USGenWeb Logo Montezuma County

 

Short History of Montezuma County

In 1889 the legislature created: Montezuma County from La Plata County. Cortez  is the County Seat

Montezuma County, in the southwest corner of Colorado, is where the San Juan Mountains meet the desert canyon country. Our area has milder winters than most of Colorado, yet still has four distinct seasons. Winter weather patterns flow from the southwest and west, usually avoiding the colder storms that are typical of most parts of Colorado. While winter storms bring heavier snowfalls to the San Juan Mountains to the north, around Cortez our snow typically melts away in a few days. January daytime temperatures can reach into the 50's but are more typically in the 40's, while July high temperatures rarely exceed 95 degrees.

Mesa Verde Country was home to the Anasazi Indians for more than 1,000 years. The people that first built their houses here at the time of the Roman Empire farmed the mesas, plateaus, river bottoms, and canyons. They created a thriving, populous civilization that eventually raised towers and built hundred-room cities in the cliffs and caves of Mesa Verde.

The Ute Indians have lived in the region about 400 years; however, they are not believed to be descendants of the Anasazi, who abandoned the area in 1300 AD. The present Ute Mountain Ute Reservation was formed in 1897 by the Weeminuche Band of Utes. In 1895 they established a camp on the western end of the old Southern Ute Reservation, in what is today called Towaoc.

The Ute Mountain Utes and their cousins, the Southern Utes in Ignacio, are the only tribes remaining in Colorado today. The Ute Mountain Utes speak their native language as well as English, and their children attend public school in Cortez. An elected tribal council runs the day-to-day business and social services available to tribal members.

Today, the Ute Mountain Utes enjoy a modern lifestyle, while retaining their traditional customs. The annual Bear Dance, held in Towaoc for over 100 years, takes place on the reservation each spring. A symbol of the bear awakening from it's winter hibernation, the dance provides an occasion to celebrate spring. Each year Utes from all over the area gather to renew acquaintances, meet new friends, and carry on courtships.

Each summer in Cortez, the Cortez CU Center hosts a variety of Native Americans as they share dances, stories, arts and history with area visitors. Programs start 7:30 in the evenings all days but Sunday, Memorial Day through Labor Day. The programs are free of charge, rain or shine.

The elevation ranges from 6,200 feet in Cortez to approximately 7,000 feet in Mancos and Dolores. The average growing season around Cortez is 125 days, average precipitation is 13.15 inches, and the average annual snowfall is 40.6 inches. Snowfall varies considerably with elevation as shown in the table below. Mesa Verde and Dolores receive more than 80 inches of snowfall. Temperatures at Mesa Verde are slightly more temperate than Cortez, as shown in the temperature tables below the precipitation tables.

The City of Cortez is a home rule, Council-Manager community and is also the Montezuma County seat. Every two years, four council seats (at large) are up for election. The top three vote-getters serve four year terms, with the fourth serving a two year term. The mayor is elected to a two year term by Council members.

Montezuma County Towns

Town of Dolores, Colorado The Town of Dolores was incorporated in 1900

Dolores is halfway between Durango and Telluride, only 20 minutes from Mesa Verde National Park, where the Dolores River forms McPhee Reservoir, the second largest body of water in Colorado.

The Historic Dolores River Valley
The ambitious expedition of Fathers Dominguez and Escalante was undertaken at the time the colonies were struggling to create a nation. The Dominguez-Escalante expedition left from Santa Fe and camped at Dolores August 13, 1776. Their goal was to explore unknown lands north and west of Spanish New Mexico, open a route to Spanish missions in California and convert Indians to Spanish culture and religion. Following native guides over Indian Trails, the expedition proceeded slowly, and as cold weather set in, prospects for reaching California before winter diminished. Lots were cast and a decision was reached to return to Santa Fe by a southerly route. The Franciscans journal and artillery Captain Miera's maps were the first record of lands and peoples in what was to become southern Colorado and Utah.

The Anasazi Heritage Center near Dolores

The town of Dolores lies on the San Juan Skyway, a state and federally designated scenic highway, so awe-inspiring, it has been called 'America's Most Beautiful Drive'. The 236 mile loop is a perfect one-day drive. The road will take you over and around the spectacular San Juan Mountains and through the historic mining towns of Telluride, Ouray, Silverton and Durango. Ridgway, Mancos and Cortez are also along the way.

