Description - Colorado is a diverse region of mountains, plateaus, canyons and plains.
The eastern half of the state has flat, high plains and rolling
prairies gradually rising westward to the foothills of the front range. West of
the high peaks of the front range are three natural parks that lead from the
north to the south and are named North Park, Middle Park and South Park.
The western spine of the Rocky Mountains contains the
Continental Divide, which runs from north to south through west-central
Colorado and bisects the state's watersheds. The western half of the state
consists of alpine terrain interspersed with wide valleys, rugged canyons,
high plateaus and deep basins.
Colorado's altitude is one of its distinctive
geographical features. With an average elevation is 6,800 feet, it is the
nation's highest state. The lowest elevation is 3,350
feet at the Arkansas River near the town of Holly. The highest point is
Mt. Elbert at 14,431 feet, or 2.72 miles above sea level.
There are 54 mountains in Colorado over 14,000 feet high and more
than a thousand peaks over 10,000 feet high. Mt. Elbert is the 14th highest
peak in the United States, including peaks in the state of Alaska. The world
class resorts of Aspen, Vail and Telluride are among the state's better known
Colorado's mountainous regions are the
headwaters for six major rivers. Waters west of the Continental Divide flow
toward the Pacific ocean and those east of the divide flow toward the Atlantic
ocean. West of the divide, the Colorado River, for which the state
was named, flows southwest from high in the Rocky Mountains in north
central Colorado toward the Gulf of California. East of the Continental Divide,
the North Platte, the South Platte, the Arkansas, the Republican and the Rio
Grande rivers all originate in Colorado's mountains, or plains, and flow east
toward the Missouri River, southeast to the Mississippi River and then south
to the Gulf of Mexico.
Recreation - There are numerous and varied recreation opportunities throughout
Colorado. Cross-country skiers and snowshoers enjoy the solitude of snow
shrouded pine forests and can make use of several huts systems for
backcountry adventuring. Snowmobilers ply what are four-wheel drive roads
in the summer, often with a skier or two in tow. Crisp white snow contrasts
with deep blue skies to create the perfect winter playground.
warming of Spring comes the annual run-off. Rivers and streams swell as the
melting snow begins its journey to the oceans. White water rafters and
kayakers brave tumultuous rapids while the less adventurous enjoy more
placid river sections.
Along the river bottoms maturing nymphs emerge
from between the rocks and begin their perilous journey to adulthood. As
they float to the surface to shed there shells and release their wings, they are
targeted by ravenous trout. Fly fisherman take advantage of this annual ritual
to try to outsmart the wary trout with their artificial flies. Colorado rivers
possess gold medal waters sporting large trout that really give a good
As the mountain peaks reluctantly give up their covering of snow,
an alpine wonderland emerges. Hikers, horseback riders, campers, mountain
bikers and mountaineers head to remote sections of the state to enjoy
stunning vistas as they practice their sport. Families pile into cars and
campers to experience Colorado's scenic byways which cross 12,000 foot
mountain passes and even reach the tops of 14,000 foot peaks. Abundant
wildflowers and wildlife provides hours of entertainment for all.
coming of fall, the Aspen trees turn to pure gold. Hunters take to the
countryside in search of elk, deer and other game. It is time for one last hike
or bike ride before the coming snows.
Climate - The climate in Colorado varies tremendously from hot dusty summer days to frigidly cold winter nights. Colorado is known for its thunderstorms which form over the Rocky Mountains and then head across the eastern plains, often reaching 10,000 feet or more in height. Lightening is a serious threat, particularly on mountain peaks, lakes and open fields. Summertime temperatures routinely reach 90 to 100 degrees on the plains and the 70 - 80 degrees in the mountains. Cool weather is always possible at night throughout Colorado, particularly at higher elevations. It is not uncommon to need both shorts and a jacket on the same day.
The winter routinely brings severe winter driving conditions with icy roads and limited visibility. Temperatures range from the 40s and 50s on the plains to well below zero in the mountains. Proper winter clothing and food is necessary to avoid hypothermia and one should be prepared to spend an unexpected night out if traveling in the backcountry or on the highways.
Colorado is located in the western United States where the great plains meet the Rocky Mountains. It is about 1500 miles from the Atlantic seaboard and 1000 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is about 500 miles from the Mexican border and 700 miles from the Canadian border. Denver International Airport is the main port of entry into Colorado for air travelers. Interstates 70 and 76 bring visitors from the east and west while Interstate 25 runs north and south.