geography of the State of
Colorado is unusually diverse, encompassing both
rugged mountainous terrain and vast plains.
The State of
Colorado is defined as the geospherical rectangle that stretches
latitude and from 102°03'W
from the Washington Meridian
). Colorado is one of
only three U.S. states (with Wyoming and Utah) that have
only lines of latitude and longitude for boundaries.
Elbert at 4401 meters (14,440 ft) elevation in Lake
County is the state's highest point and the highest point
in the entire Rocky
Colorado has approximately 550 mountain peaks
that exceed 4000 meters (13,123 ft) elevation. Colorado is the only
U.S. state that lies entirely above 1000 meters (3281 ft)
elevation. The state's lowest elevation is 1010 meters
(3315 ft) at the point on the eastern boundary of Yuma
County where the Arikaree
River flows into the State of
east of the Rocky Mountains in
Colorado are the Colorado
Eastern Plains, the section of the Great Plains within Colorado at elevations ranging from 3,500 to
7,000 feet (1,000 to 2,000 m). Kansas and Nebraska border
Colorado to the east.
are sparsely settled with most population along the South Platte and the Arkansas rivers.
Rainfall is meager, averaging about
15 inches (380 mm) annually. There is some irrigated farming, but
much of the land is used for dryland
. Winter wheat
is a typical crop and most small
towns in the region boast both a water
and a grain elevator
The bulk of Colorado's population lives along the eastern edge of
the Rocky Mountains in the Front Range Urban Corridor
region is partially protected from prevailing storms by the high
mountains to the west.
west lies the eastern slope of the Rocky
Mountains with notable peaks such as Longs Peak, Mount
Peak, and the Spanish Peaks
near Walsenburg in the south.
Snowpack accumulation at 14,255 feet
(4345 m) on Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.
This area drains to the east,
is forested, and partially urbanized. With urbanization,
utilization of the forest for timbering and grazing resulted in
accumulation of fuel. During the drought of 2002 devastating
swept this area.
The Continental Divide
along the crest of the Rocky Mountains. To the west of the
Continental Divide is the Western Slope
. Water west of the
Continental Divide drains west into the Pacific Ocean via the Colorado River.
Within the interior of the Rocky Mountains are several large parks
or high broad basins. In the north, on the east side of the
Continental Divide is North Park
Park is drained by the North Platte
River, which flows north into Wyoming.
south but on the west side of the Continental Divide is Middle Park
, drained by the Colorado River.
of the South Platte River.
south lies the San Luis Valley, the
headwaters of the Rio
Grande, which drains into New Mexico.
Across the Sangre de Cristo Range
to the east of
the San Luis Valley lies the Wet
. These basins, particularly the San Luis
Valley, lie along the Rio Grande
, a major tectonic feature. See Rift
The Rocky Mountains within Colorado contain 54 peaks that are
14,000 feet (4270 m) or higher, known as fourteeners
. The mountains are timbered with
the tree line
, at an elevation of about
12,000 feet (4,000 m) in southern Colorado to about 10,500
feet (3,200 m) in northern Colorado; above this only alpine
vegetation grows. The Rockies are snow-covered only in the winter;
most snow melts by mid-August with the exception of a few small
glaciers. The Colorado Mineral Belt, stretching from
the San Juan Mountains in the
southwest to Boulder and Central City on the front range, contains most of the historic
gold and silver mining districts of
The Western Slope is generally drained by the Colorado River and
its tributaries. Notable to the south are the San Juan Mountains, an extremely rugged
mountain range, and to the west of the San Juans, the Colorado Plateau, a high desert bordering
Junction is the largest city on the Western Slope.
Grand Junction is served by Interstate Highway I-70. To the
southeast of Grand Junction is Grand
, a large flat-topped mountain. Further east are the
ski resorts of Aspen, Vail, Crested
Butte, and Steamboat Springs.
The northwestern corner of Colorado
bordering Northern Utah and Western Wyoming is mostly sparsely
From west to east, the state consists of desert-like basins,
turning into plateaus, then alpine mountains, and then the
grasslands of the Great Plains. Mount Elbert is the highest peak in the Rocky Mountains within
the continental United States. The famous Pikes Peak is just west of Colorado
Springs. Its lone peak is visible from near the
Kansas border on clear days.
- Blake, Kevin S. 2002. Colorado Fourteeners and the Nature of
Place Identity. Geographical Review 92(2): 155-179.