A map of ColoradoColorado is located in the western region of the United States. The eastern half of the state is part of the Great Plains. Originally prairie grassland, it is now mainly covered in farmland. The plains rise steeply in the west to the Rocky Mountains, which run north-south through central Colorado. The mountains are divided into several ranges, separated by high valleys and basins known as parks. Farther west lies the high Colorado Plateau, an arid region, into which deep canyons have been carved by westward-flowing rivers. The area of Colorado to the west of the Continental Divide (which runs along the crest of the Rockies) is called the Western Slope. More than two-thirds of Colorado's population lives in cities along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.
The state was named after the Colorado River. In 1776, the Spanish priest Silvestre Vélez de Escalante discovered that the local Native Americans called it the "Coloured River" in their own language, because of the reddish-brown silt it carried in its waters from the mountains. He gave it the Spanish version of the name: Río Colorado. When Colorado became a state in 1861, William Gilpin, the first governor, decided to call it Colorado.
Colorado has the highest average elevation of any state, with more than 1000 peaks in the Rocky mountains more than 3000 m (10,000 ft). There are 53 peaks that are 14,000 ft (4267 m) or higher in elevation; they are known as “fourteeners”.
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