University of Colorado-Denver
CUSS Newsletter, Summer 2012, Vol. 24, No. 3
Denver, the Mile High City, is located where the Great Plains meet the Rocky Mountains. Though the area was used as a hunting ground for Native Americans for thousands of years and explored by the Spanish as early as the 16th century, it was the discovery of gold in nearby Pikes Peak that lead to permanent settlement by fortune seekers in 1858. Denver quickly became a regional center due to the Colorado Gold Rush and other extractive booms and busts that continued for well over a century. Although experiencing a major economic downturn and loss of population in the 1980s as the regional oil and gas industry collapsed along with the savings and loan debacle, Denver today is the largest city in Colorado and the Mountain West (denver.org 2012). Similar to other urban areas in the South and West, the greater Denver area has grown rapidly in the last few decades, increasing by 50% between 1990 and 2010, with more than 2.75 million residents in the metropolitan area today (Piton 2011). Denver’s core has grown rapidly as well, to over 600,000 residents, an increase of more than 25% since 1990, after experiencing several decades of population decline (census.gov 2012).