Dolores County, Colorado

Last updated

Dolores County
Dove Creek Courthouse.jpg
Dolores County Courthouse in Dove Creek
Seal of Dolores County, Colorado.png
Seal
Map of Colorado highlighting Dolores County.svg
Location within the U.S. state of Colorado
Colorado in United States.svg
Colorado's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 37°45′N108°31′W / 37.75°N 108.52°W / 37.75; -108.52
CountryFlag of the United States.svg United States
StateFlag of Colorado.svg  Colorado
FoundedFebruary 19, 1881
Named for Dolores River
Seat Dove Creek
Largest townDove Creek
Area
  Total1,068 sq mi (2,770 km2)
  Land1,067 sq mi (2,760 km2)
  Water1.0 sq mi (3 km2)  0.1%%
Population
  Estimate 
(2019)
2,055
  Density1.9/sq mi (0.7/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain)
  Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
Congressional district 3rd
Website www.dolorescounty.org
"Bravoite", Pyrite with a thin coating of Molybdenite, from the old Rico Argentine Mine. Molybdenite-Pyrite-240029.jpg
"Bravoite", Pyrite with a thin coating of Molybdenite, from the old Rico Argentine Mine.

Dolores County is the seventh-least populous of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 2,064. [1] The county seat is Dove Creek. [2]

Contents

History

It is thought[ by whom? ] that the area has been the site of human habitation since at least 2500 B.C. Dolores County's western portions were densely populated between 900 and 1300 AD. Population estimates of as many as 10,000 inhabitants, with villages containing hundreds of rooms, have been discovered by archaeologists and other researchers. But this population was destroyed or migrated elsewhere, apparently following a drought and severe societal upheaval in the 14th century, and for centuries thereafter, both the western and eastern mountainous areas of the county were occupied mostly by nomads, including the Ute and the Navajo Indians. Like much of southwestern Colorado, Dolores County is rich in Indian ruins and sites of the Anasazi. According to the Anasazi Heritage Center, Dolores County contains at least 816 recorded archaeological sites as of 1989, with many more inventoried since that time.

The county also contains a portion of a site of regional historic interest, the Dominguez-Escalante Trail of 1776. The trail marks a historic 1,800-mile (2,900 km) trip, intended to discover an overland route between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Monterey, California. [3] The Expedition camped on Dove Creek in the western portion of the county. The Old Spanish Trail later passed through the western portion of the county.

Anglo trappers worked the mountains of eastern Dolores County as early as 1832–33, and gold was discovered in the County in 1866. But it was not until the area was taken from the Ute and removed from the Ute Reservation by the Brunot Agreement of 1878 that large-scale minerals exploration and mining began in the county, although the Pioneer Mining District was established in 1876 in the Rico area. The development of the area was spurred by the discovery of large silver deposits near Rico in 1879, and the Rio Grande Southern Railroad was constructed through the county to connect Durango, Telluride, and Ridgway in 1890-92 The RGS served the eastern end of Dolores County until 1952 when it was abandoned. (The western portion of the county has never had railroad service.)

Rico's high point was in 1892, when the mining district population was more than 5,000; three times the current population of the entire county. The 1893 Silver Panic hit the town hard; by 1900 the population was 811. The mountainous area of Dolores County went through a series of booms and busts through the 20th Century. The low point of the community came in 1974 with an estimated population of 45; since then the town has become a bedroom community for Telluride and has limited tourism and subdivisions; the population has rebounded to almost 300. Efforts are underway in the early 21st Century to again begin major mining activities in the region.

Dove Creek was a way station on the Old Spanish Trail from the mid 19th century, for caravans and travelers moving between Santa Fe, Salt Lake City, and northern California and Nevada. The western portion of the county was used, beginning in the 1870s, for cattle ranching, but the lush grass soon suffered from overgrazing and then fire suppression, allowing the massive expansion of sagebrush, pinyon, and juniper. Homesteading in the area became common beginning in 1914, and dryland farming expanded throughout the Great Sage Plain. Today dryland farming of pinto beans and winter wheat is still a mainstay of the county's economy. But the development of irrigation using water from the Dolores Project in the 1980s, with the construction of McPhee Reservoir (immediately upstream in Montezuma County), has changed the history and population of the county. [4]

Dolores County was created by the Colorado legislature on February 19, 1881, from the western portions of Ouray County, and was named for the Dolores River, which heads up in the county and passes through the county in the Dolores Canyon. The complete Spanish name was Rio de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (River of our Lady of Sorrows), as reported by Father Silvestre Vélez de Escalante in 1776. [5] Originally set in Rico, the first county courthouse was a 23x48 foot two storage log cabin, but was replaced by a stone and brick courthouse completed in 1883. the county seat was moved to Dove Creek in 1946, and the current courthouse built in 1957. (The original county courthouse in Rico is now the town hall and a branch of the public library.)

