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ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: From the Spanish word colorado. meaning red or reddish brown. The Colorado River often runs red during flood stages.

NICKNAME: The Centennial State.

ENTERED UNION: 1 August 1876 (38th).

SONG: "Where the Columbines Grow."

MOTTO: Nil sine numine (Nothing without providence).

COAT OF ARMS: The upper portion of a heraldic shield shows three snow-capped mountains surrounded by clouds; the lower portion has a miner's pick and shovel crossed. Above the shield are an eye of God and a Roman fasces, symbolizing the republican form of government; the state motto is below.

FLAG: Superimposed on three equal horizontal bands of blue, white, and blue is a large red "C" encircling a golden disk.

OFFICIAL SEAL: The coat of arms surrounded by the words "State of Colorado 1876."

BIRD: Lark bunting.

FISH: Greenback cutthroat trout.

FLOWER: Columbine.

TREE: Blue spruce.

GEM: Aquamarine.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. 3rd Monday in January; Lincoln's Birthday, 12 February; Washington's Birthday, 3rd Monday in February; Cesar Chavez Day, 31 March; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Colorado Day, 1st Monday in August; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Columbus Day, 2nd Monday in October; Election Day, 1st Tuesday after 1st Monday in November in even-numbered years; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: 5 AM MST = noon GMT.


Located in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Colorado ranks eighth in size among the 50 states.

The state's total area is 104,091 sq mi (269,596 sq km), of which 103,595 sq mi (268,311 sq km) consists of land and 496 sq mi (1,285 sq km) comprises inland water. Shaped in an almost perfect rectangle, Colorado extends 387 mi (623 km) e-w and 276 mi (444 km) n-s.

Colorado is bordered on the n by Wyoming and Nebraska ; on the e by Nebraska and Kansas ; on the s by Oklahoma and New Mexico ; and on the w by Utah (with the New Mexico and Utah borders meeting at Four Corners). The total length of Colorado's boundaries is 1,307 mi (2,103 km). The state's geographic center lies in Park County, 30 mi (48 km) nw of Pikes Peak.


With a mean average elevation of 6,800 ft (2,074 m), Colorado is the nation's highest state. Dominating the state are the Rocky Mountains. Colorado has 54 peaks 14,000 ft (4,300 m) or higher, including Elbert, the highest in the Rockies at 14,433 ft (4,402 m), and Pikes Peak, at 14,110 ft (4,301 m), one of the state's leading tourist attractions.

The entire eastern third of the state is part of the western Great Plains. a high plateau that rises gradually to the foothills of the Rockies. Colorado's lowest point, 3,350 ft (1,022 m), on the Arkansas River, is located in this plateau region. Running in a ragged north-south line, slightly west of the state's geographic center, is the Continental Divide, which separates the Rockies into the Eastern and Western slopes. The Eastern Slope Front (Rampart) Range runs south from the Wyoming border and just west of Colorado Springs. Also on the Eastern Slope are the Park, Mosquito, Medicine Bow, and Laramie mountains. Western Slope ranges include the Sawatch, Gore, Elk, Elkhead, and William Fork mountains. South of the Front Range, crossing into New Mexico, is the Sangre de Cristo Range, separated from the San Juan Mountains to its west by the broad San Luis Valley. Several glaciers, including Arapahoe, St. Mary's, Andrews, and Taylor, are located on peaks at or near the Continental Divide. Colorado's western region is mostly mesa country: broad, flat plateaus accented by deep ravines and gorges, with many subterranean caves. Running northwest from the San Juans are the Uncompahgre Plateau, Grand Mesa, Roan Plateau, Flat Tops, and Danforth Hills. The Yampa and Green gorges are located in the northwestern corner of the state.

Blue Mesa Reservoir in Gunnison County is Colorado's largest lake. Six major river systems originate in Colorado: the Colorado River, which runs southwest from the Rockies to Utah; the South Platte, northeast to Nebraska; the North Platte, north to Wyoming; the Rio Grande. south to New Mexico; and the Arkansas and Republican, east to Kansas. Dams on these rivers provide irrigation for the state's farmland and water supplies for cities and towns. Eighteen hot springs are still active in Colorado; the largest is at Pagosa Springs.


Abundant sunshine and low humidity typify Colorado's highland continental climate. Winters are generally cold and snowy, especially in the higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains. Summers are characterized by warm, dry days and cool nights.

The average annual temperature statewide ranges from 54 ° f (12 ° c) at Lamar and at John Martin Dam to about 32 ° f (0 ° c) at the top of the Continental Divide; differences in elevation account for significant local variations on any given day. Denver's annual average is 51 ° f (10 ° c); normal temperatures range from 16 ° to 43 ° f ( − 9 ° to 6 ° c) in January and from 59 ° to 88 ° f (15 ° to 31 ° c) in July. Bennett recorded the highest temperature in Colorado, 118 ° f (48 ° c), on 11 July 1888; the record low was − 61 ° f ( − 52 ° c), in Moffat County, on 1 February 1985.

