Las Animas is the Statutory City that is the county seat and the only incorporated municipality in Bent County, Colorado, United States.[7] The city population was 2,410 at the 2010 United States Census.[8] Las Animas is located in southeast Colorado east of Pueblo, near the historic Bent's Fort.


Las Animas is located on the Arkansas River, just west of its confluence with the Purgatoire River (or "Purgatory River").

A famous legend says that the town and the Purgatoire River were named for a group of conquistadors, probably part of Coronado's expedition, who died without the last rites sacrament of a priest. According to Catholic belief, their souls would go to Purgatory as a result. The original Spanish name for Las Animas ("The Souls," in Spanish) was purported to be[citation needed] La Ciudad de Las Animas Perdidos en Purgatorio, "The city of lost souls in Purgatory."

According to the book Trinidad, Colorado Territory by Morris F. Taylor,[9] this explanation is not consistent with Spanish Catholic belief. Souls in purgatory are not lost; they are in limbo for a short time of purification before ascending to heaven. According to Taylor, the French developed the connotation of souls in Purgatory.

The Spanish version, El Rio de las Animas Perdidas en Purgatorio, was considered an embellishment of the French version. No 19th-century map shows this full Spanish name or any translation of it. Existing maps have different names for the river: Rio de Las Animas, Purgatory River, and "Picatoire", a corruption of Purgatoire (which today is anglicized as Picketwire). French fur traders of the 19th century referred to the river as the Purgatoire. Another anglicization was Pick of Ware.

Water issues

Water is a central issue in Las Animas. Like many cities in southeastern Colorado, Las Animas competes with wealthier cities on the Front Range for the water to sustain life and the local agricultural economy. Developers and municipalities have capitalized upon drought and low crop prices by buying water from desperate farmers. As this water is diverted upstream to serve the larger cities, Las Animas loses access to this important resource.

Because of the poor quality of the city's water supply, a reverse-osmosis filtration plant was installed in the mid-1990s. The loss of minerals in the water resulted in the collapse of many water mains, which had been supported by mineral deposits that formed on the insides of the pipes.


U.S. Post Office in Las Animas

Las Animas is located in northwest Bent County at 38°4′1″N 103°13′33″W / 38.06694°N 103.22583°W / 38.06694; -103.22583 (38.066980, -103.225937),[10] along the Arkansas River. U.S. Highway 50 is the main highway through the city, leading west 82 miles (132 km) to Pueblo and east 36 miles (58 km) to Lamar.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.7 square miles (4.3 km2), of which 1.6 square miles (4.2 km2) is land and 0.039 square miles (0.1 km2), or 2.75%, is water.[8]


Las Animas is often one of the warmest cities in Colorado, however winters can still be quite cold. The record low temperature in Las Animas of −32 °F (−35.6 °C) occurred most recently on January 28, 1948. The record high temperature for Las Animas is 114 °F (45.6 °C) and occurred most recently on June 24, 2012.[11] Each year there are roughly 74 afternoons that hit 90 °F (32.2 °C) or hotter, with sixteen reaching at least 100 °F or 37.8 °C.[12] The record for lowest maximum temperature was on December 20, 1924, when the high was −8 °F (−22.2 °C). On the other end of the spectrum, Las Animas’ hottest minimum temperature occurred August 2, 1935, with a low of 89 °F (31.7 °C).

Climate data for Las Animas, Colorado (Temps: 1893–2015, Snowfall: 1981-2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 84
Average high °F (°C) 47.5
Average low °F (°C) 15.1
Record low °F (°C) −32
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.38
Average snowfall inches (cm) 4.7
Source: NOAA[13]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 52
1890 611 1,075.0%
1900 1,192 95.1%
1910 2,008 68.5%
1920 2,252 12.2%
1930 2,517 11.8%
1940 3,232 28.4%
1950 3,223 −0.3%
1960 3,402 5.6%
1970 3,148 −7.5%
1980 2,818 −10.5%
1990 2,481 −12.0%
2000 2,758 11.2%
2010 2,410 −12.6%
Est. 2016 2,207 [5] −8.4%
U.S. Decennial Census[14]
St. Mary's Catholic Church in Las Animas

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 2,758 people, 1,091 households, and 716 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,134.2 people per square mile (825.5/km²). There were 1,264 housing units at an average density of 978.1 per square mile (378.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 74.87% White, 0.91% African American, 2.86% Native American, 0.58% Asian, 15.34% from other races, and 5.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 42.60% of the population.

There were 1,091 households out of which 31.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.0% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 30.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city, the population was spread out with 27.3% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 24.0% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 117.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,157, and the median income for a family was $29,815. Males had a median income of $26,168 versus $23,250 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,893. About 19.7% of families and 25.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.3% of those under age 18 and 14.4% of those age 65 or over.

