Colorado is a U.S. state that encompasses most of the Southern Rocky Mountains as well as the north-eastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains. Colorado is part of the Western United States, the South-western United States, and the Mountain States. Colorado is the 8th most extensive and the 22nd most populous of the 50 United States. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Colorado was 5,116,796 on July 1, 2011, an increase of +1.74% since the 2010 United States Census.
The state was named for the Colorado River, which early Spanish explorers named the Río Colorado for the red coloured (Spanish: Colorado) silt the river carried from the mountains. On August 1, 1876, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation admitting Colorado as the 38th state. Colorado is nicknamed the "Centennial State" because it was admitted to the Union in 1876, the centennial year of the United States Declaration of Independence.
Colorado is bordered by the northwest state of Wyoming to the north, the Midwest states of Nebraska and Kansas to the northeast and east, on the south by New Mexico and a small portion of the southern state of Oklahoma, and on the west by Utah. The four states of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at one common point known as the Four Corners, which is known as the heart of the American Southwest. Colorado is one of only three U.S. states with no natural borders, the others being neighbouring Wyoming and Utah. Colorado is noted for its vivid landscape of mountains, forests, high plains, mesas, canyons, plateaus, rivers, and desert lands. Denver is the capital and the most populous city of Colorado. Residents of the state are properly known as "Coloradans", although the archaic term "Coloradoan" is still used.
The borders of Colorado were originally defined to be lines of latitude and longitude, making its shape a latitude-longitude* quadrangle which stretches from 37°N to 41°N latitude and from 102°03'W to 109°03'W longitude (25°W to 32°W from the Washington Meridian).Colorado, Wyoming and Utah are the only states which have boundaries defined solely by lines of latitude and longitude. When placing the border markers for the Territory of Colorado, minor surveying errors resulted in several small kinks, most notably along the border with the Territory of Utah. Once agreed upon by the federal, state, and territorial governments, those surveyors' benchmarks, became the legal boundaries for the Colorado Territory, kinks and all.
The summit of Mount Elbert at 14,440 feet (4,401 m) in elevation in Lake County is the highest point of Colorado and the Rocky Mountains. Colorado is the only U.S. state that lies entirely above 1,000 meters (3,281 ft) elevation. The point where the Arikaree River flows out of Yuma County, Colorado, and into Cheyenne County, Kansas, is the lowest point in Colorado at 3,317 feet (1,011 m) elevation. This point, which holds the distinction of being the highest low elevation point of any state is higher than the high elevation points of 18 states and the District of Columbia.
A little over one third of the area of Colorado is flat and rolling land. East of the Rocky Mountains are the Colorado Eastern Plains of the High Plains, the section of the Great Plains within Colorado at elevations ranging from roughly 3,350 to 7,500 feet (1,020 to 2,300 m). The Colorado plains are usually thought of as prairies, but actually they have many patches of deciduous forests, buttes, and canyons, much like the high plains in New Mexico as well. Eastern Colorado is presently mainly covered in farmland, along with small farming villages and towns. Precipitation is fair, averaging from 15 to 25 inches (380 to 630 mm) annually. The summers in the plains are normally hot and dry, while the winters are often cold, snowy, and icy. Corn, wheat, hay, soybeans, and oats are all typical crops, and most of the villages and towns in this region boast both a water tower and a grain elevator. As well as the farming of crops, Eastern Colorado has a good deal of livestock raising, such as at cattle ranches and hog farms and irrigation water is available from the South Platte, the Arkansas River, and a few other streams, and also from subterranean sources, including artesian wells. However, heavy use of ground water from wells for irrigation has caused underground water reserves to decline.
Most of Colorado's population resides along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in the Front Range Urban Corridor between Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Pueblo, Colorado. This region is partially protected from prevailing storms that blow in from the Pacific Ocean region by the high Rockies in the middle of Colorado. The only other significant population centers are at Grand Junction and Durango in far western and south-western Colorado.
The Continental Divide extends along the crest of the Rocky Mountains. The area of Colorado to the west of the Continental Divide is called the Western Slope of Colorado. Drainage water west of the Continental Divide flows to the southwest via the Colorado River and the Green River into the Gulf of California.
