Montezuma County, Colorado

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Montezuma County
Montezuma County Combined Courts.JPG
The Montezuma County Combined Courts building in Cortez
Map of Colorado highlighting Montezuma County.svg
Location within the U.S. state of Colorado
Colorado in United States.svg
Colorado's location within the U.S.
Coordinates: 37°20′N108°36′W / 37.34°N 108.6°W / 37.34; -108.6
CountryFlag of the United States.svg United States
StateFlag of Colorado.svg  Colorado
FoundedApril 16, 1889
Named for Moctezuma II
Seat Cortez
Largest cityCortez
  Total2,040 sq mi (5,300 km2)
  Land2,030 sq mi (5,300 km2)
  Water11 sq mi (30 km2)  0.5%%
  Density12/sq mi (5/km2)
Time zone UTC−7 (Mountain)
  Summer (DST) UTC−6 (MDT)
Congressional district 3rd
Prehistoric petroglyphs in Mesa Verde National Park Petroglyph Point, MVNP.jpg
Prehistoric petroglyphs in Mesa Verde National Park
Castle, Hovenweep National Monument Hovenweep Castle (6347409329).jpg
Castle, Hovenweep National Monument

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. [1] The county seat is Cortez. [2]


Mesa Verde National Park, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, Yucca House National Monument, and Hovenweep National Monument preserve hundreds of ancient Amerindian structures, including the famous cliff-dwellings, found in the county. Montezuma County is also home to most of the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation, home of the Weeminuche Band of the Ute Nation, known as the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe, with its headquarters at Towaoc.


Montezuma County has been settled since approximately AD 600, and had an estimated population of approximately 100,000, four times its current population, in the 12th century. However, a series of events caused virtually all permanent settlements to be abandoned between 1200 and 1300, and the area was contested between nomadic Ute and Navajo bands until resettlement occurred in the 1870s. Montezuma County was created out of the western portion of La Plata County by the Colorado Legislature in April 1889. It was named in honor of Moctezuma II, who reigned as emperor of the Aztec Empire in Mexico during its decline at the hands of the Spanish invasion. The building ruins in Mesa Verde National Park were thought to be of Aztec origin at the time.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,040 square miles (5,300 km2), of which 2,030 square miles (5,300 km2) is land and 11 square miles (28 km2) (0.5%) is water. [3]

A large county, roughly 1/3 of its area is tribal land, 1/3 is federal land (administered by the National Park Service, the United States Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management), and 1/3 private or state/county land. It is also varied topographically, ranging in elevation from about 6,000 feet (1,800 m) to more than 13,200 feet (4,000 m), and from high Colorado Plateau desert to alpine tundra. The county has the second largest reservoir in Colorado, McPhee Reservoir, many other large reservoirs, and hundreds of private lakes and ponds. Much of the county is irrigated cropland, and it produces fruit, large numbers of cattle and sheep, and beans. It is served by U.S. Highways 160 and 491 (formerly US 666), and by Cortez Municipal Airport. It has no rail service, although both Mancos and Dolores were established as railroad towns in the 1890s.

Adjacent counties

Montezuma County is the only county in the United States to border three counties with the same name in three different states (San Juan County in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah). The "border" with San Juan County, Colorado, is, however, only a point of zero length.

Major Highways

National protected areas

Montezuma County includes the Colorado section of the Four Corners Monument. Four Corners marker, southwestern United States.jpg
Montezuma County includes the Colorado section of the Four Corners Monument.

State protected area

Other protected area

Trails and byways


Historical population
1890 1,529
1900 3,058100.0%
1910 5,02964.5%
1920 6,26024.5%
1930 7,79824.6%
1940 10,46334.2%
1950 9,991−4.5%
1960 14,02440.4%
1970 12,952−7.6%
1980 16,51027.5%
1990 18,76213.6%
2000 23,83027.0%
2010 25,5357.2%
2019 (est.)26,183 [4] 2.5%
U.S. Decennial Census [5]
1790-1960 [6] 1900-1990 [7]
1990-2000 [8] 2010-2015 [1]

As of the census [9] of 2000, there were 23,830 people, 9,201 households, and 6,514 families residing in the county. The population density was 12 people per square mile (5/km2). There were 10,497 housing units at an average density of 5 per square mile (2/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 81.72% White, 0.14% Black or African American, 11.23% Native American, 0.20% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 4.26% from other races, and 2.38% from two or more races. 9.50% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 9,201 households, out of which 33.30% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.40% were married couples living together, 10.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.20% were non-families. 24.60% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.30% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 27.50% under the age of 18, 7.10% from 18 to 24, 26.30% from 25 to 44, 25.30% from 45 to 64, and 13.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 96.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $32,083, and the median income for a family was $38,071. Males had a median income of $30,666 versus $21,181 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,003. About 13.10% of families and 16.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.20% of those under age 18 and 14.40% of those age 65 or over.