In 2009, Dolores County achieved notoriety as the most economically depressed county in Colorado.

Geography

Lizard Head Lizard Head.jpg
Lizard Head

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,068 square miles (2,770 km2), of which 1,067 square miles (2,760 km2) is land and 1.0 square mile (2.6 km2) (0.1%) is water. [6]

Dolores County, like other counties in Colorado along its border with Utah, is split into two geographically distinct regions, and in fact, under normal travel conditions, it is necessary to leave the county to travel between the two regions. The western portion of the county (east of the Dolores River Canyon and along the Utah border) is the northern portion of the Great Sage Plain, relatively low (6500–7500 feet in elevation) and flat (but cut by large canyons, including that of the Dolores River itself), and consists of irrigated and dryland farming areas; it is especially well known for the cultivation of various varieties of beans, including pinto beans and many variety of old Anasazi beans. The central portion of the county has higher open grasslands with forested hills, ravines, and canyons, used for livestock raising. The eastern portion of the county is located in the highest peaks of the San Juan Mountains, around the old mining and modern tourist town of Rico, and except for cattle grazing in the San Juan National Forest, has virtually no agriculture, in part because its elevations range from 9,000 to 14,000+. Rico is developing in many ways as a bedroom community for the much wealthier town of Telluride in San Miguel County to the north.

Only 38% of the county is private land, located mostly in two large areas at the extreme western end of the county (dryland and irrigated cropland and towns along US 491) and in the central portion of the county (grazing land), with a few thousand acres in scattered parcels (mostly patented mining claims) in the eastern portion of the county around Rico. Separating this private land, 50% of the county is owned by the US Government and administered by the US Forest Service as part of San Juan National Forest. An additional 10% (68,456 acres (277.03 km2)) of the county is US government land administered by the Bureau of Land Management, including portions of Canyon of the Ancients National Monument. The State of Colorado owns 2% of the county, primarily used as wildlife areas.

Adjacent counties

Major Highways

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.
1890 1,498
1900 1,134−24.3%
1910 642−43.4%
1920 1,24393.6%
1930 1,41213.6%
1940 1,95838.7%
1950 1,9660.4%
1960 2,19611.7%
1970 1,641−25.3%
1980 1,6581.0%
1990 1,504−9.3%
2000 1,84422.6%
2010 2,06411.9%
2019 (est.)2,055 [7] −0.4%
U.S. Decennial Census [8]
1790-1960 [9] 1900-1990 [10]
1990-2000 [11] 2010-2015 [1]

As of the census [12] of 2000, there were 1,844 people, 785 households, and 541 families residing in the county. The population density was 2 people per square mile (1/km2). There were 1,193 housing units at an average density of one per square mile (0/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 95.28% White, 0.05% Black or African American, 1.95% Native American, 0.38% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 1.68% from two or more races. 3.85% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 785 households, out of which 24.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.70% were married couples living together, 8.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.00% were non-families. 26.20% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.82.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 21.90% under the age of 18, 6.80% from 18 to 24, 26.30% from 25 to 44, 27.80% from 45 to 64, and 17.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 107.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.50 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $32,196, and the median income for a family was $38,000. Males had a median income of $30,972 versus $20,385 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,106. About 10.20% of families and 13.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.80% of those under age 18 and 18.30% of those age 65 or over.

In the third quarter of 2009, county unemployment was 13.1%, the worst in Colorado, and up from 7.3% in 2008. [13] Average weekly wages were $489. Many residents of the county commute to San Miquel County (Telluride) or Montezuma County (primarily Cortez and rural-area industries and commercial establishments).

Communities

Towns

Unincorporated Communities

Politics

In its early history Dolores County favored the Democratic Party. It was one of the few western or northern counties to be won by Alton B. Parker in 1904, and was never won by a Republican until Warren G. Harding carried the county in 1920. In the 1924 election Dolores was the only county in Colorado to give a plurality of its vote to “Fighting Bob” La Follette, [14] but since World War II Dolores has gradually become a powerfully Republican county. The last Democrat to win a majority in Dolores County has been Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 landslide, and although Jimmy Carter obtained a plurality in 1976, no subsequent Democratic presidential nominee has obtained 35 percent of the county's vote.

