History of Colorado
Native Americans have inhabited the region of today’s Colorado for more than 13,000 years, as was proven by artifacts dating back to 11,000 BC that were found in the Lindenmeier excavation site in Larimer County. The eastern part of the Rocky Mountains seems to have provided a convenient rout for the early American settlers to spread out across the nation. Different tribes have been determined to have lived in this region. Arapaho and Cheyenne nations inhabited the area of High Planes, while the Ute Nation was settled in the Southern and Western Rocky Mountains valleys. It is also believed that the Ancient Pueblo Peoples inhabited various Colorado Plateau valleys.
The eastern part of the Rocky Mountains became a part of the United States in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. This has placed the US in direct conflict over land with Spain that wanted to claim all of the land surrounding its Santa Fe de Nuevo Mejico colony. The US scouting party that was sent on a reconnaissance mission in the region in 1806 was arrested by the Spanish armies’ cavalry and after first being taken to Chihuahua, later deported from Mexico.
With the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819 and the US purchase of Florida from Spain, the states gave up on their claim of the area to the west and south of the Arkansas River. Once the disputes over the borders with Spain were over, in 1821 the southeastern section of the Territory of Missouri was admitted into the US as the state of Missouri. The rest of the former Territory of Missouri, some of which will later become northeastern Colorado, was at the time left as unrecognized territory, a state of matters that was to last for another 33 years. With the 11 years of war behind them, Spain has finally recognized Mexico’s independence in 1821 with the signing of the treaty of Cordoba. Exactly 25 years later, in 1846 the Mexican-American war erupted, and it ended 2 years later in 1848 with Mexico giving up on the part of their northern territories and signing them over to the US in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
Most of the new settlers that were moving westward in order to reach Oregon County, the goldfields in California or Deseret Mormon settlement in the Salt Lake valley weren’t willing to try and traverse the Southern Rocky Mountains, but instead opted for different routes, usually along the Sweetwater and North Platte rivers till they reached the South Pass. Mormons that lived in the Salt Lake Valley tried to organize a State of Deseret in 1849, and to claim all of the lands that were left by the drained Colorado, Grand and Green rivers, as well as the entirety of the Great Basin. The US federal government wouldn’t even consider recognizing the state, as it allowed plural marriage and was theocratic. The solution was offered in the form of the Compromise of 1850 which has divided the northwestern Texas claims and the Mexican Cession into two new territories and a new state. Thus the territories of New Mexico and Utah were created, along with the state of California.
Senator Stephen A. Douglas used his influence in the Congress of the US to set in motion the separation of the area to the east of the Continental Divide into two organized territories – Territory of Nebraska and the Territory of Kansas. This division also resulted in the creation of an unorganized Indian Territory on the south. Each of the territories was supposed to make its own choices when slavery was concerned, but instead of calming the conflicts down, this just exacerbated them. When the nine states seceded from the US, Congress was quick to admit the eastern part of the Territory of Kansas, now considered to be the free state of Kansas, into the Union in 1861. This has left the western part of the former Territory of Kansas unorganized. Just one month later the free Territory of Colorado was organized, it had the same borders that the present day Colorado state has. The name was chosen because of the fact that the Colorado River was thought to originate in that area. In 1859, an expedition that was meant to map out the area determined that the Colorado River was created at the Confluence of Grand and Green River in Utah.
Once the Civil War started, Texas forces invaded Santa Fe in the Territory of New Mexico in 1962. Their intention was to capture ports on the Pacific coast and to disrupt the goldfields in California and Colorado. Volunteers from Colorado organized in a rush and set off to Glorieta Pass in New Mexico, where they’ve met the forces of Texan army, repelled them and destroyed their supplies. This was the last attempt that the Confederacy has made on the Southwestern US.
Once the Civil War was over, many prospectors started leaving the Colorado area, but a lot of them stayed and started establishing mines, farms and even towns. In 1864 silver was discovered in the vicinity of Argentine Pass, which was just first of many veins that were found in the area. Soon after, a number of railroad lines were passing through the area, bringing new prospectors and transporting the precious metals.