Mancos, Colorado Opera House 2009 Mancos Colorado Opera House 2009.jpg
Mancos, Colorado Opera House 2009



Census-designated places

Other unincorporated places


In its early history Montezuma County favored the Democratic Party. It was one of the few counties in the West to be won by Alton B. Parker in 1904, and along with neighboring La Plata County was one of only two Colorado counties to give a plurality to John W. Davis in the three-way 1924 election. However, since the 1940s Montezuma has been a strongly Republican county: no Democrat since 1968 has won forty percent of the county's vote in a Presidential election. Recently (28 July 2020), the county government has openly endorsed far right viewpoints by posting links to far right sources under the heading "News" on the official county web page. These links have since been removed after objections from the public regarding the use of public resources to promote partisan positions.

Presidential elections results
Montezuma County vote
by party in presidential elections
Year Republican Democratic Others
2020 60.0%9,30637.7% 5,8362.3% 358
2016 61.1%7,85330.9% 3,9738.0% 1,032
2012 60.1%7,40136.9% 4,5423.0% 375
2008 58.9%6,96139.4% 4,6611.7% 203
2004 63.4%6,98835.1% 3,8671.5% 160
2000 65.6%6,15827.2% 2,5567.1% 670
1996 53.3%4,17532.9% 2,57813.8% 1,078
1992 40.9%3,12429.7% 2,27029.4% 2,244
1988 64.2%4,20834.1% 2,2331.7% 110
1984 73.1%4,75325.6% 1,6651.4% 88
1980 68.6%4,12024.4% 1,4677.0% 419
1976 58.0%3,00238.5% 1,9933.5% 182
1972 73.5%3,39126.5% 1,2230.0% 0
1968 56.4%2,46130.9% 1,34912.7% 552
1964 43.0% 2,03556.7%2,6860.4% 17
1960 56.7%2,77843.2% 2,1150.1% 7
1956 63.6%2,49235.8% 1,4020.6% 25
1952 68.0%2,46631.1% 1,1270.9% 33
1948 49.2% 1,63049.9%1,6530.9% 30
1944 57.0%1,61042.7% 1,2070.3% 8
1940 59.3%2,31340.3% 1,5730.5% 18
1936 38.9% 1,08756.5%1,5794.6% 129
1932 31.8% 88763.9%1,7794.3% 120
1928 62.4%1,34135.9% 7721.7% 37
1924 34.6% 70335.5%72130.0% 609
1920 52.2%93640.6% 7277.3% 130
1916 21.6% 42574.1%1,4584.3% 85
1912 15.9% 28556.7%1,01727.4% 492

In gubernatorial elections, Montezuma County is also Republican-leaning: in 2010 it was along with neighboring Dolores County one of only two counties to give a plurality to Dan Maes. [11] The last Democratic gubernatorial nominee to win Montezuma County was Roy Romer in 1990 when he carried all but four counties statewide. [12] The last Democratic senatorial candidate to carry Montezuma County was Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell – later to switch to the Republican Party – in 1992.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Dolores County, Colorado County in Colorado, United States

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. The county seat is Dove Creek.

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.

Towaoc, Colorado Census Designated Place in Colorado, United States

Towaoc is an unincorporated town, a post office, a census-designated place (CDP), and the capital of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe located on the Ute Mountain Ute Reservation in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. The Towaoc post office has the ZIP Code 81334. At the United States Census 2010, the population of the Towaoc CDP was 1,087, while the population of the 81334 ZIP Code Tabulation Area was 1,493 including adjacent areas.

