History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People
European explorers first visited the Colorado region, they encountered
several different groups of Native Americans.
The Apache, Kiowa, Comanche, and Pawnee roamed the Great Plains and
the Ute lived in the Colorado Plateau.
1540, Spaniard Francisco Vasquez de Coronado traveled through present day
Colorado in search of gold.
In 1682, Robert La Salle explored the Mississippi River and claimed
the land surrounding this area for France.
Although both Spain and France claimed the Colorado region, neither
chose to settle the area.
1803, the United States acquired Colorado in the Louisiana Purchase.
Zebulon Pike led an expedition of the Rocky Mountains in 1806,
including Pikes Peak that is named after him.
John Wesley Powell was the first to climb Longs Peak and the first
to explore the Colorado River.
In 1833, the first permanent American settlement, Bent’s Fort,
was built near present-day La Junta.
1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain and claimed control of
The United States took control of Colorado during the
Mexican-American War (1846-1848).
Until the early 1850s, the only Americans that came to Colorado
were explorers and mountain men interested in beaver pelts.
But in 1858 gold was discovered in Cherry Creek, near what is now
100,000 people came to the region, but more than half went home when they
didn’t quickly find gold.
However, the great increase in population needed protection and
In 1861, Congress created the Colorado Territory.
Homestead Act gave pioneers free land out West and brought many farmers to
Irrigation systems were created near the mountains.
Railroads connected Denver to Wyoming and the East in 1870.
As thousands were drawn to Colorado in search of prosperity,
battles between the Indians and settlers grew larger and more frequent.
The Meeker Massacre was the last major battle in 1879.
The following year, the Indians were forced to move onto
became the 38th state on August 1, 1876.
During this time, the United States was celebrating its 100th
anniversary of independence.
Colorado thus became known as the “centennial state.”
the late 1800s, silver was discovered in Colorado.
Leadville, Aspen, and Denver grew tremendously during this time.
As silver prices dropped in the United States, gold was discovered
near Cripple Creek.
Irrigation projects allowed agriculture to become Colorado’s
New coalmines and steel mills began operating.
The state’s first sugar refinery opened in Grand Junction in
continued to grow tremendously during the early 1900s.
The U.S. Mint opened production in Denver in 1906.
Oil was discovered and became Colorado’s most important mineral
In 1927, the completion of the Moffat Tunnel greatly shortened the
time between Denver and Salt Lake City.
the Great Depression (1929-1939) farm prices dropped and many lost their
and federal programs brought jobs to Colorado.
World War II (1939-1945) also helped the economy to rise by
creating needs for Colorado’s oil and minerals.
Several government agencies established offices in Denver and the
army opened Fort Carson near Colorado Springs.
the war many large companies moved to Colorado.
Because of this, Colorado’s suburbs continued to experience a
huge population increase during the 1950s.
The National Bureau of Standards laboratory moved to Boulder in
Air Force set up a large financial center in Denver and the Air Force
Academy established a campus in Colorado Springs in 1958.
In 1966, the North American Aerospace Defense Command also based
its operations out of Colorado Springs; building its structure 1,200 feet
underground the Cheyenne Mountains.
storage became a concern during the early 1950s.
Several dams, reservoirs, and tunnels were completed as part of the
Colorado-Big Thompson Project in 1959.
The Colorado River Storage Project also began in 1959.
This project included power plants, reservoirs, and water
Other projects also helped to provide recreation and irrigation