Colorado is famous for its mountains, but the state was named for a river

November 28, 2012 9:05 am

You probably picture mountains when you think of Colorado. The Rocky Mountains cover a lot of the state. Colorado’s mountains make it the highest state in the . But not all of Colorado is mountainous. Much of eastern Colorado is flat and treeless. The mountains are in the central and western parts of the state.
Facts About Colorado
4,860,000 people
Rank among states in population
Major cities
Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins
104,000 square miles
270,000 square kilometers
Rank among states in area
August 1, 1876, the 38th state
State nickname
The Centennial State
Name for residents
State bird
Lark Bunting
State flower
State tree
Colorado Blue Spruce
The Rocky Mountains extend through a belt of Western states, from Canada to Mexico. They are especially dramatic in Colorado. Some of the highest mountain peaks in the United States are here. Colorado has 53 peaks that are taller than 14,000 feet (4,300 meters). That’s more than 2½ miles high!
Rocky Mountain National Park in northern Colorado is a good place to appreciate the grandeur of the Rockies. Here you can hike on trails, camp out, and enjoy nature. In summer, you can see lots of wildflowers and wildlife, especially deer, bears, moose, elk, and beavers. Tourists come to the Rockies in winter to ski. Aspen and Vail are two popular winter resort areas in Colorado.
Denver is Colorado’s capital and largest city. It is sometimes called the Mile High City. That’s because it lies on a high plateau 5,280 feet, or 1 mile (1.6 kilometers), above sea level. Denver is at the foot of the Rockies, which rise abruptly to the west of the city. They provide a spectacular background for the city.
Did you know that the air is thinner at high elevations? Some people feel a bit lightheaded or dizzy for a few days when they come to Denver. That’s because they’re breathing less oxygen. Here’s another fact about thin air: Baseballs travel farther in it. More home runs are hit at Denver’s Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, than in other major league ballparks.
Colorado is famous for its mountains, but the state was named for a river. Colorado is a Spanish word meaning “reddish-colored.” Early Spanish explorers named the region’s most important river the Colorado because of its color. The river carries a lot of material washed away from red rocks.
Colorado is nicknamed the Centennial State. A centennial is a 100-year anniversary. Colorado became the 38th state on August 1, 1876. That year was the 100th anniversary of the United States, which became a nation in 1776.
Pikes Peak is probably the most famous mountain in Colorado. There’s a great view from the top. Hikers climb to the top along a 13-mile (21-kilometer) trail. You can also reach the top on horseback, or by car or railroad. You can’t take a regular train up a steep mountain, however. Pikes Peak has a cog railway. Cogs on wheels beneath the railroad catch on the track and pull the train upward. They also keep the train from rolling back down the mountain.
Every year in June, people from around the world enter the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. They race cars and motorcycles on a gravel road to the top of Pikes Peak. In August, runners participate in a foot race to the top.
Pikes Peak is named for explorer Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who led the first U.S. expedition into Colorado. He discovered the mountain in 1806 but failed in his attempt to climb it. In the 1850s, gold was discovered on slopes near Pikes Peak. “Pikes Peak or Bust” became the slogan of miners who came to Colorado to make their fortune.
The discovery of gold and silver lured adventurers to Colorado in the late 1800s. Denver, Colorado Springs, and other Colorado settlements grew as the result of nearby mines. Many picturesque old buildings remain from mining days in colorful mining towns such as Cripple Creek, Leadville, and Telluride. Today, petroleum, natural gas, and coal are far more important to Colorado’s economy than gold and silver.
Did you know that the United States and Canada are defended from inside a Colorado mountain? Cheyenne Mountain, near the city of Colorado Springs, is the command center of NORAD. This agency is responsible for defending the United States and Canada from an attack by air. NORAD stands for North American Aerospace Defense Command.
Military employees work in bombproof buildings inside Cheyenne Mountain. They track airplanes and missiles flying anywhere in the world. To do this, they use computers and the information they receive from radar, satellites, and other tracking devices. The buildings inside Cheyenne Mountain are mounted on springs. The springs enable the buildings to withstand earthquakes or large explosions.
Can you imagine living on the side of a cliff? Ancestors of the Pueblo Indians did just that. During the 1200s and 1300s, cliff-dwelling Native Americans built villages in hollows along the walls of canyons in the Southwestern United States. The overhanging cliffs protected the villages from bad weather. The location also provided protection from enemy attack because it was hard to climb the cliffs. You can visit cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado.
When you get tired of mountains, you can climb sand dunes in Colorado! Great Sand Dunes National Monument and Preserve has dunes that are over 700 feet (over 200 meters) high. These are the tallest dunes in North America. Strong winds brought sand to this region in southern Colorado. When the winds reached the mountains, they dropped the sand. Sand dunes built up at the base of mountains. The wind keeps changing the shape of the dunes.
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