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Colorado (CO) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Colorado is the northeastern member of the Four Corners states, considered to be culturally a part of both the American Southwest and the so-called Mountain States. Colorado is exceptionally mountainous, laying right across the southern part of the Rocky Mountain Range. Like some of the other states in the region, it is well known for its beautiful, rugged landscapes.
Counties and Regions: The state of Colorado is divided into 64 counties, which are especially important due to the fact that the state does not allow smaller levels of government. The unique physical characteristics of Colorado provide for it being divided into other geographical regions, as well:
- Central Colorado
- Denver-Aurora Metropolitan Area
- Eastern Plains
- Front Range Urban Corridor
- High Rockies
- Mineral Belt
- Northwestern Colorado
- San Luis Valley
- South-Central Colorado
- Southwestern Colorado
- Western Slope (of the Rocky Mountains)
Population: Colorado is home to more than five million people and is one of the fastest growing states in the United States. Much of the population is concentrated along the Front Range Urban Corridor along the eastern side of the Rocky Mountains, which is a series of towns and cities that stretches north into Wyoming.
Major Cities: Denver is the capital of Colorado in addition to being its most populous city, with more than six hundred thousand residents living there and more than two and a half million people in its metropolitan area. Because Colorado does not have city governments, Denver is a county in addition to being a city.
Story Behind the Name: The state is named for the Colorado River, which in the nineteenth century many people believed originated there. The Colorado River was so named by Spanish explorers a few centuries earlier, who called it “Rio Colorado” or “red-colored river” for obvious reasons.
History and Colonization: The modern state of Colorado was populated by Native Americans for many thousands of years, and is thought to be one of the primary paths by which humans first spread from the northern climes of North America to the southern and eastern parts of the continent. Many of the native groups that lived there in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were forced out over time, as Europeans arrived looking to plunder the mineral wealth of the Rocky Mountains. Some of the most ancient Native American artifacts and city ruins are found in Colorado even today.
Colorado was the source of numerous territorial claims by a several nations and groups in the nineteenth century. Originally claimed by the Spanish, the United States later laid claim to parts of the territory as it expanded West. Parts of what is now Colorado were claimed at various times by Mexico, the Mormon state of Deseret, and the Confederate States of America. The territory went unorganized for quite a long time, while the Native Americans, Hispanic settlers, and white prospectors that lived there carried on in absence of much governmental authority. The territory was part of a heated debate by the American North and South over whether slavery would be allowed in the western state, an argument which ultimately culminated in the American Civil War.
The Territory of Colorado was created in 1861, just as the Civil War was about to break out in the eastern half of the country. Formulated on strictly parallel boundaries out of formerly unorganized territory, Colorado’s 1861 borders remain unchanged to the present day. During the war, Confederate forces briefly occupied parts of New Mexico and Colorado before being permanently driven back. It looked as though Colorado would become a state as soon as the war ended, but bickering among the politicians at the Capitol kept Colorado from officially entering the United States until 1876.
Much of the settlement of Colorado was due to rich veins of silver and gold present in the mountains, but these were mostly exhausted by the twentieth century. The state suffered a period of stagnation for a few decades, until a burst of growth following World War II put it on the upswing. Because the mountainous territory is relatively unforgiving, humans had never densely populated Colorado. However, its population has been growing steadily in the modern age, as the state’s economy now caters to the tourism and refined technology industries.