Four Corners Only region in the United States where four states share a boundary point

The Four Corners is a region of the Southwestern United States consisting of the southwestern corner of Colorado, southeastern corner of Utah, northeastern corner of Arizona, and northwestern corner of New Mexico. The Four Corners area is named after the quadripoint at the intersection of approximately 37° north latitude with 109° 03' west longitude, where the boundaries of the four states meet, and are marked by the Four Corners Monument. It is the only location in the United States where four states meet. Most of the Four Corners region belongs to semi-autonomous Native American nations, the largest of which is the Navajo Nation, followed by Hopi, Ute, and Zuni tribal reserves and nations. The Four Corners region is part of a larger region known as the Colorado Plateau and is mostly rural, rugged, and arid. In addition to the monument, commonly visited areas within Four Corners include Monument Valley, Mesa Verde National Park, Chaco Canyon, Canyons of the Ancients National Monument and Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The most populous city in the Four Corners region is Farmington, New Mexico, followed by Durango, Colorado.

Hovenweep National Monument US national monument

Hovenweep National Monument is located on land in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah, between Cortez, Colorado and Blanding, Utah on the Cajon Mesa of the Great Sage Plain. Shallow tributaries run through the wide and deep canyons into the San Juan River.

Yucca House National Monument

Yucca House National Monument is a United States National Monument located in Montezuma County, Colorado between the towns of Towaoc and Cortez, Colorado. Yucca House is a large, unexcavated Ancestral Puebloan archaeological site.

Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation

The Ute Mountain Ute Tribe is one of three federally recognized tribes of the Ute Nation, and are mostly descendants of the historic Weeminuche Band who moved to the Southern Ute reservation in 1897. Their reservation is headquartered at Towaoc, Colorado on the Ute Mountain Ute Indian Reservation in southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico and small sections of Utah.

Ute Mountain

Ute Mountain, also known as Ute Peak or Sleeping Ute Mountain, is a peak within the Ute Mountains, a small mountain range in the southwestern corner of Colorado. It is on the northern edge of the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe Reservation. The Reservation forms the southwestern corner of the state and of Montezuma County.

Hawkins Preserve is a 122-acre (0.49 km2) property within the city limits of Cortez, Colorado. It is protected by a conservation easement held by the Montezuma Land Conservancy.

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument

Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is a national monument protecting an archaeologically-significant landscape located in the southwestern region of the U.S. state of Colorado. The monument's 176,056 acres (71,247 ha) are managed by the Bureau of Land Management, as directed in the Presidential proclamation which created the site on June 9, 2000. Canyons of the Ancients National Monument is part of the National Landscape Conservation System, better known as the National Conservation Lands. This system comprises 32 million acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management to conserve, protect, and restore these nationally significant landscapes recognized for their outstanding cultural, ecological, and scientific values. Canyons of the Ancients encompasses and surrounds three of the four separate sections of Hovenweep National Monument, which is administered by the National Park Service. The monument was proclaimed in order to preserve the largest concentration of archaeological sites in the United States, primarily Ancestral Puebloan ruins. As of 2005, over 6,000 individual archeological sites had been identified within the monument.

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center School in Cortez, Colorado, United States

Crow Canyon Archaeological Center is a 170-acre (69 ha) research center and "living classroom" located in southwestern Colorado, US, which offers experiential education programs for students and adults.

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.

Anasazi Heritage Center Archaeological museum in Dolores, Colorado

The Canyons of the Ancients Visitor Center and Museum , located in Dolores, Colorado, is an archaeological museum of Native American pueblo and hunter-gatherer cultures. Two 12th-century archaeological sites, the Escalante and Dominguez Pueblos, at the center were once home to Ancient Pueblo peoples. The museum's permanent and special exhibits display some of the 3 million mostly Ancestral Puebloan artifacts curated at the facility. The center also houses a public research library, educational resources and a museum shop. Wheelchair-accessible facilities include a picnic area and an interpreted nature and cultural trail.

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. 1 2 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 28, 2011. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  3. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  4. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates" . Retrieved December 12, 2019.
  5. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  6. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  7. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  8. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved June 8, 2014.
  9. "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau . Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  10. Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved May 26, 2017.
  11. Dave Leip’s U.S. Election Atlas; 2010 Gubernatorial General Election Results – Colorado
  12. Dave Leip’s U.S. Election Atlas; 1990 Gubernatorial General Election Results – Colorado

Coordinates: 37°20′N108°36′W / 37.34°N 108.60°W / 37.34; -108.60