Colorado, one of the states in the west-central United States. It is crossed by the snowcapped Rocky Mountains and is sometimes called the “Top of the Nation,” because its mean (average) elevation—6,800 feet (2,073 m)—is the highest of any state.

With flat, treeless plains flanking the Rockies on the east and rugged, deeply eroded plateaus on the west, Colorado possesses great and varied natural beauty. Its magnificent scenery, clean mountain air, and abundant sunshine are major attractions for residents and visitors alike and account for much of the state's rapid growth since World War II. Besides scenic and recreational value, the mountains have many resources that contribute to Colorado's prosperity. Gold and silver deposits in the Rockies brought the first wave of settlers to the region in the late 1850's, and mining has played a major role in the economy ever since. The mountains' water resources have also become extremely important during the 20th century.

Historically, Colorado is part of the Old West, shaped by gold rushes, boom towns, cattle barons, "sod-busters," and range wars. Visitors and a few hardy prospectors still pan for gold in streams near Central City, Cripple Creek, and Silverton, and Colorado is one of the few states where solitary cowboys ride the range on horseback, as they did a century ago.

Colorado in brief
General information
Statehood: Aug. 1, 1876, the 38th state.
State abbreviations: Colo. (traditional); CO (postal).
State capital: Denver, Colorado's capital since 1876. Territorial capitals were Colorado City (1862), Golden (1862-1867), and Denver (1867-1876).
State motto: Nil sine Numine (Nothing Without Providence).
Popular name: The Centennial State.
State song: "Where the Columbines Grow." Words and music by A. J. Fynn.
Symbols of Colorado
State bird: Lark bunting.
State flower: Colorado blue columbine (also called white and lavender columbine.
State tree: Colorado blue spruce.
State flag and seal: The Colorado state flag, adopted in 1911, features blue, white, and blue horizontal bars (top to bottom). The red C in the center of the flag stands for Colorado, which is Spanish for colored red. The golden ball within the C represents the state's abundant sunshine and its gold production, and the blue and white bars symbolize blue skies and white mountain snows. On the seal, adopted in 1877, the triangular figure represents the "all-seeing" eye of God. The mountains stand for Colorado's rugged land, and the pick and hammer for the importance of mining.
Land and climate
Area: 104,100 mi2 (269,618 km2), including 371 mi2 (960 km2) of inland water.
Elevation: Highest--Mount Elbert, 14,433 ft (4,399 m) above sea level. Lowest--3,350 ft (1,021 m) above sea level along the Arkansas River in Prowers County.
Record high temperature: 118 °F (48 °C), at Bennett on July 11, 1888.
Record low temperature: –61 °F (–52 ° C), at Maybell in Moffat County on Feb. 1, 1985.
Average July temperature: 74 °F (23 °C).
Average January temperature: 28 °F (–2 °C).
Average yearly precipitation: 15 in (38 cm).
People
Population: 4,301,261.
Rank among the states: 24th.
Density: 41 per mi2 (16 per km2), U.S. average 78 per mi2 (30 per km2).
Distribution: 84 percent urban, 16 percent rural.
Largest cities in Colorado: Denver (554,636); Colorado Springs (360,890); Aurora (276,393); Lakewood (144,126); Fort Collins (118,652); Arvada (102,153).
Economy
Chief products
Agriculture: beef cattle, corn, greenhouse and nursery products, hay, hogs, milk, potatoes, sheep, wheat, wool.
Manufacturing: chemicals, computer and electronic products, fabricated metal products, processed foods and beverages.
Mining: coal, natural gas, petroleum.
Government
State government
Governor: 4-year term.
State senators: 35; 4-year terms.
State representatives: 65; 2-year terms.
Counties: 64.
Federal government
United States senators: 2.
United States representatives: 7
Electoral votes: 9
Sources of information
For information about tourism, write to: Colorado Tourism Office, 1625 Broadway, Suite 2700, Denver, CO 80202. The Web site at http://www.colorado.com also provides information.
For information on the economy, write to: Office of Economic Development, 1625 Broadway, Suite 2700, Denver, CO 80202 The state's official Web site at http://www.colorado.gov also provides a gateway to much information on Colorado's economy, government, and history.