Eastern Plains

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Corn growing in Larimer County Corn production in Colorado.jpg
Corn growing in Larimer County
High Plains in Eastern Colorado. Colorado High Plains Dirt Road.JPG
High Plains in Eastern Colorado.

The Eastern Plains of Colorado refers to a region of the U.S. state of Colorado east of the Rocky Mountains and east of the population centers of the Front Range.



Eastern Plains shown on the map of Colorado Colorado geographic map-en.svg
Eastern Plains shown on the map of Colorado

The Eastern Plains are part of the High Plains, which are the westernmost portion of the Great Plains. The region is characterized by mostly rolling plains, divided by the South Platte River and Arkansas River valleys. There are also several deciduous forests, canyons, buttes, and a few large natural lakes and rivers throughout the region. The Eastern Plains rise from approximately 3,400 feet at the eastern border of Colorado with Kansas, where the Arkansas River leaves the state, to 7,500 feet east of the Denver Basin. [1]

Most of the Eastern Plains region lies within Colorado's 4th congressional district.


The Eastern Plains have a semi-arid climate and receive little rainfall. [2] Much of the area relies on irrigation to survive. Summers are typically hot and dry, often bringing thunderstorms, which are often severe, to the area, with some occasionally forming landspouts and tornadoes. Eastern Colorado winters are cold and dry, with significant snowfalls and icy conditions. Temperatures can sometimes fall to -40 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit in extreme cold waves, although this is rare. [3]


Many of the original settlers of Eastern Colorado built sod houses where lumber was scarce. Sod house 1901.gif
Many of the original settlers of Eastern Colorado built sod houses where lumber was scarce.

Native Americans

Eastern Colorado was once home to many Native American tribes. The Plains Indians that lived in the region included the Arapahoe, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Pawnee, and Sioux. [4] The Ute people formally ruled all over central and western Colorado, and onto the eastern plains as well. The Comanche once ruled all over southeastern Colorado, and the Jicarilla Apache ruled in southeastern Colorado as well. [5]


In 1541, the Spanish came to the area now known as the south eastern portion of Colorado, in search of gold after hearing rumors in Mexico city. Not having found any gold, the Spanish largely left the area untouched. During the late 17th and 18th century Spain and France claimed southeastern Colorado. However, nobody settled the land. In 1803 the United States gained possession of the land east of Rocky Mountains with the Louisiana Purchase.

Zebulon M. Pike was sent by the federal government to lay out the boundary lines of territory in 1806. This expedition investigated the area now known as Colorado Springs. The prominent mountain in the area was named Pike's Peak after Pike, the leading commander of the exploration. There were multiple expeditions sent to lay out and explore the territory throughout the early 1800s. This created multiple trading posts with fur trades attracting many backcountry adventurers. There was still no permanent settlement created until after the conclusion of the Mexican War in 1848. San Luis was founded on the Culebra River in 1851. Spanish-speaking settlers who had moved north from New Mexico founded it. San Luis was shortly followed by settlements of San Pedro, San Acacio and Guadalupe. [6]


The Eastern Colorado plains are among the most sparsely populated areas in the continental United States. Some of the region, with the exception of comparatively urban areas like Sterling, is experiencing depopulation, which in some areas began with the influenza pandemic of 1918 and agricultural price collapses after World War I. [7] The Dust Bowl devastated the region and further accelerated this outmigration. Kiowa County demonstrates the population decline and its associated effects.


The Pawnee Buttes, located in the Pawnee National Grassland on the high plains in Northeastern Colorado. Pawnee Buttes.jpg
The Pawnee Buttes, located in the Pawnee National Grassland on the high plains in Northeastern Colorado.
Picture Canyon, located in the Comanche National Grassland, is typical of the scattered canyons found on the high plains in Eastern Colorado, Eastern New Mexico, West Texas, and the Oklahoma panhandle. Picture Canyon.jpg
Picture Canyon, located in the Comanche National Grassland, is typical of the scattered canyons found on the high plains in Eastern Colorado, Eastern New Mexico, West Texas, and the Oklahoma panhandle.