Presidential elections results
Dolores County vote
by party in presidential elections
[15]
Year Republican Democratic Others
2020 75.2%1,08923.5% 3411.3% 19
2016 75.2%94419.3% 2425.5% 69
2012 69.0%85926.8% 3344.2% 52
2008 67.2%81830.3% 3692.5% 30
2004 68.4%78529.0% 3332.5% 29
2000 65.3%74125.8% 2938.8% 100
1996 51.7%41734.2% 27614.1% 114
1992 37.2%31528.6% 24234.2% 289
1988 66.7%48831.4% 2301.9% 14
1984 78.5%66720.4% 1731.2% 10
1980 75.3%61519.2% 1575.5% 45
1976 45.6% 34349.7%3744.7% 35
1972 71.8%49823.9% 1664.3% 30
1968 53.0%39229.3% 21717.7% 131
1964 39.4% 32260.6%4960.0% 0
1960 55.2%47644.8% 3860.0% 0
1956 60.4%54439.3% 3540.3% 3
1952 62.2%54237.1% 3230.7% 6
1948 44.0% 35254.3%4351.8% 14
1944 58.9%42941.2% 3000.0% 0
1940 54.8%47843.4% 3791.8% 16
1936 38.7% 22555.5%3235.8% 34
1932 26.5% 18367.2%4646.4% 44
1928 55.9%38740.2% 2783.9% 27
1924 21.3% 9535.2% 15743.5%194
1920 48.3%19737.5% 15314.2% 58
1916 14.1% 4676.8%2519.2% 30
1912 19.5% 4553.7%12426.8% 62

In gubernatorial elections, Dolores County is also Republican-leaning: in 2010 it was along with neighboring Montezuma County one of only two counties to give a plurality to Dan Maes [16] The last Democratic gubernatorial candidate to win Dolores County was Bill Ritter in 2006, [17] whilst Roy Romer carried the county twice in 1986 and 1990.

National protected areas

Transportation

Dolores County has no railroads operating today. The western third of the county is served by US 491 (formerly US 666) connecting to Cortez, CO, and Monticello, UT; and SH 141 to Nucla, CO. The eastern portion of the county is served by SH 145 connecting to Dolores, CO, and Telluride, CO. The central portion of the county is served by the joint County-USFS Norwood Road connecting to Dolores, CO, and Norwood, CO (in San Miquel County). The three portions of the county are connected directly to each other only by gravel-surface, low-speed county or federal agency roads.

The only airport is the privately owned Dove Creek Airport east of Dove Creek; a general aviation facility with a 4,000-foot (1,200 m) runway. The nearest commercial service is located at Cortez Municipal Airport to the south, and San Juan (UT) County Airport north of Monticello.

Bicycle routes

Scenic byway

See also

Related Research Articles

San Juan Mountains Mountain range in Colorado and New Mexico, United States

The San Juan Mountains is a high and rugged mountain range in the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Colorado and northwestern New Mexico. The area is highly mineralized and figured in the gold and silver mining industry of early Colorado. Major towns, all old mining camps, include Creede, Lake City, Silverton, Ouray, and Telluride. Large scale mining has ended in the region, although independent prospectors still work claims throughout the range. The last large scale mines were the Sunnyside Mine near Silverton, which operated until late in the 20th century and the Idarado Mine on Red Mountain Pass that closed down in the 1970s. Famous old San Juan mines include the Camp Bird and Smuggler Union mines, both located between Telluride and Ouray.

Telluride, Colorado Town in Colorado, United States

Telluride is the county seat and most populous town of San Miguel County in the southwestern portion of the U.S. state of Colorado. The town is a former silver mining camp on the San Miguel River in the western San Juan Mountains. The first gold mining claim was made in the mountains above Telluride in 1875, and early settlement of what is now Telluride followed. The town itself was founded in 1878 as "Columbia", but due to confusion with a California town of the same name, was renamed Telluride in 1887 for the gold telluride minerals found in other parts of Colorado. These telluride minerals were never found near Telluride, but the area's mines for some years provided zinc, lead, copper, silver, and other gold ores.

Grand County, Utah U.S. county in Utah

Grand County is a county on the east central edge of Utah, United States. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 9,225. Its county seat and largest city is Moab.

San Juan County, Utah U.S. county in Utah

San Juan County is a county in the southeastern portion of the U.S. state of Utah. As of the 2010 United States Census, the population was 14,746. Its county seat is Monticello, while its most populous city is Blanding. The county was named by the Utah State Legislature for the San Juan River, itself named by Spanish explorers.

San Miguel County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

San Miguel County is one of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 7,359. The county seat is Telluride. The county is named for the San Miguel River.

