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Grand Junction, Colorado

Grand Junction, Colorado

The City of Grand Junction is the largest city in western Colorado. It is a city with a council–manager government form that is the county seat and the most populous city of Mesa County, Colorado, United States. Grand Junction is situated 247 miles (398 km) west-southwest of the Colorado State Capitol, Denver. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 58,566.Grand Junction is the 15th most populous city in the State of Colorado and the most populous city on the Colorado Western Slope. Grand Junction serves as a major commercial and transportation hub within the large area between the Green River and the Continental Divide. It is the principal city of the Grand Junction Metropolitan Statistical Area which had a population of 146,723 in 2010 census.


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The city is located along the Colorado River, where it receives the Gunnison River from the south. The name "Grand" refers to the historical upper Colorado River until renamed in 1921, and the word "Junction" is from the joining of the Colorado and Gunnison rivers. Hence, Grand Junction has been given the nickname "River City". The city sits near the midpoint of a 30-mile (48 km) arcing valley, known as the Grand Valley, a major fruit-growing region, historically home to the Ute people and settled by white farmers in the 1880s. In recent years, several wineries have been established in the area as well. The Colorado National Monument, a unique series of canyons and mesas, overlooks the city on the west, while most of the area is surrounded by public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. The Book Cliffs are a prominent series of cliffs that define the northern side of the Grand Valley. Interstate 70 connects the city eastward to Glenwood Springs and Denver and westward to Green River, Utah; Salt Lake City (via Interstate 70 and U.S Route 6); and Las Vegas (via Interstate 70 and Interstate 15)

The Country Jam Ranch is located near Grand Junction just north of I-70 at the Mack exit. This is a permanent festival site built for music festivals, including Country Jam, an event that has been held since 1992 and one that draws thousands of country music fans to the area. The Grand Junction area has turned into a major mountain biking destination, with many bikers coming from the Front Range of Colorado, the Salt Lake City area, and even as far away as California to enjoy the area's abundant single-track trails. Two prominent trails among others are the Tabeguache and Kokopelli trails, the latter running from near Loma all the way to Moab, Utah.



Grand Junction ClimateThe downtown area displays a semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk), almost grading into an arid type. Grand Junction sits in a large area of "high desert" lands in Western Colorado. Winters are cold and dry, with a January high and low of 37.9 °F (3.3 °C) and 16.8 °F (−8.4 °C), respectively. Because of its location west of the Rockies, Grand Junction does not receive as much influence from the Chinook winds as other parts of state, but it does receive protection from the Arctic masses that can settle to the east of the Rockies. This is illustrated by the fact that from December to February, highs reach 50 °F (10 °C) only 18 days.   Lows drop to 0 °F (−17.8 °C) or below on 3.6 nights per year.   Snowfall is often light, with a 30-year average of 13.8 inches (35 cm), though the median is 6.3 inches (16.0 cm), and moreover, snow cover remains very short.   Snow is greatest in December and January. Spring warming is gradual but quickens when nearing June. Summer is hot but dry, with average July highs reaching 93 °F (33.9 °C) and lows reaching 64 °F (17.8 °C). Grand Junction averages at least 64 days a year with temperatures at 90 °F (32.2 °C) or above, and at least 5 days with 100 °F (37.8 °C) or more.   Autumn cooling is rapid, with freezes usually beginning in mid-October. The area receives little precipitation year-round, averaging 9.06 inches (230.1 mm), with no real seasonal spike. Sunshine hours are abundant, even in winter, and total just over 3200 hours per year, or 73% of the possible total.


Grand Junction DemographicsAs of the census   of 2000, there were 41,986 people, 17,865 households, and 10,540 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,362.6 people per square mile (526.2/km²). There were 18,784 housing units at an average density of 609.6 per square mile (235.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.78% White, 0.60% African American, 0.94% Native American, 0.76% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 3.81% from other races, and 1.99% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.86% of the population. There were 17,865 households out of which 25.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.1% were married couples living together, 9.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 41.0% were non-families. 33.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.8% had living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city the population was spread out with 21.2% under the age of 18, 11.9% from 18 to 24, 26.3% from 25 to 44, 22.8% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 95.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.6 males. The population figures are for Grand Junction only; the city abuts smaller towns and unincorporated county areas which contribute to area commerce. The median income for a household in the city was $33,152, and the median income for a family was $43,851. Males had a median income of $31,685 versus $22,804 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,692. About 7.5% of families and 11.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.8% of those under age 18 and 9.0% of those age 65 or over.


