Cortez, Colorado

Cortez, Colorado
City of Cortez, Colorado
—  City  —
Location in Montezuma County and the State of Colorado
Coordinates: 37°20′57″N 108°34′45″W / 37.34917°N 108.57917°W / 37.34917; -108.57917Coordinates: 37°20′57″N 108°34′45″W / 37.34917°N 108.57917°W / 37.34917; -108.57917
Country  United States
State  State of Colorado
County Montezuma County Seat[1]
 – Type Home Rule Municipality[1]
 – Total 5.5 sq mi (14.3 km2)
 – Land 5.5 sq mi (14.2 km2)
 – Water 0 sq mi (0.1 km2)
Elevation 6,191 ft (1,887 m)
Population (2010)
 – Total 8,482
 – Density 1,450.4/sq mi (557.8/km2)
Time zone MST (UTC-7)
 – Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6)
ZIP code 81321
Area code(s) 970
FIPS code 08-17375
GNIS feature ID 0179044
Website City of Cortez

The city of Cortez is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous city of Montezuma County, Colorado, United States.[2] The city population was 8,482 at the 2010 census. It is a popular stop for tourists, who do not necessarily tour the city, but stay there because of its central location among surrounding attractions, such as Mesa Verde National Park, Monument Valley, and the Four Corners.



Cortez is located at 37°20′57″N 108°34′45″W / 37.34917°N 108.57917°W / 37.34917; -108.57917 (37.349270, -108.579225).[3]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.5 square miles (14 km2), of which 5.5 square miles (14 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) (0.36%) is water. Cortez is located in the area of the southwest known as the "High Desert", as are most of northwestern, western, southwestern, and southern Colorado.

Mesa Verde National Park, featuring Ancient Pueblo cliff dwellings, is situated southeast of Cortez.

Cortez is a local commercial center, competing with Durango in the east, and Farmington, New Mexico in the south, and draws trade from southeastern Utah, the extreme northeastern corner of Arizona, the Shiprock area of Northwestern New Mexico, and San Miquel, Dolores, Montezuma, and parts of LaPlata County in Colorado. Its economy is based very heavily on tourism, both to nearby Mesa Verde National Park as well as to San Juan National Forest, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the area (including Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, as well as the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe and Navajo Indian Reservations).


As of the census[4] of 2010, there were 8,482 people, 3,590 households, and 2,234 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,449.9 people per square mile (560.0/km²). There were 3,885 housing units at an average density of 637.6 per square mile (246.3/km²). The gender makeup of the city was 48.1% male (4,083) and 51.9% female (4,399). The racial makeup of the city was 79.2% White, 0.4% African American, 11.8% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 0.00% Pacific Islander, 6.04% from other races, and 2.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.30% of the population.

There were 3,590 households out of which 30.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.0% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.8% were non-families. 30.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.92.

In the city, the population was spread out with 26.7% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 26.6% from 25 to 44, 21.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,776, and the median income for a family was $35,533. Males had a median income of $30,755 versus $20,280 for females. The per capita income for the city was $18,040. About 14.8% of families and 18.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.3% of those under age 18 and 17.3% of those age 65 or over.


The following sites are prehistoric sites in the Cortez area, several of which are listed on the Colorado State Register of Historic Properties and the National Register of Historic Places:[5][6]

  • Cannonball Ruins * +
  • Maxwell Community +
  • Roy's Ruin * +
  • Sand Canyon Archaeological District * +
  • Wallace Ruin * +

* On the National Register of Historic Places listings in Montezuma County, Colorado.

+ Colorado State Register of Historic Properties

Miracle at Cortez

A Lockheed U-2 "Dragon Lady" reconnaissance aircraft made an emergency nighttime forced landing August 3, 1959, at the Cortez Municipal Airport almost nine months before Gary Powers was shot down over Russia. Major H. Mike Hua (now retired as General) was on a training flight originating at Laughlin AFB, Texas; the U-2 aircraft engine flamed out at 70,000 feet MSL. Maj. Hua established best glide and was able to navigate through a valley to a lighted airport that wasn't on his map nor did he know of its existence beforehand. The airport was the only one in the area with a lighted runway which was illuminated overnight.[7][8][9][10][11] The aircraft in question, a U-2D, serial number 56-6721, is on display at Blackbird Airpark, adjacent to USAF Plant 42 at Palmdale, California. Major Hua was later awarded the U.S. Air Force Distinguished Flying Cross for his successful landing of the secret aircraft.


Cortez Municipal Airport serves Cortez.

See also

  • Colorado municipalities
  • William B. Ebbert, popular rancher and politician, represented Cortez in the Colorado General Assembly in early 20th century.
  • List of prehistoric sites in Colorado
  • Michael Milenski, Cortez native who was founder and general director of Long Beach Opera
  • San Juan Skyway National Scenic Byway
  • Trail of the Ancients


External links

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