Within the interior of the Rocky Mountains are several large so-called "parks" or high broad basins. In the north, on the east side of the Continental Divide is the North Park of Colorado. The North Park is drained by the North Platte River, which flows north into Wyoming and Nebraska. Just to the south of North Park, but on the western side of the Continental Divide, is the Middle Park of Colorado, which is drained by the Colorado River. The South Park of Colorado is the region of the headwaters of the South Platte River.
In south most Colorado is the large San Luis Valley, where the headwaters of the Rio Grande are located. The valley sits between the Sangre De Cristo Mountains and San Juan Mountains, and consists of large desert lands that eventually run into the mountains. The Rio Grande drains due south into New Mexico, Mexico, and Texas. Across the Sangre de Cristo Range to the east of the San Luis Valley lies the Wet Mountain Valley. These basins, particularly the San Luis Valley, lie along the Rio Grande Rift, a major geological formation of the Rocky Mountains, and its branches.
To the west of Great Plains of Colorado rises the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. Notable peaks of the Rocky Mountains include Longs Peak, Mount Evans, Pikes Peak, and the Spanish Peaks near Walsenburg, in southern Colorado. This area drains to the east and the southeast, ultimately either via the Mississippi River or the Rio Grande into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Rocky Mountains within Colorado contain about 54 peaks that are 14,000 feet (4,267 m) or higher in elevation above sea level, known as fourteeners. These mountains are largely covered with trees such as conifers and aspens up to the tree line, at an elevation of about 12,140 feet (3,700 m) in southern Colorado to about 10,500 feet (3,200 m) in northern Colorado. Above this only alpine vegetation grows. Only small parts of the Colorado Rockies are snow-covered year round. Much of the alpine snow melts by mid-August with the exception of a few snowcapped peaks and a few small glaciers. The Colorado Mineral Belt, stretching from the San Juan Mountains in the southwest to Boulder and Central City on the front range, contains most of the historic gold- and silver-mining districts of Colorado. Mount Elbert is the highest summit of the Rocky Mountains. The 30 highest major summits of the Rocky Mountains of North America all lie within the state.
Colorado Western Slope
The Western Slope of Colorado is drained by the Colorado River and its tributaries (primarily the Green River and the San Juan River), or by evaporation in its arid areas. Prominent in the south-western area of the Western Slope is the Grand Mesa and the high San Juan Mountains, a rugged mountain range, and to the west of the San Juan Mountains, the Colorado Plateau, a high arid region that borders Southern Utah. The city of Grand Junction, Colorado, is the largest city on the Western Slope, Grand Junction and Durango are the only major centers of radio and television broadcasting, newspapers, and higher education on the Western Slope. Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Western State College of Colorado in Gunnison, and Fort Lewis College in Durango are the only four-year colleges in Colorado west of the Continental Divide.
Grand Junction is located along Interstate 70, the only major highway of Western Colorado. Grand Junction is also along the major railroad of the Western Slope, the Union Pacific, which also provides the tracks for Amtrak's California Zephyr passenger train, which crosses the Rocky Mountains between Denver and Grand Junction via a route on which there are no continuous highways. To the southeast of Grand Junction is the Grand Mesa, said to be the world's largest flat-topped mountain. Other towns of the Western Slope include Glenwood Springs with its resort hot springs, and the ski resorts of Aspen, Breckenridge, Vail, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs, and Telluride. The north-western corner of Colorado is a sparsely-populated region, and it contains part of the noted Dinosaur National Monument, which is not only a paleontological area, but is also a scenic area of high, rocky hills, canyons, and stream beads. Here, the Green River briefly crosses over into Colorado.
From west to east, the land of Colorado consists of desert lands and desert plateaus, then alpine mountains with National Forests, then some scattered desert land in the southern mountain areas in the state, and then the relatively-flat grasslands and scattered forests of the Great Plains. The famous Pikes Peak is located just west of Colorado Springs. Its isolated peak is visible from nearly the Kansas border on clear days, and also far to the north and the south. The desert lands in Colorado are located in and around areas such as, the Royal Gorge, Pueblo, Canon City, Florence, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, San Luis Valley, Cortez, Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, Ute Mountain, Delta, Grand Junction, Colorado National Monument, Roan Plateau, and other areas surrounding the Uncompahgre Plateau and Uncompahgre National Forest.
Colorado is one of four states in the United States that share a common geographic point the Four Corners together with Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. At this intersection, it is possible to stand in four states at once.
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