Colorado, a state in the west of the United States, has a diverse landscape composed of arid desert, river canyons, and snow-covered Rocky Mountains, which are part of Rocky Mountain National Park. In Mesa Verde National Park, there are cliff dwellings of Ancient Puebloans. Denver is Colorado’s capital and largest city, perched a mile high above sea level.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT COLORADO
- Capital City: Denver
- Largest City: Denver
- Nickname: The Centennial State
- Statehood: 1876; 38th state
- Population (as of 2020): 5,773,714
- Abbreviation: CO
- State bird: lark bunting
- State flower: white and lavender columbine
- Total Size Of The State: 104,094 sq mi (269,837 km2)
Fifteen thousand years ago, hunters hunted bison, mammoths, and mastodons in Colorado. The first long-term settlements appeared thousands of years ago in the southwest part of the state; their ancestors built the ruins in Mesa Verde National Park. Many other Native American tribes, such as Utes, Cheyennes, and Arapahoes, also inhabited this area.
The first European visitors to Colorado were Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. First Americans settled in Cherry Creek (present-day Denver) in 1858, and Colorado became a state in 1876.
Why Does It Have That Name?
The river that ran through the area was named Colorado after its muddy, red hue by Spanish explorers. Ultimately, the state was named after the river.
The United States turned one hundred years old the same year Colorado became a state.
Geographic Features and Landforms
Utah borders Colorado on the west, New Mexico and Oklahoma on the south, Kansas and Nebraska on the east, and Wyoming on the north. Its southwest corner intersects Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico at a point known as the Four Corners – the only place in the country where you can be in four states at once.
The Rocky Mountains dominate Western Colorado. Mount Elbert, 14,440 feet above sea level, is the tallest peak in this mountain range, which stretches from New Mexico into Canada. Further east lies the Great Plains. These grasslands are used for raising cattle, growing corn, and growing wheat.
The Natural World
Colorado’s mountains are home to Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (the state mammal), mountain goats, black bears, mountain lions, beavers, endangered boreal toads, golden eagles, and great horned owls.
There are mammals like prairie dogs and bison on the plains; reptiles like rattlesnakes; amphibians like tiger salamanders; and birds like burrowing owls and lark buntings, the state bird.
Numerous trees are native to Colorado; many of them—such as the ponderosa pine—are conifers. Conifers are evergreen trees with needles and cones. There may be a hint of vanilla or butterscotch in the bark of ponderosa pine.
This area is rich in coal, oil, and natural gas. The state also generates wind and solar power. A third of Colorado’s electricity comes from wind.
Colorado is home to gold, uranium, and molybdenum (a mineral used to harden steel). In addition, the state is home to the world’s largest molybdenum mine.
Colorado’s economy is also reliant on cattle, wheat, and timber.
Some Fun Facts About Colorado
- The average elevation of Colorado is the highest of any U.S. state. Colorado’s capital, Denver, is nicknamed the “Mile-High City” because it is one mile above sea level.
- During World War II, one army unit prepared in Colorado for combat at high altitudes. As a result, aspen and Vail, two impressive ski resorts founded by these soldiers, are famous today.
- Colorado is home to the Continental Divide, a natural boundary that separates North America’s river systems. West of the divide, the water flows into the Pacific Ocean; east of the divide, the water flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
- William “Buffalo Bill” Cody was buried on Lookout Mountain in 1917, where he starred in cowboy-themed shows worldwide.