16]

Paonia does not have a local newspaper. It is served by The North Fork Times, formerly an independent paper and now a section in the Delta County Independent. The area is also served by the monthly North Fork Merchant Herald, published in nearby Hotchkiss. The weekly Mountain Valley News was published in Cedaredge and distributed widely throughout Delta County, but closed in September 2013. Their sister publication, The High Country Shopper, is published in Paonia.


Paonia has a humid continental climate (Dfb) with hot summers and moderately cold winters. On average, Paonia has 246 sunny days per year.[17] Paonia averages 14 inches of rain and 53 inches of snow per year. The average July high is 89 °F and the average January low is 14 °F.

Climate data for Paonia, Colorado (1930–1957)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 38.6
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 14.4
Average precipitation inches (mm) 1.33
Average snowfall inches (cm) 13.7
Source: WRCC[18]


Corner of 3rd and Grand in Paonia, 2009

Paonia Cherry Days Festival[edit]

Paonia celebrates its "Cherry Days" festival annually on the week of July 4. It features parades, family and class reunions, games, arts and crafts, and musical performances. Paonia Cherry Days is one of the longest running outdoor festivals in Colorado. Started by the Paonia Lions Club in 1946, the festival continues to be run by community volunteers.

Mountain Harvest Festival[edit]

The Mountain Harvest Festival is a three-day event in downtown Paonia held during the last weekend of September. There are over 20 musical acts, poetry, an art show, a chili cook off, a street dance, crafts, wine tasting, as well as classes on canning, raising livestock, and sustainable living.

BMW Rally[edit]

Paonia usually hosts an annual rally for BMW motorcycle enthusiasts, who descend upon the town in mid-summer and stay for several days. This location permits riders to see the beautiful Black Canyon of the Gunnison and challenges them to navigate through winding canyon and mountain roads. It is one of the more desirable rides and locations in Colorado.

Rainbow Gathering[edit]

In 1992 the annual Rainbow Gathering was held at nearby Overland Reservoir. An estimated 18,275 people converged on the site and lived in temporary dwellings for the summer. Although the reservoir is 27 miles (43 km) from Paonia, it had a significant impact on all the towns in the North Fork Valley, including Paonia. Many "New Agers" and members of the psychedelic community continue to reside in and around Paonia, which was the boyhood home of one of the voices and key figures of "ecstatic state" knowledge, Terence McKenna.

Paonia Film Festival[edit]

The Paradise Theater in downtown Paonia hosts a biennial film festival. The Paonia Film Festival celebrates the beauty of the Western Colorado landscape and the rich stories of the people who live there.

The 2021 Paonia Film Festival shifted to showcase filmmakers local to the Western Slope of Colorado and filmmakers through the Western United States on a two-tier system. Its event dates are November 6–7, 2021.

Pickin' in the Park[edit]

The town has live music in the park every Thursday evening during the month of August.[19]

Notable people[edit]

Paolo Bacigalupi American science fiction and fantasy writer

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Active Colorado Municipalities". State of Colorado, Department of Local Affairs. Archived from the original on December 12, 2009. Retrieved September 1, 2007.
  2. ^ "Colorado Municipal Incorporations". State of Colorado, Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives. December 1, 2004. Retrieved September 2, 2007.
  3. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 1, 2020.
  4. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Paonia, Colorado
  5. ^ a b United States Census Bureau. "Paonia town, Colorado". Retrieved April 7, 2023.
  6. ^ "ZIP Code Lookup" (JavaScript/HTML). United States Postal Service. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  7. ^ "About Paonia - Town of Paonia". Archived from the original on June 21, 2015.
  8. ^ "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Paonia town, Colorado". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved October 15, 2015.[dead link]
  9. ^ "Union Pacific". Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  10. ^ Berwyn, Bob (December 20, 2019). "As Coal Declined, This Valley Turned to Sustainable Farming. Now Fracking Threatens Its Future". InsideClimate News. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  11. ^ "Local Produce Local Eating North Fork Valley Colorado". Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  12. ^ "Home". Orchard Valley Farms & Black Bridge Winery. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  13. ^ john. "Home". Stone Cottage Cellars. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  14. ^ "Endless Endeavor Winery".
  15. ^ Nathan Deal (February 27, 2021). "Hotchkiss, Paonia high schools to merge". Grand Junction Sentinel. Retrieved May 16, 2021. "We're going to have a kindergarten-eighth grade school in Paonia, a kindergarten-eighth grade school in Hotchkiss, and then there will be one high school in Hotchkiss next year."
  16. ^ "KVNF Public Radio". Retrieved August 20, 2017.
  17. ^ "Climate in Paonia, Colorado". Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  18. ^ "Paonia, Colorado – Climate Summary". Western Regional Climate Center. OCLC 57388229. Archived from the original on July 2, 2004. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
  19. ^ "Pickin' in the Park".
  20. ^ Solomon, Avi (June 9, 2011). Interview: Dennis McKenna. Retrieved April 20, 2015.
  21. ^ Kent, James (December 2, 2003). Terence McKenna Interview, Part 1. Retrieved April 20, 2015.

External links[edit]