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Colorado (i /kɒləˈrædoʊ/ or i /kɒləˈrɑːdoʊ/) is a state of the United States of America that encompasses most of the Southern Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains. Colorado is part of the Mountain States, the Western United States, and the Southwestern United States. The High Plains of eastern Colorado may be considered part of the Midwestern United States.
Colorado is nicknamed the "Centennial State" because it was admitted to the Union as the 38th state in 1876, the centennial year of the United States Declaration of Independence. Colorado is bordered on the north by Wyoming and Nebraska, on the east by Nebraska and Kansas, on the south by Oklahoma and New Mexico, 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. Colorado is one of only three U.S. states with no natural borders, the others being neighboring Wyoming and Utah.
Colorado is noted for its vivid landscape of mountains, plains, mesas, and canyons. The 30 highest major summits of the Rocky Mountains of North America all lie within the state. Colorado is home to 4 national parks, 6 national monuments, 2 national recreation areas, 2 national historic sites, 3 national historic trails, 1 national scenic trail, 11 national forests, 2 national grasslands, 41 national wilderness areas, 2 national conservation areas, 8 national wildlife refuges, 44 state parks, 1 state forest, 323 state wildlife areas, and numerous other scenic, historic, and recreational attractions.
The United States Census Bureau estimates that the state population was 5,024,748 on July 1, 2009, an increase of 16.82% since the U.S. Census 2000. 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 nearly imperceptible 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 holds the distinction of being the highest low elevation point of any state.
Nearly one third of the area of Colorado is flat or rolling land - in stark contrast to Colorado's rugged Rocky Mountains. 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 6,500 feet (1,020 to 2,000 m). The plains states of Kansas and Nebraska border Colorado to the east and northeast. The Colorado plains are usually thought of as prairies, but actually they have patches of deciduous forests. 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 usually hot and humid, while the winters are often quite 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. In eastern Colorado, a good deal of 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 Colorado.
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, Colorado, 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 Continental Divide extends along the crest of the Rocky Mountains. The area of Colorado 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 Green River and the Colorado 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 southmost Colorado is the large San Luis Valley, where the headwaters of the Rio Grande are located. 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.
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.
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 southwestern area of the Western Slope are 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. The Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Western State College 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 Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, 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, Vail, Crested Butte, Steamboat Springs, and Telluride.
The northwestern 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 streambeads. Here, the Green River briefly crosses over into Colorado.
From west to east, the land of Colorado consists of semi-desert-like basins, turning into plateaus, then alpine mountains, National Forests, 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.
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 hypothetically possible to stand in four states at once.
The climate of Colorado is quite complex compared to most of the United States. Unlike in other states, southern Colorado is not necessarily warmer than northern Colorado. Mountains and surrounding valleys greatly affect local climate. As a general rule, with an increase in elevation comes a decrease in temperature and an increase in precipitation. A main climatic division in Colorado occurs between the Rocky Mountains on the west and the plains on the east with the foothills forming a transitional zone between the two.
The climate of the Eastern Plains is semi-arid (Köppen climate classification BSk) with low humidity and moderate precipitation, usually from 15 to 25 inches (380 to 630 mm) annually. The area is known for its abundant sunshine and cool clear nights, which give this area the highest average diurnal temperature range in the United States. In summer, this area can have many days above 95 °F (35 °C) and sometimes 100 °F (38 °C), although 105 °F (41 °C) is the maximum in the front range cities above 5,000 ft (1,500 m). In the plains, the winter extremes can be from 0 °F (−18 °C) to −10 °F (−23.3 °C) and −15 °F (−26.1 °C). The all time low in the area was −40 °F (−40.0 °C). About 75% of the precipitation falls within the growing season, from April to September, but this area is very prone to droughts. Most of the precipitation comes from thunderstorms, which are often severe, and from major snowstorms that occur most often in the early spring, late autumn, and sometimes winter. Otherwise, winters tend to be mostly dry and cold. In much of the region, March and April are the snowiest months. April and May are normally the rainiest months, while April is the wettest month overall. The Front Range cities closer to the mountains tend to be warmer in the winter due to chinook winds which warm the area, sometimes bringing temperatures of 40 °F (4 °C) or higher in the winter. The average July temperature is 55 °F (13 °C) in the morning and 80 °F (27 °C) in the afternoon. The average January temperature is 10 °F (−12 °C) in the morning and 30 °F (−1 °C) in the afternoon, although variation between consecutive days can be 40°F (22°C).
