thumb|upright|Castle, Hovenweep National Monument
Montezuma County is the southwesternmost of the 64 counties
in the U.S. state
. As of the 2010 census
, the population was 25,535.
The county seat
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-dwelling
s, 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 , of which is land and (0.5%) is water.
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 to more than , 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
(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.
*San Juan County
*La Plata County
*San Juan County
, New Mexico
- south - New Mexico portion of Four Corners.
- southwest - Arizona portion of Four Corners.
*San Juan County
- west - Utah portion of Four Corners.
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.
* U.S. Highway 160
* U.S. Highway 491
* State Highway 41
* State Highway 145
* State Highway 184
National protected areas
thumb|Montezuma County includes the Colorado section of the Four Corners Monument
*Calico National Recreation Trail
*Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
*Highline Loop National Recreation Trail
*Hovenweep National Monument
*Lowry Ruin National Historic Landmark
, now part of Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
*Mesa Verde National Park
*Mesa Verde Wilderness
*Old Spanish National Historic Trail
*Petroglyph Point National Recreation Trail
*San Juan National Forest
*Yucca House National Monument
State protected area
*Mancos State Park
Other protected area
Trails and byways
*Great Parks Bicycle Route
*San Juan Skyway
*Trail of the Ancients
*Western Express Bicycle Route
As of the census
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
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.
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.
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. The last Democratic gubernatorial nominee to win Montezuma County was Roy Romer
in 1990 when he carried all but four counties statewide.
[Dave Leip’s U.S. Election Atlas]
Category:1889 establishments in Colorado
Category:Populated places established in 1889
1990 Gubernatorial General Election Results – Colorado
/ref> The last Democratic senatorial candidate to carry Montezuma County was Ben “Nighthorse” Campbell – later to switch to the Republican Party – in 1992.
*Outline of Colorado
*Index of Colorado-related articles
*William B. Ebbert, represented Montezuma in the Colorado General Assembly in early 20th century.
*National Register of Historic Places listings in Montezuma County, Colorado
*East Canyon Fire
Montezuma County official website
Montezuma County Sheriff's Office
Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Hovenweep National Monument
Mesa Verde National Park
Yucca House National Monument
by Don Stanwyck
Colorado Historical Society