San Juan County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

San Juan County is one of the 64 counties of the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 699, making it the least populous county in Colorado. The county seat and the only incorporated municipality in the county is Silverton. The county name is the Spanish language name for "Saint John", the name Spanish explorers gave to a river and the mountain range in the area. With a mean elevation of 11,240 feet (3426 meters), San Juan County is the highest county in the United States.

Ouray County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

Ouray County is a county located in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 4,436. The county seat is Ouray. Because of its rugged mountain topography, Ouray County is also known as the Switzerland of America.

Montrose County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

Montrose County is a county located in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 41,276. The county seat is Montrose, for which the county is named.

Montezuma County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

Montezuma County is the southwesternmost of the 64 counties in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 25,535. The county seat is Cortez.

La Plata County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

La Plata County is one of the 64 counties in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 51,334. The county seat is Durango. The county was named for the La Plata River and the La Plata Mountains. "La plata" means "the silver" in Spanish.

Jefferson County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

Jefferson County, is a county located in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 534,543, making it the fourth-most populous county in Colorado. The county seat is Golden, and the most populous city is Lakewood.

Conejos County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

Conejos County is a county located in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 8,256. The county seat is the unincorporated community of Conejos.

Dove Creek, Colorado Statutory Town in Colorado, United States

Dove Creek is a statutory town and the county seat, as well as the most populous municipality, of Dolores County, Colorado, United States. The community takes its name from the nearby Dove Creek. Dove Creek is the self-proclaimed Pinto Bean Capital of the World. As of the 2010 census, the population was 735.

Rico, Colorado Town in State of Colorado, United States

Rico is an incorporated small town in Dolores County, Colorado, United States. It was settled in 1879 as a silver mining center in the Pioneer Mining District; today it functions as a historic and tourism site. The population was 265 at the 2010 census, up from 205 at the 2000 census. Its current form of government is that of a Home Rule Municipality.

Cortez, Colorado Home Rule Municipality in Colorado, United States

The City of Cortez is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 8,482 at the 2010 United States Census.

Dolores, Colorado Statutory Town in State of Colorado, United States

The Town of Dolores is a Statutory Town in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. The population was 936 at the 2010 census. It is one of three incorporated municipalities in the county.

Mancos, Colorado Statutory Town in Colorado, United States

The Town of Mancos is a Statutory Town located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. The town population was 1,336 at the 2010 United States Census.

Colorado Western Slope

The Western Slope is the part of the state of Colorado west of the Continental Divide. Bodies of water west of the Divide flow toward the Pacific Ocean. Water that falls and flows east of the Divide heads east. The Western Slope encompasses about 33% of the state, but has just 10% of the state's residents. The eastern part of the state, including the San Luis Valley and the Front Range, is the more populous portion of the state.

Rio Grande Southern Railroad

The Rio Grande Southern Railroad was a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow-gauge railroad which ran in the southwestern region of the US state of Colorado, from the towns of Durango to Ridgway, routed via Lizard Head Pass. Built by Russian immigrant and Colorado toll road builder Otto Mears, the RGS operated from 1891 through 1951 and was built with the intent to transport immense amounts of silver mineral traffic that were being produced by the mining communities of Rico and Telluride. On both ends of the railroad, there were interchanges with The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which would ship the traffic the RGS hauled elsewhere like the San Juan Smelter in Durango.

Trail of the Ancients National Scenic Byway in Colorado and Utah, United States

The Trail of the Ancients is a National Scenic Byway located in the states of Colorado and Utah. The route highlights the archaeological and cultural history of southwestern Native American peoples, and traverses the widely diverse geological landscape of the Four Corners region of the Colorado Plateau. It was the first National Scenic Byway that was designated solely for its archaeological sites. The entire route is approximately 480 miles (772.5 km) long.

References

  1. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on June 6, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. Katieri Treimer, Site research report, site no. 916, Southwest Colorado, Earth Metrics Inc. and SRI International for Contel Systems and the U.S. Air Force 1989
  4. http://www.scan.org/4%5B%5D - Dolores County.pdf accessed 12 February 2010
  5. "Archives -". www.colorado.gov.
  6. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  7. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates" . Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  8. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  9. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  10. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  11. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 7, 2014.
  12. "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau . Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  13. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 4, 2011. Retrieved February 13, 2010.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) accessed 12 February 2010
  14. Scammon; America at the Polls, pp. 64, 76
  15. Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  16. Dave Leip’s U.S. Election Atlas; 2010 Gubernatorial General Election Results – Colorado
  17. Dave Leip’s U.S. Election Atlas; 2006 Gubernatorial General Election Results – Colorado

Coordinates: 37°45′N108°31′W / 37.75°N 108.52°W / 37.75; -108.52