West of the plains and foothills, the weather of Colorado is much less uniform. Even places a few miles apart can experience entirely different weather depending on the topography of the area. Most valleys have a semi-arid climate, which becomes an alpine climate at higher elevations. Humid microclimates also exist in some areas. Generally, the wettest season in western Colorado is winter while June is the driest month. This is the opposite of precipitation patterns in the east. The mountains have cool summers with many days of high temperatures around 60 °F (16 °C) to 70 °F (21 °C), although frequent thunderstorms can cause sudden drops in temperature. Summer nights are cool or even cold at the highest elevations, which sometimes get snow even in the middle of the summer. The winters bring abundant, powdery snowfall to the mountains with abundant sunshine in between major storms. The western slope has high summer temperatures similar to those found on the plains, while the winters tend to be slightly cooler due to the lack of warming winds common to the plains and Front Range. Other areas in the west have their own unique climate. The San Luis Valley is generally dry with little rain or snow, although the snow that falls tends to stay on the ground all winter.
Extreme weather is a common occurrence in Colorado. Thunderstorms are common east of the Continental divide in the spring and summer, and Colorado is one of the leading states in deaths due to lightning. Hail is a common sight in the mountains east of the divide and in the northwest part of the state. The Eastern Plains have some of the biggest hail storms in North America. Also the Eastern Plains are part of Tornado Alley and produce some of the deadliest U.S. tornadoes. Some damaging tornadoes in the Eastern Plains include the 1990 Limon F3 tornado and the 2008 Windsor EF3 tornado, which devastated the town. The plains are also susceptible to floods, which are caused both by thunderstorms and by the rapid melting of snow in the mountains during warm weather. Denver's record in 1921 for the number of consecutive days above 90 °F (32 °C) was broken during the summer of 2008. The new record of twenty-four consecutive days surpassed the previous record by almost a week. Much of Colorado is a relatively dry state averaging only 17 inches (430 mm) of rain per year statewide and rarely experiences a time when some portion of the state is not in some degree of drought. The lack of precipitation contributes to the severity of wildfires in the state such as the Hayman Fire, one of the largest wildfires in American history.
However, there are some of the mountainous regions of Colorado which receive a huge amount of moisture via winter snowfalls. The spring melts of these snows often cause great waterflows in such rivers as the Yampa River, the Grand River, the Colorado River, the Rio Grande, the Arkansas River, Cherry Creek, the North Platte River, and the South Platte River. Water flowing out of the Colorado Rocky Mountains is a very significant source of water for the farms, towns, and cities of Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, southmost Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, southern California, and northmost Mexico.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Colorado was 118 °F (48 °C) on July 11, 1888, at Bennett, whereas the lowest was −61 °F (−51.7 °C) on February 1, 1985, at Maybell.
The region that is today the state of Colorado has been inhabited by Native Americans for more than 13 millennia. The Lindenmeier Site in Larimer County contains artifacts dating from approximately 11200 BCE to 3000 BCE. The eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains was a major migration route that was important to the spread of early peoples throughout the Americas. The Ancient Pueblo Peoples lived in the valleys and mesas of the Colorado Plateau. The Ute Nation inhabited the mountain valleys of the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Western Rocky Mountains. The Arapaho Nation and the Cheyenne Nation moved west to hunt across the High Plains.
The United States acquired a territorial claim to the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains with the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803. This U.S. claim conflicted with the claim of Spain to a huge region surrounding its colony of Santa Fé de Nuevo Méjico as its sovereign trading zone with native peoples. Zebulon Pike led a U.S. Army reconnaissance expedition into the disputed region in 1806. Colonel Pike and his men were arrested by Spanish cavalrymen in the San Luis Valley the following February, taken to Chihuahua, and then expelled from Mexico the following July.