Annual precipitation ranges from a low of 7 in (18 cm) in Alamosa to a high of 25 in (64 cm) in Crested Butte, with Denver receiving about 15.8 in (40 cm) during 1971 – 2000. Denver's snowfall averages 60.3 in (153.2 cm) yearly. The average snowfall at Cubres in the southern mountains is nearly 300 in (762 cm); less than 30 mi (48 km) away at Manassa, snowfall is less than 25 in (64 cm). On 14-15 April 1921, Silver Lake had 76 in (193 cm) of snowfall, the highest amount ever recorded in North America during a 24-hour period.


Colorado's great range in elevation and temperature contributes to a variety of vegetation, distributed among five zones: plains, foothills, montane, subalpine, and alpine. The plains teem with grasses and as many as 500 types of wildflowers. Arid regions contain two dozen varieties of cacti. Foothills are matted with berry shrubs, lichens, lilies, and orchids, while fragile wild flowers, shrubs, and conifers thrive in the montane zone. Aspen and Engelmann spruce are found up to the timberline. As of 2003, 13 plant species were listed as threatened or endangered, including three species of cacti, two species of milk-vetch, Penland beardtongue, and Colorado butterfly plant.

Colorado has counted as many as 747 nongame wildlife species and 113 sport-game species. Principal big-game species are the elk, mountain lion, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep (the state animal), antelope, black bear, and white-tailed and mule deer; the mountain goat and the moose — introduced in 1948 and 1975, respectively — are the only nonnative big-game quarry. The lark bunting is the state bird; blue grouse and mourning doves are numerous, and 28 duck species have been sighted. Colorado has about 100 sport-fish species. Scores of lakes and rivers contain bullhead, kokanee salmon, and a diversity of trout. Rare Colorado fauna include the golden trout, white pelican, and wood frog. In April 2006, a total of 30 species occurring within the state were on the threatened and endangered species list of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These included 17 animal (vertebrates and invertebrates) and 13 plant species. The Mexican spotted owl and bald eagle are among threatened species. The razorback sucker, gray wolf, whooping crane, black-footed ferret, southwestern willow flycatcher, and bonytail chub are among endangered species.


The Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Health share responsibility for state environmental programs. The first efforts to protect Colorado's natural resources were the result of federal initiatives. On 16 October 1891, US president Benjamin Harrison set aside the White River Plateau as the first forest reserve in the state. Eleven years later, President Theodore Roosevelt incorporated six areas in the Rockies as national forests. By 1906, 11 national forests covering

about one-fourth of the state had been created. Mesa Verde National Park, founded in 1906, and Rocky Mountain National Park (1915) were placed under the direct control of the National Park Service. In 1978, Colorado became the first state in the United States to encourage taxpayers to allocate part of their state income tax refunds to wildlife conservation. In addition, a state lottery was approved in the late 1980s, with proceeds approved for Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) to be used for parks improvement and wildlife and resource management.

Air pollution, water supply problems, and hazardous wastes head the list of Colorado's current environmental concerns. The Air Quality Control Commission, within the Department of Health, has primary responsibility for air pollution control. Because of high levels of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and particulates in metropolitan Denver, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, and other cities, a motor vehicle emissions inspection system was inaugurated in January 1982 for gasoline-powered vehicles and in January 1985 for diesel-powered vehicles. The high altitudes of Colorado almost double auto emissions compared to auto emissions at sea level. The high level of particulates in the air is a result of frequent temperature inversions along Colorado's Front Range. The state has launched an aggressive campaign to improve air quality. Cars must use oxygenated fuels and pass tough vehicle emissions controls, and driving is discouraged on high-pollution days. In 2003, 22.5 million lb of toxic chemicals were released by the state.

Formal efforts to ensure the state's water supply date from the Newlands Reclamation Act of 1902, a federal program designed to promote irrigation projects in the semiarid plains areas; its first effort, the Uncompahgre Valley Project, reclaimed 146,000 acres (59,000 hectares) in Montrose and Delta counties. One of the largest undertakings, the Colorado-Big Thompson Project, started in the 1930s, diverts a huge amount of water from the Western to the Eastern Slope. Colorado's efforts to obtain water rights to the Vermejo River in the Rockies were halted in 1984 by the US Supreme Court, which ruled that New Mexico would retain these rights. Some 98% of Colorado's drinking water complies with federal and state standards. The Colorado Department of Health works with local officials to ensure federal standards for drinking water are met. Isolated aquifers are generally in good condition in Colorado, though a few are contaminated. Colorado's groundwater quality is generally high.

Colorado's rapid population growth during the 1970s and early 1980s taxed an already low water table, especially in the Denver metropolitan area. The Department of Natural Resource's Water Conservation Board and Division of Water Resources are responsible for addressing this and other water-related problems.