Santa Fe Trail Day

Las Animas sits along the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail and served as the major city in southeast Colorado until the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad established operations in La Junta, 20 miles (32 km) to the west of Las Animas.

Las Animas celebrates an annual Santa Fe Trail Day, a celebration of the pioneers and traders who used this trail. This local holiday is the oldest student council-sponsored event in the US. The Las Animas High School Student Council organizes the day, with assistance from the Bent County Chamber of Commerce. Festivities have included a parade, a costume contest, square dancing, a demolition derby, and a traditional "Ranchburger" lunch, as well as many other activities. In past years, students have spread out events over a two-day period, sometimes making this a weekend event. The event occurs on the last Friday in April.

On April 24, 2009, Las Animas celebrated its 75th Annual Santa Fe Trail Day with events throughout the weekend. Past Santa Fe Trail Day Queen Royalty, dating to the 1940s, were invited, as well as Student Council Presidents since 1944.


Columbian Elementary School (1916), photographed 2005
Columbian Elementary School

Built in 1916 to replace the old Columbian School (1887), Columbian Elementary School was the only building of Spanish architecture style in Las Animas. It was also the only open-courtyard school in the state of Colorado. In 2004, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places because of its significance, and, needing renovation for continued use, it was on the 2004 Colorado Preservation, Inc. List of Endangered Places.[16][17][18][19]

Considered by the School Board and all but a handful of citizens to be too costly to renovate, this 90-year-old building was demolished on February 21, 2006.[17] Following demolition, the school was delisted on July 26, 2006.[16][20] The city constructed a new elementary school just west of the old school location.

Las Animas School District

EDUCATION RATING (2017) https://www.greatschools.org/colorado/las-animas/1096-Las-Animas-Middle-School/#Test_scores


Students at Las Animas School District are making far less academic progress given where they were last year, compared to similar students in the state. Depending on where the school's test scores start, student progress (also known as student growth) means different things. Very low progress with low test scores means students are starting at a low point and falling even farther behind their peers. Very low progress with high test scores means students have strong academic skills but that students in this school are making smaller gains than similar students in other schools.

Reasons for failing schools vary. However, there are constants when comparing failing schools. The greatest being administrations inability to recognize their own failures in protecting the welfare and safety of students ability to progress in their success in education. A typical example of this inefficiency is for failing schools to be dominated by veteran dysfunctional teachers who are protected by friendships with the administrations or school boards. Often times these same dysfunctional teachers are contributing to the students inability to learn in a safe environment with racist and verbal abuses and/or perverted unethical conduct. In many instances, the school board members are often sheltered from these destructive incidents by administrators more concerned of the careers of their friends than the well being of the students' progress. When this failing destructive formula goes unchecked by communities for too long the deformation of the partnership between the community and the school will be left with both sides blaming each other, while the future of the communities children will be lost within the cycle of degradation of educational opportunities.

Notable people

Notable individuals who were born in and/or have lived in Las Animas include fur trader and rancher William Bent,[21] actor and singer Ken Curtis,[22] and editor and arts patron Mari Yoriko Sabusawa.[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Active Colorado Municipalities". State of Colorado, Department of Local Affairs. Archived from the original on 2010-11-23. Retrieved 2007-12-01. 
  2. ^ "Colorado Municipal Incorporations". State of Colorado, Department of Personnel & Administration, Colorado State Archives. 2004-12-01. Retrieved 2007-09-02. 
  3. ^ "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jul 25, 2017. 
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  5. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017. 
  6. ^ "ZIP Code Lookup". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original (JavaScript/HTML) on November 23, 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2007. 
  7. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  8. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Las Animas city, Colorado". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved September 26, 2013. 
  9. ^ Taylor, Morris F. (1966). Trinidad, Colorado Territory. Pueblo, Colorado: O'Brien and Stationery Co. pp. 1–7. 
  10. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  11. ^ http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/quickdata Retrieved 13 July 2015.
  12. ^ http://www.weatherbase.com/weather/weatherall.php3?s=745303&cityname=Las+Animas%2C+Colorado%2C+United+States+of+America&units= Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  13. ^ "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved July 13, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  16. ^ a b "Columbian Elementary School, Las Animas", National Park Service
  17. ^ a b Mestas, Anthony A. "Old Columbian school falls to wrecker's ball"[permanent dead link], The Pueblo Chieftain, 25 February 2006
  18. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Columbian Elementary School" (PDF). 
  19. ^ "Endangered Places Archive". Colorado Preservation, Inc. 
  20. ^ Colorado Historical Society description of removal
  21. ^ Goodland, Jennifer. "Bent's Fort: Trade in Transition" (PDF). History Colorado. Retrieved 2016-06-23. 
  22. ^ "Ken Curtis - Biography". IMDb. Retrieved 2016-06-23. 
  23. ^ "James Michener's Wife Dies". The New York Times. 1994-09-27. Retrieved 2016-06-23. 

External links