The United States relinquished its claim to all land south and west of the Arkansas River and south of 42nd parallel north and west of the 100th meridian west as part of its purchase of Florida from Spain with the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819. The treaty took effect February 22, 1821. Having settled its border with Spain, the United States admitted the southeastern portion of the Territory of Missouri to the Union as the State of Missouri on August 10, 1821. The remainder of the Missouri Territory, including what would become northeastern Colorado, became unorganized territory, and would remain so for 33 years over the question of slavery. After 11 years of war, Spain finally recognized the independence of Mexico with the Treaty of Córdoba signed on August 24, 1821. Mexico eventually ratified the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1831. The Texian Revolt of 1835-1836 fomented a dispute between the United States and Mexico which eventually erupted into the Mexican-American War in 1846. Mexico surrendered its northern territory to the United States with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the conclusion of the war in 1848.
Most American settlers traveling overland west to the Oregon Country, the new goldfields of California, or the new Mormon settlements of Deseret in the Salt Lake Valley, avoided the rugged Southern Rocky Mountains, and instead followed the North Platte River and Sweetwater River to South Pass, the lowest crossing of the Continental Divide between the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Central Rocky Mountains. In 1849, the Mormons of the Salt Lake Valley organized the extralegal State of Deseret, claiming the entire Great Basin and all lands drained by the Green, Grand, and Colorado rivers. The federal government of the United States flatly refused to recognize the new Mormon government, because it was theocratic and sanctioned plural marriage. Instead, the Compromise of 1850 divided the Mexican Cession and the northwestern claims of Texas into a new state and two new territories, the State of California, the Territory of New Mexico, and the Territory of Utah. On April 9, 1851, Mexican American settlers from the area of Taos settled the village of San Luis, then in the New Mexico Territory, later to become Colorado's first permanent European-American settlement.
In 1854, Senator Stephen A. Douglas persuaded the U.S. Congress to divide the unorganized territory east of the Continental Divide into two new organized territories, the Territory of Kansas and the Territory of Nebraska, and an unorganized southern region known as the Indian territory. Each new territory was to decide the fate of slavery within its boundaries, but this compromise merely served to fuel animosity between free soil and pro-slavery factions.
Gold was discovered along the South Platte River then in western Kansas Territory in July 1858, precipitating the historic Pike's Peak Gold Rush. The placer gold deposits along the rivers and streams of the region rapidly played out, but miners soon discovered far more valuable seams of hard rock gold in the nearby mountains.
The gold seekers organized the Provisional Government of the Territory of Jefferson on August 24, 1859, but this new territory failed to secure approval from the Congress of the United States embroiled in the debate over slavery. The election of Abraham Lincoln for the President of the United States on November 6, 1860, led to the secession of nine southern slave states and the threat of civil war among the states. Seeking to augment the political power of the Union states, the Republican Party dominated Congress quickly admitted the eastern portion of the Territory of Kansas into the Union as the free State of Kansas on January 29, 1861, leaving the western portion of the Kansas Territory, and its gold-mining areas, as unorganized territory.
Thirty days later on February 28, 1861, outgoing U.S. President James Buchanan signed an Act of Congress organizing the free Territory of Colorado. The original boundaries of Colorado remain unchanged today. The name Colorado was chosen because it was commonly believed that the Colorado River originated in the territory. Early Spanish explorers named the Colorado River the "Rio Colorado" for the red-brown silt that the river carried from the mountains. The Colorado River was thought to originate at the confluence of its two major tributaries, the Green River and the Grand River. In 1869, this confluence was located by an expedition led by John Wesley Powell in what is now Canyonlands National Park, Utah. In fact, the river that is now named the Colorado River did not flow through Colorado until the House of Representatives Joint Resolution 460 of the 66th United States Congress changed the name of the Grand River to the Colorado River on July 25, 1921, in spite of the fact that the Green River was the greater of the two tributaries.