Both the Pawnee National Grasslands and Comanche National Grasslands are located in the Eastern Plains. They are composed of marginal farmlands that were withdrawn from agriculture and consolidated under federal control beginning in the Dust Bowl. [8]


Eastern Colorado is largely farmland, with many small farming communities. The major cash crops are corn, wheat, hay, oats, and soybeans. [9] There is also significant livestock farming, dairy and poultry farming, including chicken for meat and eggs, and turkey farming. Most of the towns in the region have grain elevators and prominent water towers. [9] Also, over 90% of the farms in Eastern Colorado are family farms. [10]


In Eastern Colorado most small towns have their own schools and sports teams, but in some parts where depopulation has been the worst, a single school is shared among surrounding towns. There are also a number of schools serving students in grades K–12 run by religious groups or public school districts. Eastern Colorado is one of the few remaining places in the United States with still operating one-room school houses. [11]


The most prominent religion in Eastern Colorado is Christianity, with Roman Catholicism the largest denomination.[ citation needed ]


Eastern Colorado roads span the gamut from paved roads to gravel roads to dirt roads. The unpaved roads are typically county or local roads that do not receive enough traffic to be paved. Some of the major paved roads include:

See also

Related Research Articles

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Kiowa County, Colorado County in Colorado, US

Kiowa County is one of the 64 counties in the U.S. state of Colorado. As of the 2010 census, the population was 1,398, making it the fifth-least populous county in Colorado. The county seat is Eads. The county was named for the Kiowa Nation of Native Americans.

Smoky Hill River river in Colorado and Kansas, United States

The Smoky Hill River is a 575-mile (925 km) river in the central Great Plains of North America, running through Colorado and Kansas.

Colorado Territory territory of the USA between 1861-1876

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Comancheria Former region of New Mexico

The Comancheria or Comanchería is the region of New Mexico, west Texas and nearby areas occupied by the Comanche before the 1860s.

Colorado State Highway 14 highway in Colorado

State Highway 14 in the U.S. state of Colorado is an east–west state highway approximately 237 miles (381 km) long. One of the longest state highways in Colorado, it traverses four counties along the northern edge of the state, spanning a geography from the continental divide in the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains, and including North Park, the Poudre Canyon, and the Pawnee National Grassland. It provides the most direct route from Fort Collins westward via Cameron Pass to Walden and Steamboat Springs, and eastward across the plains to Sterling.

Pawnee National Grassland

Pawnee National Grassland is a United States National Grassland located in northeastern Colorado on the Colorado Eastern Plains. The grassland is located in the South Platte River basin in remote northern and extreme northeastern Weld County between Greeley and Sterling. It comprises two parcels totaling 193,060 acres (78,130 ha) largely between State Highway 14 and the Wyoming border. The larger eastern parcel lies adjacent to the borders of both Nebraska and Wyoming. It is administered in conjunction with the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest from the U.S. Forest Service office in Fort Collins, Colorado, with a local ranger district office in Greeley.

Cimarron National Grassland American national grassland in Kansas

Cimarron National Grassland is a National Grassland located in Morton County, Kansas, United States, with a very small part extending eastward into Stevens County. Cimarron National Grassland is located near Comanche National Grassland which is across the border in Colorado. The grassland is administered by the Forest Service together with the Pike and San Isabel National Forests and the Comanche National Grassland, from common headquarters located in Pueblo, Colorado. There are local ranger district offices in Elkhart, Kansas. The grassland is the largest area of public land in the state of Kansas.

Comanche history

Forming a part of the Eastern Shoshone linguistic group in southeastern Wyoming who moved on to the buffalo Plains around AD 1500, proto-Comanche groups split off and moved south some time before AD 1700. The Shoshone migration to the Great Plains was apparently triggered by the Little Ice Age, which allowed bison herds to grow in population. It remains unclear why the proto-Comanches broke away from the main Plains Shoshones and migrated south. The desire for Spanish horses released by the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 may have inspired the move as much as pressures from other groups drawn to the Plains by the changing environment.

Comanche National Grassland protected land in the United States

Comanche National Grassland is a National Grassland located in southeastern Colorado, United States. It is the sister grassland of Cimarron National Grassland and contains both prairie grasslands and canyons. It is separated into two sections, each operated by a local ranger district, one of which is in Springfield and the other of which is in La Junta. The grassland is administered by the Forest Service together with the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, and the Cimarron National Grassland, from common headquarters located in Pueblo, Colorado.

