- The county was named in honor of the first president of the United States of America, George Washington.
- The county seat is Akron located at 40°9'42"N, 103°12'43"W (40.161530°, -103.211850°), at the intersection of U.S. Highway 34 and State Highway 63.
- Washington County is the 12th most extensive of the 64 counties of the State of Colorado with a total area of 2524 square miles. (Comparable areas in square miles: Cape Verde, 1045; Slovenia, 1304; State of Rhode Island, 1545; Brunei 1954; State of Delaware, 2489; Weld County, 4021; Moffat County, 4750; Las Animas County, 4775 (largest in Colorado); Puerto Rico, 5325; State of Connecticut, 5543).
- Most of the land is dedicated to farming and ranching. The primary crop is winter wheat and Washington County has led all counties of Colorado for 50 years in wheat production. Corn and oats are also grown if near a water source for irrigation (Platte River).
- The highest point of elevation in the county is Presidents Hill at 5433 feet (1656 m) situated at the Washington-Lincoln County line (presidents, get it?). It is 11.8 miles south of Last Chance on Hwy 71 and 2.2 miles east on County Road 0. Courtesy Hiking Colorado's Summits by David Covill and John Drew Mitchler.
- The lowest point of elevation in the county is in the far northeastern corner, Rock Creek at 3913 feet (1192 m) as it flows into Yuma County just north of county road 54 east of Lone Star.
- The county was carved out of Weld County on 9 Feb 1887 and incorporated 22 Sep 1887, about five years after the first B&MR (Burlington & Missouri River) locomotive steamed through Hyde, Calhoun, Harmon, Otis, Platner, Akron, Xenia, and Pinneo in mid 1882.
- In later years the large southern block of Washington County was taken from Adams and Arapahoe counties. Here is a table by township describing those additions:
Townships Claimed by County 1N, 2N, 3N, 4N, 5N Weld
Nov 1861 - Feb 1887
Since Feb 1887
1S, 2S, 3S Arapahoe
Nov 1861 - Nov 1902
Nov 1902 - May 1903
Since May 1903
4S, 5S Arapahoe
Nov 1861 - May 1903
Washington County Population Data
Populated Place Est 2016 Est 2015 Est 2014 Est 2013 Est 2012 2010 2000 1990 Washington County 4904 4864 4780 4774 4753 4814 4926 4812 Akron 1686 1702 1711 1621 Otis 468 475 534 462
Note: These figures are taken from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Colorado Department of Local Affairs, State Demography Office (SDO) publishes somewhat different estimates for non-census years.
The BaselineOne of the famous landmarks of Washington County is the 40th Parallel better known here as the Baseline. It is where Hwy 63 and other country roads jog to account for the curvature of Earth. Here is a list of famous and not so famous places the 40th goes through or is near on a journey around the world heading east from Washington County.
The 40th parallel passes:
o Forms the northern border of Kansas and southern border of Nebraska
o 8 miles north of Quincy Ill
o 20 miles north of Sprngfield Ill
o Through the northern portion of Columbus Ohio
o Through the north arm of West Virginia
o Directly through Philadelphia
o 25 miles south of Madrid Spain
o 5 miles north of Toledo Spain
o Through the center of Sardinia
o Through Gulf of Taranto, arch of boot of Italy
o Past the southern coastline of the mouth of the Dardanelles into the Mediterranean Sea
o Through the northern portion of Ankara Turkey
o Directly through Beijing China
o Through the mouth of the Yalu River
o Mayang Island of North Korea
o Through a mountainous region of northern Honshu and about 2° north of the big earthquake of 2011
at Sendai (38.322°N 142.369°E)
o It hits the west coast of California in rugged forest about 4 mi south of Shelter Cove Airport
o It passes through the tiny California towns of Tehama, Los Molinos, Twain, and Keddie
o Through Pyramid Lake, Nevada and Tippett on the east side of Nevada
o Through Thistle, Utah, a ghost town since 1983
o It hits the west border of Colorado in Rio Blanco County below Rangely and Meeker
o Through Tabernash, Colo
o The famous Baseline Road in Boulder, Colo.
o Forms the border between Weld/Adams and Morgan/Adams
A Short Washington County History
What is now Washington County wasn't permanently settled until fairly late in the history of the United States. As shown by recent archeological finds, nomadic tribes lived in the area long before the Cheyenne, Arapahoe and Pawnee that Europeans found occupying the high plains moved in.
