Custer County, Colorado

Custer County, Colorado
Custer County, Colorado
Seal of Custer County, Colorado
Map of Colorado highlighting Custer County
Location in the state of Colorado
Map of the U.S. highlighting Colorado
Colorado's location in the U.S.
Founded March 9, 1877
Named for George Armstrong Custer
Seat Westcliffe
Largest town Silver Cliff
 - Total
 - Land
 - Water

739.90 sq mi (1,916 km²)
738.89 sq mi (1,914 km²)
1.02 sq mi (3 km²), 0.14%
 - (2000)
 - Density

5/sq mi (2/km²)

Custer County is the tenth least populous of the 64 counties of the State of Colorado of the United States. The county population was 3,503 at U.S. Census 2000.[1] The county seat is Westcliffe.



Custer County was created by the Colorado legislature on March 9, 1877, out of the southern half of Fremont County. Originally set in Ula, the county seat moved to Rosita in 1878, and to Silver Cliff in 1886 before settling in Westcliffe in 1928. It was named in honor of Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer, who had died the previous year.

The county was the site of a silver rush during the 1870s. Thousands of men poured into the county during this time in the hunt for silver. Some of the notable mines include the Geyser Mine (on the north edge of the town of Silver Cliff), the Bassick Mine (near the ghost town of Querida) and the Bull Domingo (north of Silver Cliff).

During the late 19th century a railroad line was connected through the Grape Creek Canyon but was permanently closed after a few disastrous floods. The old railhouse has been turned into a historical landmark in the town of Westcliffe.

After the mines were exhausted, the population dropped considerably and was replaced by cattle ranchers. An extensive system of irrigation ditches was built throughout the valley. Ranching in the Wet Mountain Valley continues to this day.


The Wet Mountain Valley of Custer County is nestled beneath the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountains

According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 739.90 square miles (1,916.3 km2), of which 738.89 square miles (1,913.7 km2) (or 99.86%) is land and 1.02 square miles (2.6 km2) (or 0.14%) is water.[2]

The county is very rugged and would be virtually inaccessible without roads. The lowest point of the county is around 6,000 feet (1,800 m) in elevation, but most of the county is rugged and mountainous. The county seat of Westcliffe is about 7,800 feet (2,400 m) and along with nearby town Silver Cliff lies in the Wet Mountain Valley which sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The peaks of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the west reach heights in excess of 14,000 feet (4,300 m) with Crestone Peak being the highest at 14,294 feet (4,357 m) and 7th highest fourteener in Colorado.

A large percentage of the county is National Forest land in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains on the west side and in the Wet Mountains on the east. The only lake of size is the Deweese Reservoir in the north end of the Wet Mountain Valley.

Adjacent counties


As of the census[3] of 2000, there were 3,503 people, 1,480 households, and 1,077 families residing in the county. The population density was 5 people per square mile (2/km²). There were 2,989 housing units at an average density of 4 per square mile (2/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 95.89% White, 0.37% Black or African American, 1.11% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.71% from other races, and 1.63% from two or more races. 2.51% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 1,480 households out of which 25.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.60% were married couples living together, 5.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.20% were non-families. 23.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.90% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.36 and the average family size was 2.77.

In the county the population was spread out with 22.50% under the age of 18, 4.50% from 18 to 24, 23.30% from 25 to 44, 35.00% from 45 to 64, and 14.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 104.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.00 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $34,731, and the median income for a family was $41,198. Males had a median income of $32,460 versus $20,868 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,817. About 9.80% of families and 13.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.10% of those under age 18 and 12.60% of those age 65 or over.


The county is governed by three County Commissioners who are elected to 4-year terms with a term limit of two. In 2008, the county was represented by:

-District 1: Carole Custer (Republican), serving from 2006–2010

-District 2: Dick Downey (Republican), serving from 2000–2008

-District 3: Kit Shy (Republican), serving from 2004-2008 which chance for reelection in 2008

However, as of March 2009, Dick Downey and Kit Shy were replaced by Jim Austin and Lynn Attebery, Chairman.

There are several other public offices including Coroner, Sheriff, County Clerk and others.


Custer County is overall very conservative and heavily Republican. The most important election is not the general election, but the primary election between members of the Republican Party in August. During the 2004 presidential election, well over 60% of Custer County voters voted for the Republican candidates including George W. Bush and Pete Coors.

Despite the surface appearance of a homogeneous political culture, there is considerable dispute among residents over planning. One segment of residents (which includes ranchers) would like to see the County preserved in its present state as a mountain paradise with its rural ranching culture, with strict limitation on development. Proponents are sometimes seen as "anti-growth" and "anti-property rights." Another segment of the population would like to see less government and less restrictions on growth and development for the growth of business and the economy. Proponents are seen as "anti-environment" or "anti-agriculture."

Cities and towns

National forest and wilderness

National scenic byway

  • Frontier Pathways National Scenic and Historic Byway

Transcontinental bicycle routes

See also


External links

Coordinates: 38°05′N 105°22′W / 38.09°N 105.36°W / 38.09; -105.36

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Look at other dictionaries:

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