The act that specified the requirements that Colorado would have to meet in order to become a state was passed by Congress in 1875. Colorado was finally granted statehood in 1876, just a month after the US Centennial. In 1878, a major silver lode was discovered in the vicinity of Leadville, which was the event that started the Colorado Silver Boom. Soon after, a rich gold vein was discovered in Cripple Creek, which, combined with the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, gave a new life to prospecting in Colorado, and started attracting a new wave of settlers. In 1893 Colorado became the second state to give women the right to vote. The same year the Sherman Silver Purchase Act was repealed which was a great shock to the economy of Colorado, but the state eventually recovered from it. It was determined in 1930 that Colorado was the first state to reach a population of over 1 million people. The state’s economy again blossomed after the World War II when a number of immigrants came to the state. Tourism started developing as an important industry along with the production of high technology goods.
In 2010 Colorado was recognized as the 3rd best state in the nation for doing business. In the same year the GSP of the state amounted to $257.6 billion, while per capita income was $51,940, which made Colorado the state with the 11th largest per capita income in the United States. While in the 19th century the economy of Colorado was mainly focused on mining, the improvements in the irrigation system have helped this state exploit its vast agricultural potential, and the state is now an important exporter of wheat, corn, cattle and hay. The US federal government is an important factor in the economy of Colorado. Somewhere around 37% of the total state area or 24,615,788 acres of land are owned by the government. A lot of that land is covered in National Parks and National Forests. Apart from that, the federal government has many important facilities in Colorado, such as North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), United States Air Force Academy and other. The economy of the state is also highly dependent on high technology research and production, transportation equipment manufacture, food processing, machinery, gold and molybdenum extraction and chemical products. Colorado is also the largest producer of beer in the United States.
A lot of nationwide know brands originated in Colorado. This includes Qwest telecommunications, Samsonite, Russell Stover Candies, Coors beer and many, many other. Colorado is one of the states with flat income tax rates of 4.63%, regardless of the particular income levels. The sales tax in Colorado is 2.9%. Counties and cities are able to modify their tax levels to some extent and to add different types of taxes of their own. The unemployment rate in the state is 8.2%.
When talking about the economy of Colorado it is important to mention its abundance of natural resources. Energy Information Administration determined that Colorado holds seven out of 100 largest fields of natural gas in the nation, and two of the largest oil fields. It is also very rich in hydrocarbon. It is estimated that Colorado alone is responsible for 5% of the annual gas production in the US. It was determined that the Colorado’s oil shale deposits in have somewhere around 1 trillion barrels of oil, a figure that comes close to the amount of confirmed oil reserves in the entire world, the only problem with this is that the economic viability of that type of reserves has not been shown so far. Lignite, sub-bituminous and bituminous coal has also been found in large quantities in Colorado, and for a while state had an operating diamond mine. Colorado has a lot of renewable energy potential with a lot of sunny days, windy cliffs in the Rocky Mountains and geologic activities that create substantial amounts of geothermal power.
Geography and Climate in Colorado
Along with Utah and Wyoming, Colorado is the only state that was conceived as having borders defined by latitude and longitude lines. It was supposed to stretch from 102°03’W to 109°03’W longitude and from 37°N to 41°N latitude. However, when the borders were being defined, mistakes were made in the surveying process and they were eventually left as they were. Colorado is divided into several different regions, all of which offer their own specific beauty and splendor. One of the state’s regions is made up of mountainous region with the highest elevation of 14,440 feet at the summit of Mount Elbert. Somewhere around a third of the state is covered in plains, such as Colorado Eastern Plains that extend to the east of the Rocky Mountains. These plains are usually considered prairies, but they are often forested and criss-crossed with canyons. Precipitation in these parts of the state is a moderate 15 to 25 inches per year. Such plains are agricultural centers of the state. Front Range urban Corridor located between Pueblo, Wyoming and Cheyenne is the most densely populated part of the state. Other significant regions in Colorado include the Continental Divide which stretches along the crest of the Rocky Mountains, the Southern region and Colorado Western Slope.
Very diverse landscape in Colorado creates an equally diverse climate. Due to the specific terrain features, Colorado is one of the few states which don’t necessarily have warmer climate in the southern regions than in the northern. Eastern Plains, for instance have a semi-arid climate, which means that they are the area with medium precipitation (15 – 25 inches of annual rainfall) and low humidity. Sunshine is abundant in this region, and the nights are usually clear. Summer temperatures in this area can often go above 95°F, while the lowest winter temperatures are usually somewhere between 0°F and -10°F.