Kiowa National Grassland

Kiowa National Grassland is a National Grassland, located in northeastern New Mexico. The southwestern Great Plains grassland includes prairie and part of the Canadian River Canyon.

Geography of Colorado

The geography of the U.S. State of Colorado is diverse, encompassing both rugged mountainous terrain, vast plains, desert lands, desert canyons, and mesas. In 1861, the United States Congress defined the boundaries of the new Territory of Colorado exclusively by lines of latitude and longitude, stretching from 37°N to 41°N latitude, and from 102°02'48"W to 109°02'48"W longitude. Starting in 1868, official surveys demarcated the boundaries, deviating from the parallels and meridians in several places. Later surveys attempted to correct some of these mistakes but in 1925 the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that the earlier demarcation was the official boundary. The borders of Colorado are now officially defined by 697 boundary markers connected by straight boundary lines. Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah are the only states that have their borders defined solely by straight boundary lines with no natural features. The southwest corner of Colorado is the Four Corners Monument at 36°59'56"N, 109°2'43"W. This is the only place in the United States where four states meet: Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.

Southwestern Oklahoma

Southwest Oklahoma is a geographical name for the southwest portion of the state of Oklahoma, typically considered to be south of the Canadian River, extending eastward from the Texas border to a line roughly from Weatherford, to Anadarko, to Duncan. Geologically, the region is defined by a failed continental rift known as the Southern Oklahoma Aulacogen. The austere nature of the prairie landscape with intermittent island ranges has made it a favorable place for artists and photographers alike. For tourism purposes, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department has designated Southwestern Oklahoma as Great Plains Country, and defined it to consist of 14 counties including Roger Mills, Custer, Beckham, Washita, Caddo, Kiowa, Greer, Harmon, Jackson, Comanche, Tillman, Cotton, Stephens, and Jefferson counties.

Prehistory of Colorado provides an overview of the activities that occurred prior to Colorado's recorded history. Colorado experienced cataclysmic geological events over billions of years, which shaped the land and resulted in diverse ecosystems. The ecosystems included several ice ages, tropical oceans, and a massive volcanic eruption. Then, ancient layers of earth rose to become the Rocky Mountains.

Purgatoire River track site

The Purgatoire River track site, also called the Picketwire Canyonlands tracksite, is one of the largest dinosaur tracksites in North America. The site is located on public land of the Comanche National Grassland, along the Purgatoire ("Picketwire") River south of La Junta in Otero County, Colorado.

The Dismal River culture refers to a set of cultural attributes first seen in the Dismal River area of Nebraska in the 1930s by archaeologists William Duncan Strong, Waldo Rudolph Wedel and A. T. Hill. Also known as Dismal River aspect and Dismal River complex, dated between 1650-1750 A.D., is different from other prehistoric Central Plains and Woodland traditions of the western Plains. The Dismal River people are believed to have spoken an Athabascan language and to have been part of the people later known to Europeans as Apaches.

Outline of Colorado prehistory

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the prehistoric people of Colorado, which covers the period of when Native Americans lived in Colorado prior to contact with the Domínguez–Escalante expedition in 1776. People's lifestyles included nomadic hunter-gatherering, semi-permanent village dwelling, and residing in pueblos.


  1. "Eastern Plains". Colorado State University. Archived from the original on July 11, 2007. Retrieved December 5, 2007.
  2. "Colorado Climate Summaries". dri.edu. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  3. "Colorado Climate Center - Climate of Colorado". colostate.edu. Archived from the original on July 3, 2012. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  4. "Colorado Native Americans, History & Genealogy". ancestry.com. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  5. "Colorado Indian Tribes - Access Genealogy". accessgenealogy.com. July 9, 2011. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  6. "History". howstuffworks.com. February 27, 2008. Archived from the original on February 11, 2014. Retrieved December 16, 2016.
  7. "Pawnee National Grassland History". U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. March 24, 2004. Retrieved December 1, 2007.
  8. "Chronological History of National Grasslands" (PDF). U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. Retrieved December 5, 2007.
  9. 1 2 "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 15, 2009. Retrieved November 9, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. Family farms
  11. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 9, 2010. Retrieved November 9, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)