On April 12, 1861, South Carolina artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter to start the American Civil War. While many gold seekers held sympathies for the Confederacy, the vast majority remained fiercely loyal to the Union cause. In 1862, a force of Texas cavalry invaded the Territory of New Mexico and captured Santa Fe on March 10. The object of this Western Campaign was to seize or disrupt the gold fields of Colorado and California and to seize ports on the Pacific Ocean for the Confederacy. A hastily organized force of Colorado volunteers force-marched from Denver City, Colorado Territory, to Glorieta Pass, New Mexico Territory, in an attempt to block the Texans. On March 28, the Coloradans and local New Mexico volunteers stopped the Texans at the Battle of Glorieta Pass, destroyed their cannon and supply wagons, and ran off 500 head of their horses and mules. The Texans were forced to retreat to Santa Fe. Having lost the supplies for their campaign and finding little support in New Mexico, the Texans abandoned Santa Fe and returned to San Antonio in defeat. The Confederacy made no further attempts to seize the Southwestern United States.
In 1864, Territorial Governor John Evans appointed the Reverend John Chivington as Colonel of the Colorado Volunteers with orders to protect white settlers from Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors who were accused of stealing cattle. Colonel Chivington ordered his men to attack a band of Cheyenne and Arapaho encamped along Sand Creek. Chivington reported that his troops killed more than 500 warriors. The militia returned to Denver City in triumph, but several officers reported that the so called battle was nothing more than a massacre of Indians at peace, that most of the dead were women and children, and that bodies of the dead had been mutilated and desecrated in hideous manner. Three U.S. Army inquiries condemned the action, and incoming President Andrew Johnson asked Governor Evans for his resignation, but none of the perpetrators was ever punished.
In the midst and aftermath of Civil War, many discouraged prospectors returned to their homes, but a determined few stayed on to develop mines, mills, farms, ranches, roads, and towns in the Territory. On September 14, 1864, James Huff discovered silver near Argentine Pass, the first of many silver strikes. In 1867, the Union Pacific Railroad laid its tracks west to Weir, now Julesburg, in the northeast corner of the Territory. The Union Pacific linked up with the Central Pacific Railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, to form the First Transcontinental Railroad. The Denver Pacific Railway reached Denver in June of the following year, and the Kansas Pacific arrived two months later to forge the second line across the continent. In 1872, rich veins of silver were discovered in the San Juan Mountains on the Ute Indian reservation in southwestern Colorado. The Ute people were removed from the San Juans the following year.
The United States Congress passed an enabling act on March 3, 1875, specifying the requirements for the Territory of Colorado to become a state. On August 2, 1876 (28 days after the Centennial of the United States), U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant signed a proclamation admitting Colorado to the Union as the 38th State and earning it the moniker "Centennial State".
The discovery of a major silver lode near Leadville in 1878, triggered the Colorado Silver Boom. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890 invigorated silver mining, and Colorado's last, but greatest, gold strike at Cripple Creek a few months later lured a new generation of gold seekers. Colorado women were granted the right to vote beginning on November 7, 1893, making Colorado the second state to grant universal suffrage and the first one by a popular vote (of Colorado men). The repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in 1893 led to a huge collapse of the mining and agricultural economy of Colorado, but the state steadily recovered.
By the U.S. Census in 1930, the population of Colorado first exceeded one million residents. Colorado suffered greatly through the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, but a major wave of immigration following World War II boosted Colorado's fortune. Tourism became a mainstay of the state economy, and high technology became an important economic engine. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Colorado exceeded five million in 2009.
Three warships of the U.S. Navy have been named the USS Colorado. The first USS Colorado was named for the Colorado River. The later two ships were named in honor of the state, including the battleship USS Colorado which served in World War II in the Pacific beginning in 1941. At the time of the Attack on Pearl Harbor, this USS Colorado was located at the naval base in San Diego, Calif. and hence went unscathed.