Most of the rainfall occurs between April and September, which coincides with the growing season. In the foothills and the western part of the plains it is not uncommon for two places that are rather close to each other to have completely different weather. While valleys usually also have semi-arid climate, this changes as the elevation goes up, and the climate becomes alpine. In these parts there is much more precipitation during the winter, with June being the driest month of the year. Summers in the mountains are not exactly hot with the average temperatures ranging from 60°F to somewhere around 70°F. These temperatures are often made even lower by thunderstorms that are quite frequent in this region. It is not unusual for snow to fall in this region even in the middle of the summer.
The whole area to the east of the Continental Divide is prone to frequent thunderstorms; in fact, Colorado is one of the states with most deaths from lightning. Hail storms and tornadoes are also quite common in these parts. This is not surprising when one considers the fact that the Eastern plains are actually one of the parts of the Tornado Valley. This is, however, not where the extent of the harsh weather conditions in Colorado ends. The plains are also often flooded due to both the frequent thunderstorms and downpours that accompany them and the snow rapidly melting off of the nearby mountains. Despite the storms, a great part of the Colorado is rather dry, with the average 17 inches of rain annually. Droughts that are quite frequent in some parts of the state create perfect conditions for the occurrence and fast spreading of wildfires.
In 2011 the population of Colorado was estimated at 5,116,796 people, which was an increase of 1.74% since the last year. The area of Denver-Aurora-Boulder seems to be where 61,90% of the entire state’s population is located. In terms of ethnicity, in 2010 70% of the population was made up of Non-Hispanic white people, 11,3% of Hispanic white, 4% African American, 1.1% Native American or Alaska Native, 2.8% Asian, 0.1% native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander and 10.6 of other races or combination of races. Latino or Hispanic people of any race accounted for 20.7% of the inhabitants.
The largest ancestry groups seem to be 22% German, 18% Mexican, 12% Irish and 12% English. Due to the high immigration rates, the cities in Colorado are sometimes called ‘Sanctuary Cities’. This has also led to Colorado having the 4th largest percentage of people who are not documented. It is estimated that somewhere around 6% percent of the population of Colorado are illegal immigrants.
When asked about their religion people in Colorado have declared themselves as follows: 64% said they were Christian, 42% of them were Protestant, 19% Roman Catholic, 2% Mormon and 1% Orthodox. Around 25% of the people declared themselves as unaffiliated, 2% Jewish, 1% Muslim and 5% belonged to some of the other religions. In the year 2000, the situation was somewhat different: the Roman Catholic Church had 752,505 adherents, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had 92,326 and the Baptist Church had 85,083.
Government and Legislation of Colorado
Like all of the other states, Colorado has three branches of government, executive, legislative and judicial. Governor of Colorado is at the head of the executive branch, with Lieutenant Governor ready to step in and performs the duties of a Governor in case that the Governor is prevented from performing his or her duties. In Colorado both the governor and the Lieutenant Governor are elected on the same ticket. Other officers in the executive branch are Attorney General of Colorado, Colorado State Treasurer and the Secretary of State of Colorado. All of these officials are elected for four year terms.
The legislative branch is functioning through the Colorado Great Assembly which is composed of two separate bodies, The Senate which has 35 members and the House of Representatives with 65 members. The highest institution in the judicial branch is the Colorado Supreme Court with seven justices. Colorado is divided into 271 municipalities and 64 counties.
Transportation in Colorado
Transportation in Colorado is well regulated and all of its aspects are performing as they should. The main method of transport are, naturally, the highways. Interstate 25 is connecting the north and south of the state and the cities of Colorado Springs, Denver, Fort Collins and Pueblo. Interstate 70 is stretching from east to west and it connects Denver with the mountain area and the Grand Junction. The network of highways is vast enough to connect all of the larger metropolitan areas, while the smaller towns and communities might necessitate the use of county roads.
There are a number of smaller, regional airports scattered through all of the areas of Colorado that need them, but the most important Airport is, of course, located in Denver. The Denver International Airport is currently the 15th busiest airport worldwide. The two most important passenger railroad lines in Colorado are being operated by AMTRAK. Denver Metropolitan Area has its own light rail which is under control of Regional Transportation District. The rails are still a very important aspect of transportation of industry goods and products.