Colorado: The Centennial State
Geography and Industry
Like Montana and Wyoming, Colorado has breathtaking scenery, and both high mountains and rolling plains. Eastern Colorado is part of the Great Plains, and is very hot and dry in the summer, then terribly cold during the winter. The other two geographic sections are the Rocky Mountains, which run from north to south through the central part of the state, and the Colorado Plateau, which is in the west.
Colorado's mountains are the tallest in the Rockies, and among the highest on the continent. In fact, Colorado has fifty-one of the eighty mountains in North America that are over 14,000 feet high!
The Rockies are made up of the Sangre de Cristos range, the Park Range, the Sawatch Mountains, the San Juan Mountains, and the Front Range. They are separated by wide basins called “parks.” These include North Park, Estes Park, and South Park. Such mighty rivers as the Arkansas, the Red, the Colorado, both the North and the South Platte, and the Rio Grande all begin in Colorado's central mountain ranges. What's more, these mountains are covered with heavy forests of mostly conifers.
Western Colorado is a large plateau that is crossed by a number of canyons cut into the rock by fast-flowing rivers such as the Gunnison. Eastern Colorado is notable for its agriculture (cattle and sheep ranching especially), and the central region of the state is known for both high-tech (computer parts, software) and low-tech (metal production, electrical parts, etc.) industry. But the industry for which Colorado is world-famous is tourism.
Because it has so many outdoor recreational activities (hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, and skiing), Colorado has become a popular vacation spot. Resorts like Vail, Aspen, and Steamboat Springs attract people from all over the world.
ALL ABOUT Colorado
LARGEST CITY: Denver
POPULATION: 4,301,261 (2000 Census)
STATE BIRD: Lark Bunting
STATE TREE: Colorado Blue Spruce
STATE FLOWER: Rocky Mountain Columbine
STATE MOTTO: “Nil Sine Numine (Nothing Without Providence)”
STATEHOOD: August 1, 1876
POSTAL ABBREVIATION: CO
WORDS TO KNOW
Conifers are trees that have needles instead of leaves, and drop cones instead of acorns when they're reproducing. Conifers are also evergreens, meaning that their needles stay on their limbs year-round.
Native Americans lived in the mesa country of southwestern Colorado for thousands of years before the coming of European explorers. First were the Basket Makers, who lived in the canyons of the mesa country. The Anasazi cliff-dwellers followed and built adobe houses along the walls of the same canyons that the Basket Makers had occupied before them.
At the time that American explorers such as Zebulon Pike (who discovered and named the famous Pike's Peak in 1806) visited Colorado, there were a number of different Native American tribes living on Colorado's plains. These tribes included the Arapaho, the Kiowa, the Southern Cheyenne, and the Ute.
During the 1840s, the plains tribes of Colorado went to war with white settlers to try to hold on to their lands. At the same time, the United States fought a war with Mexico. The Americans won both of these wars, and took much of northern Mexico, including what later became central and western Colorado, as part of the peace settlement of 1848.
As happened with many of the other Rocky Mountain states, Colorado experienced a huge explosion in population when gold was discovered near the present-day site of Denver in the early 1850s. The rush of gold prospectors and other settlers into the region pushed the local Native American tribes to war several times over the next twenty years.
White settlers in the region tried to organize a territory that they called Jefferson in 1859, but Congress refused to recognize them. So they acted illegally as a territorial government for nearly two years, until Congress finally passed a law that organized Colorado as a territory. Coloradans tried twice to become a state before Congress finally recognized the territory as one in 1876. Because this year was also the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Colorado became known as the Centennial State.
WORDS TO KNOW
The word centennial comes from a Latin phrase that means 100th anniversary.