The Department of Health has primary responsibility for hazardous waste management. From 1984 until the mid-1990s, the department, along with federal agencies, undertook the cleanup of nearly 7,000 contaminated sites in Grand Junction and other parts of Mesa County; these sites, homes and properties, were contaminated during the 1950s and 1960s by radioactive mill tailings that had been used as building material and that were not considered hazardous at the time. (It is now known that the low-level radiation emitted by the mill tailings can cause cancer and genetic damage.) In the fall of 1984, Aspen was placed on the federal US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) list of dangerous waste sites because potentially hazardous levels of cadmium, lead, and zinc were found in Aspen's streets, buildings, and water. Cadmium, lead, and zinc mill tailings had been used as filling material during the construction of the popular resort. Also in the mid-1980s, Rocky Flats, a former plutonium production site near Golden, was closed and a major cleanup was begun; by 2003, all plutonium and uranium had been removed. During 2004 and 2005 the buildings at Rocky Flats were scheduled to be demolished. Rocky Flats National Wildlife Refuge was planned for the site when the demolition was complete. (The site had been the focus of many protests during the 1970s, and has been a major newsmaker since the start of the cleanup. In 2003, the EPA database listed 202 hazardous waste sites in Colorado, 17 of which were on the National Priorities List as of 2006, including the Rocky Mountain Arsenal (US Army), Denver Radium Site, and Uravan Uranium Project site of Union Carbide Corp. In 2005, the EPA spent over $22.9 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. Also in 2005, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $13.7 million for a cleanwater revolving loan fund.

Some 1.5% of the state's land is covered with wetlands, a 50% decrease over the last two centuries.


Colorado ranked 22nd in population in the United States, with an estimated total of 4,656,177 in 2005, an increase of 8.4% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Colorado's population grew from 3,294,394 to 4,301,261, an increase of 30.6%. This was the third-largest percentage increase in the country for this period (exceeded only by Nevada and Arizona ) and the eighth-largest gain in population size. The population was projected to reach 5 million by 2015 and 5.5 million by 2025.

Colorado rose from 30th in population in 1970 to 28th in 1980 and 26th in 1990, with a 14% increase during the 1980s. The population density in 2004 was 44.4 people per sq mi. The estimated median age in 2004 was 34.5 years; 9.8% of the population was over 65 and persons under 18 years old accounted for 25.6% of the population.

Denver is the state's largest city and was, in 2004, the 25th largest US city. Its estimated 2004 population was 556,835, but its metropolitan area (including Aurora) exceeded 2,330,146, or about half the state's population, in 2004. Other major cities, with their estimated 2004 population figures, are Colorado Springs, 369,363; Aurora, 291,843; Lakewood, 141,301; Fort Collins. 126,967; Westminster, 104,759; and Pueblo, 103,621.


Once the sole inhabitants of the state, American Indians in 2000 numbered 44,241, up from 28,000 in 1990. In 2004, American Indians accounted for 1.1% of the total population. The black population is also small, 165,063, or 3.8% in 2000; the percentage for Denver, however, was considerably higher (11.1% in 2000). In 2004, the black population was 4.1% of the total population. Of far greater importance to the state's history, culture, and economy are its Hispanic and Latino residents, of whom there were 735,601 in 2000 (17.1%), up from 424,000 (under 13%) in 1990. Among residents of Denver, 31.7% were Hispanic or Latino in 2000. In 2004, 19.1% of the state's residents was of Hispanic or Latino origin. Of over 95,213 Asians (2.2%), up from 60,000 in 1990, 11,571 were Japanese (down from 15,198 in 1990); 16,395, Korean (up from 12,490 in 1990); 15,457, Vietnamese (more than double the 1990 total of 6,679); 15,658, Chinese (up from 9,117 in 1990); and 8,941, Filipino. In 2004, 2.5% of the population was Asian. The population of Pacific Islanders was estimated at 4,621 in 2000. In 2004, the percentage of Pacific Islanders in Colorado was 0.1%. In all, 369,903 residents, or 8.6% of the state population, were foreign born in 2000. In 2004, 1.8% of the population reported origin of two or more races.


The first whites to visit Colorado found Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne Indians roaming the plains and often fighting the Ute Indians in the mountains. Despite this diverse heritage, Indian place-names are not numerous: Pagosa Springs, Uncompahgre, Kiowa, and Arapahoe.

Colorado English is a mixture of the Northern and Midland dialects, in proportions varying according to settlement patterns. Homesteading New Englanders in the northeast spread sick to the stomach, pail. and comforter (tied and filled bedcover), which in the northwest and the southern half are Midland sick at the stomach, bucket. and comfort. South Midland butter beans and snap beans appear in the eastern agricultural strip. Denver has slat fence. and Heinz dog (mongrel). In the southern half of the state, the large Spanish population has bred many loanwords such as arroyo (small canyon or gulley) and penco (pet lamb).

In 2000, 3,402,266 Coloradans, amounting to 84.9% of the residents five years old and older, spoke only English at home, down from 89.5% in 1990.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over.

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