Colorado is truly a skier’s paradise, a state of great heights. The state’s mountain ranges offer America’s most beautiful and dramatic scenery, and the Colorado vistas were the inspiration for ‘America the Beautiful.’ The Colorado mountains feed many rivers and the state is among the nation’s best vacation destinations. The summers are pleasantly cool, and the winters supply plenty of powdered snow.
But Colorado is also the leading Rocky Mountain state when it comes to manufacturing, and an important mining and agricultural state. The story of Colorado’s silver- and gold mining days was actually the theme of several popular musicals, the Ballad of Baby Doe, and The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
Quick Facts about Colorado
– Of all U.S. states, Colorado has the highest mean altitude.
– The State has most U.S. mountains that rise above 14,000 feet.
– Grand Mesa is the largest flat-top mountain in the world.
– In Colorado, three of America’s greatest river systems arise.
– Colorado has oil shales, believed to contain more oil than the world’s reserves.
– Colorado has the world’s highest suspension bridge (1,053 ft. over the Arkansas River).
Colorado brief history
In the 16th century, the region that we know as Colorado was explored by the Spanish, but the first written records (as far as we know) of the Colorado region were by Diego de Vargas (in 1694) when he was pursuing Indians who escaped from Taos Pueblo (New Mexico).
In 1763, the Spanish gained control of the region, but in 1803, only 3 years after the French conquered the eastern portions of Colorado, the region fell under the Union’s control after the Louisiana Purchase.
In 1806, Zebulon Pike, a U.S. Lieutenant, explored the Colorado region, and in 1832, William Bent constructed massive Fort Bent that has 4-feet thick walls. This U.S. stronghold then became the trade center for an enormous region. After the Mexican War, the western portions of Colorado, which Mexico had controlled from 1821, turned into U.S. territory again in 1848. In 1851, settlers that came from Mexican lands established San Luis, which is Colorado’s oldest residential community.
Thousands of pioneers were rushing to Cherry Creek in 1858 to find gold, encouraged by the words ‘Pike’s Peak or bust’, but already in June of that year, the ‘bust’ had already come. Hardly any gold was found and the desperate fortune-hunters left the area.
Also in 1858 (in November), William Latimer, together with his son, founded Denver at Cherry Creek and named the town for the territory’s governor. John Gregory, though, found real gold in May 1859, and soon after, Gregory Gulch became bustling Central City. Abe Lee then discovered gold in 1860 in the canyon, and it wasn’t long before Leadville developed into a major center.
A group of irregular pioneers, in retaliation for a ranch killing, massacred a group of Indians by surprise in 1864, which slaughter is known as the Battle of Sand Creek. The Indians were furious about the Sand Creek massacre, so they went on the attack causing a killing spree. After the Battle of Beecher Island, Indian power was practically broken, and the last Colorado battle with Indians was in 1869, on July 11th (the Battle of Summit Springs).
Colorado was allowed into the Union in 1876, on August 1st., and just as it seemed that Colorado’s gold was running out, the find of Leadville in 1877, brought new wealth to the region. In 1891, Cripple Creek caught the world’s attention as it appeared that the estimated value of gold from that area was the world’s second, and only surpassed by South Africa’s Witwatersrand mines. In 1893, Colorado women gained voting rights.
Some 43,000 Colorado residents served in World War I, and in 1929, the Royal Gorge was spanned by what was then the highest suspension bridge in the world. The 1930’s Great Depression was even more tragic in Colorado due to dust storms and drought that were the worst in history.
In early 1942, some 10,000 Americans of (partly) Japanese descent were transferred to resettlement camps at Grenada’s Arkansas Valley area, as they were mistakenly feared to help Japan in World War II. In 1955 the Air Force Academy moved to Colorado Springs, and the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command started its operations in 1965 hidden deep in Cheyenne Mountain.
The nuclear weapons plant at Rocky Flats was closed in 1988 after it appeared that 3 workers had been exposed to radiation. In 1992, on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a bus with Ku Klux Klan members returning from a Denver Klan rally was attacked by demonstrators.
President Theodore Roosevelt once said:
…When I passed through your wonderful canyons and mountains I became aware this gorgeous state will be more and more the best playground for the entire republic … You will see in Colorado the real American Switzerland…