Colorado's most populous city, and capital, is Denver. The Denver-Aurora-Boulder Combined Statistical Area, the residence of about 2,927,900 people, contains almost two-thirds of the state's population. Residents of Colorado are properly referred to as Coloradans, although the term Coloradoans is still occasionally used.
As of 2005, Colorado has an estimated population of 4,665,177, which is an increase of 63,356, or 1.4%, from the prior year and an increase of 363,162, or 8.4%, since the year 2000. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 205,321 people (that is 353,091 births minus 147,770 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 159,957 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 112,217 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 47,740 people.
The largest increases are expected in the Front Range Urban Corridor, especially in the Denver metropolitan area. The state's fastest-growing counties are Douglas and Weld. The center of population of Colorado is located just north of the village of Critchell in Jefferson County.
Colorado has a high proportion of Hispanic citizens in Metropolitan Denver and in some other areas. Southern Colorado has a large number of Hispanos, the descendants of the early Mexican settlers of colonial Spanish origin. The 2000 U.S. Census foundd that 10.5% of people aged five and over in Colorado speak Spanish at home. Colorado, like New Mexico, is very rich in archaic Spanish idioms.
Colorado also has some African-American communities located in northeast Denver in the Montbello, Green Valley Ranch, Park Hill and Colfax Park areas. The state has sizable numbers of Asian-Americans of Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Southeast Asian and Japanese descent. The Denver metropolitan area is considered more liberal and diverse than much of the state when it comes to political issues and environmental concerns.
According to the 2000 Census, the largest ancestry groups in Colorado are German (22%) including of Swiss and Austrian nationalities, Irish (12.2%), and English (12%). Persons reporting German ancestry are especially numerous in the Front Range, the Rockies (west-central counties) and Eastern parts/High Plains. Denver and nearby areas on the Front Range has sizable German, Scandinavian, Italian, Slavic and Jewish American communities, partly a legacy of gold rushes in the late 19th century (1861–1889).
There were a total of 70,331 births in Colorado in 2006. (Birth Rate of 14.6). In 2007, non-Hispanic whites constituted 73.5% of the population and accounted for 59.1% of all the births. Some 14.06% of births occurred to parents of different races, or to a couple including one Hispanic. The proportion of children in the state is highest in westernmost counties, where the majority of residents are adherents of Mormonism. Colardo has the eightth largest population of Hispanics in the US behind CA, TX, FL, NY, AZ, IL and NJ. Per the 2000 census the Hispanic popolution is estimated to be 918,899 or approximately 20% of the state total population.
Christianity is the most popular religion in Colorado, adhered to by 65% of the state population. Protestantism is the most popular branch of Christianity with 44% of the state population, while Roman Catholicism is the largest single denomination, with 19% of the population. The state, and specifically the Colorado Springs area, serves as the headquarters of several Christian groups, many of them evangelical. Focus on the Family is a conservative Christian organization headquartered in Colorado Springs.
Major religious affiliations of the people of Colorado are:
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 752,505; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 92,326 (133,727 year-end 2007) ; and Baptist with 85,083.
At 25%, Colorado also has an above average proportion of citizens who claim no religion. The U.S. average is 17%.
Colorado also has a reputation for being a state of active and athletic people. According to several studies, Coloradans have the lowest rates of obesity of any state in the US. As of 2007 the 17.6% of the population was considered medically obese, and while the lowest in the nation, the percentage had increased from 16.9% from 2004. Colorado Governor Bill Ritter commented: “As an avid fisherman and bike rider, I know first-hand that Colorado provides a great environment for active, healthy lifestyles,” although he highlighted the need for continued education and support to slow the growth of obesity in the state.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that the total state product in 2008 was $248.6 billion. Per capita personal income in 2007 was $41,192, ranking Colorado eleventh in the nation. The state's economy broadened from its mid-19th century roots in mining when irrigated agriculture developed, and by the late 19th century, raising livestock had become important. Early industry was based on the extraction and processing of minerals and agricultural products. Current agricultural products are cattle, wheat, dairy products, corn, and hay.