Dolores was a railroad town for 60 years, a major Rio Grande Southern station between Durango and Ridgway. You'll find an exact replica of Dolores's original train depot standing on Railroad Avenue today, a Victorian-style structure which now houses the Rio Grande Southern Railroad Museum and the Dolores Visitors' Center.

The Town of Mancos was incorporated in 1894 as a statutory town with a Mayor-Council form of government. Seven trustees are elected to four year terms. The mayor is also elected to a four year term. The Board of Trustees meets at Mancos Town Hall on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 7:30 PM.


Historical Buildings -24
Albert Porter Pueblo
Address Restricted Yellow Jacket
National Historical site Reference number 99000266
Great Pueblo Period of the McElmo Drainage Unit MPS
Anasazi Archeological District
Address Restricted Dolores
National Historical site Reference number 4001273
Archeological Site no. 5MT4700
Address Restricted Yellow Jacket
National Historical site Reference number 99000685
Great Pueblo Period of the McElmo Drainage Unit MPS
Bass Site Address Restricted Yellow Jacket

National Historical site Reference number 99000654
Great Pueblo Period of the McElmo Drainage Unit MPS
Cannonball Ruins
Address Restricted Cortez
National Historical site Reference number 97000378
Great Pueblo Period of the McElmo Drainage Unit MPS
Ertel Funeral Home
42 N. Market St. Cortez
National Historical site Reference number 95001248
Escalante Ruin
Address Restricted Dolores
National Historical site Reference number 75000527
Hovenweep National Monument
NW of Cortez Cortez
National Historical site Reference number 66000250
Lancaster, James A., Site
Address Restricted Pleasant View
National Historical site Reference number 80000914
Lebanon School=]
24925 Co. Rd. T Dolores
National Historical site Reference number 96000543
Lost Canyon Archeological District
Address Restricted Mancos
National Historical site Reference number 88001909
Lowry Ruin
30 mi. NW of Cortez via U.S. 160 Pleasant View
National Historical site Reference number 66000253
Mancos High School
350 Grand Ave. Mancos
National Historical site Reference number 91001740
Mancos Opera House
136 W. Grand Ave. Mancos
National Historical site Reference number 87002183
Mesa Verde Administrative District Area
at head of Spruce Canyon off park service road Mesa Verde National Park
National Historical site Reference number 87001410
Mesa Verde National Park
10 mi. E of Cortez on U.S. 160 Cortez
National Historical site Reference number 66000251
Mud Springs Pueblo
Address Restricted Cortez
National Historical site Reference number 82001020
Pigge Site
Address Restricted Pleasant View
National Historical site Reference number 80000915
Roy's Ruin
Address Restricted Cortez
National Historical site Reference number 91002027
Great Pueblo Period of the McElmo Drainage Unit MPS
Seven Towers Pueblo
Address Restricted Yellow Jacket
National Historical site Reference number 99000653
Great Pueblo Period of the McElmo Drainage Unit MPS
Southern Hotel
101 S. Fifth St. Dolores 19890223 89000018
Woods Canyon Pueblo
Address Restricted Yellow Jacket
National Historical site Reference number 99000652
Great Pueblo Period of the McElmo Drainage Unit MPS
Wrightsman House
209 Bauer Ave. Mancos
National Historical site Reference number 97000045
Yellowjacket Pueblo (5-MT-5)
Address Restricted Yellow Jacket
National Historical site Reference number 85002701
Yucca House National Monument
12 mi. S of Cortez via U.S. 666 Cortez
National Historical site Reference number 66000252
 

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We are looking for "new updated" information for this site.  If you can transcribe information or have some that you would like to share please email,

Gail Meyer Kilgore

  Montezuma County COGenWeb Project

Thank you for visiting the Montezuma County, Colorado Web Page

This page was last updated: Tuesday, 27-Apr-2010 01:31:53 MDT

Copyright 2000 - Present

County Coordinator: Gail Meyer Kilgore

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