From the time settlers arrived in the 1880s until the 1960s, two of the main economic activities in the region were farming and cattle raising. Retail sales have been important to the economy for decades (e.g., gasoline, and hunting and fishing related sales), and uranium mining-related activities have also been significant. Grand Junction was home to the Climax Uranium Mill, a now decommissioned mill that provided uranium ore to the US Atomic Energy Commission. Education and healthcare have been important to the economy of the area, especially since the 1950s, with Colorado Mesa University and St. Mary's Hospital as leading employers in these fields. Vast oil shale reserves were known to exist near Parachute, Colorado in the Piceance Basin. The oil embargoes of the 1970s and high gas prices resulted in major financial interest in the region. Exxon purchased rights and used Grand Junction as its seat of operations.


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Grand Junction and the surrounding Grand Valley were prosperous in the 1970s and early 1980s largely because of the impact of oil shale development. The United States, western Colorado in particular, has the largest known concentration of oil shale in the world (according to the Bureau of Land Management) and holds an estimated 800 gigabarrels of recoverable oil, enough to meet U.S. demand for oil at current levels for 110 years. Known as the "Rock That Burns" the shale can be mined and processed to produce oil, although in the past it was significantly more expensive than conventional oil. Sustained prices above $95 per barrel, however, may make extraction economically attractive in the coming years (see Oil Shale Economics). ExxonMobil was forced to pull out of the region because of lower oil prices, which led to economic hardship in the region.

Grand Junction EconomyThe economic bust, known as "Black Sunday" (May 2, 1982) to the locals, started with a phone call from the President of Exxon to the then Governor of Colorado, Richard Douglas Lamm, stating that Exxon would cut its losses while retaining mining rights to the (then and currently) uneconomic oil. The economic bust was felt statewide, as Exxon had invested more than 5 billion USD in the state. Colorado historian Tom Noel observed "I think that was a definite turning point, and it was a reminder that we were a boom-and-bust state...There were parallels to the silver crash of 1893."

By 2008, the economy of Grand Junction appeared to be more diverse and stable than it had been in previous decades. Major contributors to the economy were health care, tourism, agriculture, livestock, and energy mining (gas and oil). Major energy companies had once again invested large amounts of money due to increases in oil and natural gas prices (such as in the years 2005-2008). However, a major drop (in the summer of 2008) of market natural gas prices led to reduced gas well drilling and related capital expenditures in the area, significantly slowing the Grand Junction economy in 2009. Reports given in 2009 suggested that Grand Junction had once again been hard-hit economically, with one report by April 2010 listing the area as having had the largest percentage drop in employment of any "small city" in the entire United States. By 2008, Grand Junction was being discovered by the "nation's elite business and leisure travelers" for private jet travel, with nearby Powderhorn Resort and other ski resorts a major attraction.

Top Employers in Mesa County:

# Employer Environment Number of
1 Mesa County Valley School District 51 Education 2502
2 St. Mary’s Hospital Healthcare – Hospital 1655
3 State of Colorado Government 1004
4 Mesa County Government 998
5 Community Hospital Healthcare – Hospital 800
6 Star Tek Inc. Telecommunications 700
7 Hilltop Community Resources Healthcare – Human 680
8 VA Medical Center – Grand Junction Services 650
9 City Markets, Inc. Retail – Grocery Stores 648
10 City of Grand Junction Government 640
11 Colorado Mesa University Higher Education 647
12 West Star Aviation Aviation 425
13 Family Health West Hospital Healthcare – Hospital 370
14 HopeWest Healthcare – Palliative Care 360
15 Capco Inc. Manufacturing 254



Grand Junction EducationThe Mesa Valley School District No. 51 provides comprehensive K-12 public education to the Grand Junction area. School District 51 operates five high schools:

  • Fruita Monument High School
  • Grand Junction High School
  • Central High School
  • Palisade High School
  • R-5 High School.

In addition, the district operates numerous middle, elementary, and other types of schools. District 51 partners with the Western Colorado Community College (WCCC) to operate a vocational school, owned and operated by Mesa State College. The WCCC was formerly named, and is still commonly called, UTEC.

Colleges and Universities

Colorado Mesa University, a public, four-year, liberal arts institution, serves as the primary provider of higher education on the Western slope from its campus in central Grand Junction. This growing campus has an average enrollment of just under 9,000 students and offers a variety of degrees, including a Masters in Business Administration Educational Leadership and ESOL. The university has particularly strong science, art, music, nursing, and kinesiology programs.


Grand Junction's Colorado National Monument was home to a stage in the Coors Classic known as "The Tour of the Moon" due to the Monument's unique landscape. Since 1958, the JUCO World Series has been playing at Suplizio Field. Most recently at Suplizio Field, a new professional Minor League Baseball team affiliate of the Colorado Rockies in the Pioneer Baseball League came from Casper and are known as the Grand Junction Rockies. Adjacent to Suplizio Field, Stocker Stadium is home to the semi-professional Grand Junction Gladiators football team. Both Suplizio Field and Stocker Stadium also host Colorado Mesa University as well as School District 51 sporting events.


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