The federal government is also a major economic force in the state with many important federal facilities including NORAD, United States Air Force Academy and Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs; NOAA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder; U.S. Geological Survey and other government agencies at the Denver Federal Center in Lakewood; the Denver Mint, Buckley Air Force Base, and 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver; and a federal Supermax Prison and other federal prisons near Cañon City. In addition to these and other federal agencies, Colorado has abundant National Forest land and four National Parks that contribute to federal ownership of 24,615,788 acres (99,617 km2) of land in Colorado, or 37% of the total area of the state. In the second half of the 20th century, the industrial and service sectors have expanded greatly. The state's economy is diversified and is notable for its concentration of scientific research and high-technology industries. Other industries include food processing, transportation equipment, machinery, chemical products, the extraction of metals such as gold (see Gold mining in Colorado), silver, and molybdenum. Colorado now also has the largest annual production of beer of any state. Denver is an important financial center.
A number of nationally known brand names have originated in Colorado factories and laboratories. From Denver came the forerunner of telecommunications giant Qwest in 1879, Samsonite luggage in 1910, Gates belts and hoses in 1911, and Russell Stover Candies in 1923. Kuner canned vegetables began in Brighton in 1864. From Golden came Coors beer in 1873, CoorsTek industrial ceramics in 1920, and Jolly Rancher candy in 1949. CF&I railroad rails, wire, nails and pipe debuted in Pueblo in 1892. The present-day Swift packed meat of Greeley evolved from Monfort of Colorado, Inc., established in 1930. Estes model rockets were launched in Penrose in 1958. Fort Collins has been the home of Woodward Governor Company's motor controllers (governors) since 1870, and Waterpik dental water jets and showerheads since 1962. Celestial Seasonings herbal teas have been made in Boulder since 1969. Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory made its first candy in Durango in 1981.
Colorado has a flat 4.63% income tax, regardless of income level. Unlike most states, which calculate taxes based on federal adjusted gross income, Colorado taxes are based on taxable income - income after federal exemptions and federal itemized (or standard) deductions. Colorado's state sales tax is 2.9% on retail sales. When state revenues exceed state constitutional limits, full-year Colorado residents can claim a sales tax refund on their individual state income tax return. Many counties and cities charge their own rates in addition to the base state rate. There are also certain county and special district taxes that may apply.
Real estate and personal business property are taxable in Colorado. The state's senior property tax exemption was temporarily suspended by the Colorado Legislature in 2003. The tax break is scheduled to return for assessment year 2006, payable in 2007.
As of January 2010, the states unemployment rate is 7.4%.
Major philanthropic organizations based in Colorado, including the Daniels Fund, the Anschutz Family Foundation, the Gates Family Foundation, the El Pomar Foundation and the Boettcher Foundation, grant approximately $400 million each year from approximately $7 billion of assets.
The recession that began in late 2007 is now recognized as one of the worst economic downturns in decades. This has created a profound cumulative effect in three specific directions. One, there has been a sudden and rapid escalation of demand; two, we have profound and historic cuts in state funding that have seriously eroded services; and three, a deteriorating economy has depleted county resources to cope. These forces are only now showing some signs of slowing, and some areas of the country are much harder hit then others. (The State of Giving: Colorado Nonprofit Association) According to a 2008 study, the most commonly reported reasons for homelessness in Denver are loss of a job (28 percent), housing costs (23 percent), and the breakup of a family (20 percent). (Generous Colorado: Colorado Nonprofit Association)
Colorado ranks fifth in the nation in average adjusted gross income. We have an enviable quality of life and a high standard of living. Unfortunately, Colorado ranks thirty-eighth in the country in the percent of income donated to charity, 3.4 percent, as opposed to 3.6 percent for the average American. Interestingly, the Southwest Colorado region gives the highest percentage, slightly more then 4 percent, topping even the national average. (The State of Giving) The majority of this giving, in Colorado and nationwide, comes from individual donors, approximately $229.28 billion of the $307.55 billion in 2009 in the entire country. That is 82 percent of the funding to charitable organizations, much of it from people like you and me, because “regular” people give more as a percentage of income then the rich do and most gifts come from households of modest means. (the State of Giving)
Colorado has significant energy resources. According to the Energy Information Administration, Colorado hosts seven of the Nation’s 100 largest natural gas fields and two of its 100 largest oil fields. Conventional and unconventional natural gas output from several Colorado basins typically account for more than 5 percent of annual U.S. natural gas production. Substantial deposits of bituminous, subbituminous, and lignite coal are also found in the state. Colorado's high Rocky Mountain ridges and eastern plains offer wind power potential, and geologic activity in the mountain areas provides potential for geothermal power development. Much of the state is sunny and could produce solar power. Major rivers flowing from the Rocky Mountains offer hydroelectric power resources. Corn grown in the flat eastern part of the state offers potential resources for ethanol production. Notably, Colorado’s oil shale deposits hold an estimated 1 trillion barrels (160 km3) of oil – nearly as much oil as the entire world’s proven oil reserves; the economic viability of the oil shale, however, has not been demonstrated.