The first recorded Washington County explorer was Pedro de Villasur in an 1720 expedition out of Santa Fe to the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers. French trappers operating out of Canada are known to have visited the Pawnee Tribes on the upper Platte River several years prior to that date. The South Platte was a major route into the Rocky Mountains for the fur trade from the mid 1700s to the mid 1800s. The South Platte route was also used by Major Stephen H. Long's party in 1819-1820 when he explored the new area for the United States.
Claimed by both France and Spain, northeast Colorado was part of the land given up by France to the young United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. First organized as part of Louisiana Territory, later Missouri Territory and then lumped with most of the rest of the west into "unorganized territory" what would become northeast Colorado remained largely unoccupied until after Colorado became a state in 1876. Most early maps of the area did little to encourage settlement since they were based on Major Long's survey map. He had dubbed the high plains area the "Great American Desert" in a drought year.
With Texas admitted as a state in 1845, the end of the Mexican War in 1847, gold discovered in California in 1849 and Oregon largely settled Congress turned its attention to organizing the west. In 1854 the lands that would become Colorado were split between Kansas Territory, Nebraska Territory, New Mexico Territory and Utah Territory by the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
(The faint red outline shows the area covered by the subsequent maps.)
In 1858 gold was discovered at the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek and the Denver City gold camp was started. By 1860 over 35,000 folks had moved to the Colorado gold camps and were asking for a separate territorial government. Their efforts to organize Jefferson Territory in 1860 failed but in August 1861 Colorado Territory was organized with 17 counties.
1861 Weld County with its county seat in Greeley covered most of the area of the former Nebraska Territory while Arapahoe County with its county seat in Denver was transferred almost intact from from the brand new state of Kansas. (The faint green outline is the present Washington Co borders.)
Stage lines along the South Platte to Denver City went through what would later become northwest Washington County. The area remained mostly unoccupied except by the nomadic Indian tribes until after the 1869 battle at Summit Springs.
The Indians were forced out of eastern Colorado onto reservations by 1870. But the Northeast remained mostly unoccupied except along the South Platte River until the Burlington & Missouri (later the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy) RR constructed an extension from St. Joseph, Missouri to Denver in 1882. That was followed in 1885 by the construction of a Union Pacific branch line from Julesburg to Denver. Also in 1885 the the President ordered that illegal fences be removed from the public lands which favored settlers over the cattle ranchers who had occupied the Colorado high plains since 1870.
With the government willing to provide up to 480 acres of cheap land to each family and the railroads actively promoting the area by providing reduced transportation rates ("immigrant cars") the area boomed. In 1887 the rapidly growing population of Northeast Colorado lead to dividing Weld county in half and organizing Logan (blue) and Washington (red) Counties. Akron was designated as the Washington County seat. Arapahoe County remained stretching from the mountains to the Kansas line.
Only two years later in 1889, the booming settlement of the plains lead to splitting off the eastern half of Logan county to form Sedgwick (light brown) and Phillips (violet) Counties. In the same reorganization Washington County was split in half to form the new Yuma County (yellow).
The southeast corner of Weld county was also split off to form the new Morgan County (dark brown).
Arapahoe County was still unchanged from its initial 1861 borders.
By 1901 voters in Denver and settled parts of Arapahoe County were demanding a separate voice in Colorado government. The 1901 Colorado legislature created Adams County (brown) by splitting Arapahoe County in half east to west. They also created a Denver County but that part of the act was overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court pending a change to the Colorado Constitution.
By 1903 the disputes raised by the 1901 act were settled by drawing different Northeast Colorado county lines. The City and County of Denver (red) was created from the extreme northwest part of 1901 Arapahoe County. Washington (red) and Yuma (yellow) Counties were doubled in size by adding the parts of the previous Adams and Arapahoe Counties that were south of them.
The 1903 changes were the last to the Washington County borders. Today the county remains true to its roots. Most of the land is still dedicated to farming and ranching.
For more information and exact dates of county border changes go to
CoGenWeb Colorado County Organization Timeline
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