Essay

Golden Roots of the Rockies

Abstract

Colorado 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. The state was named for the Colorado River, which Spanish travelers named the Río Colorado for the ruddy silt the river carried from the mountains. The Territory of Colorado was organized on February 28, 1861, and on August 1, 1876, U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant signed Proclamation 230 admitting Colorado to the Union as the 38th state.1 Colorado is nicknamed the “Centennial State” because it became a state one hundred years after the Declaration of Independence was signed. Shaped in an almost perfect rectangle, Colorado extends 387 miles (623 km) East to West, and 276 miles (444 km) North to South. Additionally, the state has an average elevation of 6800 feet, making it the nation’s highest state. Colorado today is the 8th most extensive and the 21st most populous of the 50 United States. The United States Census Bureau estimates that the population of Colorado was 5,540,545 on July 1, 2016, an increase of 10.17percent since the 2010 United States Census. While people were originally hesitant to move to the territory that became Colorado, once development began, things moved very quickly. Colorado went from being relatively empty in 1840, to a full state in less than 40 years. While other factors influenced the state’s growth, the original spark that drew people to the Western territory was mining of precious metals, and everything else developed as a result.