Some of the special tax districts are:
Alamosa, Aurora, Boulder, Brush, Colorado Springs, Delta, Denver, Durango, Englewood, Frisco, Fort Collins, Fort Morgan, Glenwood Springs, Grand Junction, Greeley, Lamar, Limon, Longmont, Montrose, Pueblo, Rocky Ford, Springfield, Sterling, Trinidad, Vail, and Walsenburg
Just like all the states, Colorado's state constitution provides for three branches of government: the legislative, the executive, and the judicial branches. The Governor heads the state's executive branch. The Colorado Supreme Court is the highest judicial court in the state. The state legislative body is the Colorado General Assembly, which is made up of two houses, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House has 65 members and the Senate has 35. Currently, Democrats control both chambers of the General Assembly. The 2005 Colorado General Assembly was the first to be controlled by the Democrats in forty years. The incumbent governor is Democrat August William "Bill" Ritter, Jr..
Most Coloradans are originally native to other states (nearly 60% according to the 2000 census), and this is illustrated by the fact that the state did not have a native-born governor from 1975 (when John David Vanderhoof left office) until 2007, when Bill Ritter took office; his election the previous year marked the first electoral victory for a native-born Coloradan in a gubernatorial race since 1958 (Vanderhoof had ascended from the Lieutenant Governorship when John Arthur Love was given a position in Richard Nixon's administration in 1973).
Colorado is considered a swing state in both state and federal elections. Coloradans have elected 17 Democrats and 12 Republicans to the governorship in the last 100 years. In presidential politics, Colorado supported Democrats Bill Clinton in 1992 and Barack Obama in 2008, and supported Republicans Robert J. Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. The presidential outcome in 2008 was the second closest to the national popular vote, after Virginia.
Colorado politics has the contrast of conservative cities such as Colorado Springs and liberal cities such as Boulder. Democrats are strongest in metropolitan Denver, the college towns of Fort Collins and Boulder, southern Colorado (including Pueblo), and a few western ski resort counties. The Republicans are strongest in the Eastern Plains, Colorado Springs, Greeley, and far Western Colorado near Grand Junction.
Colorado is represented by the current two United States Senators:
The state of Colorado is represented by seven Representatives to the United States House of Representatives:
Colorado has 271 incorporated municipalities and 83 active United States Census Designated Places.
The ten most populous Colorado municipalities as of July 1, 2008, were:
Colorado is divided into 64 counties, including two counties with consolidated city and county governments.
The fifteen most populous Colorado counties as of July 1, 2009, were:
Colleges and universities in Colorado:
The United States Census Bureau has defined seven Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), seven Micropolitan Statistical Areas (μSAs), and one Combined Statistical Area (CSA) in Colorado.
Nationally Protected Areas in Colorado:
Colorado is the least populous state with a franchise in each of the major professional sports leagues. The state is able to support the teams because it contains a large metropolitan area with a higher population than any other city within 550 miles (885 km). Therefore, many of the residents in the surrounding states support the teams in Denver, as shown by the reach of the Broncos' radio network.