Home History Where did Colorado get its name?

Where did Colorado get its name?

by Chris Butsch
Colorado name

You may have guessed that Colorado got its name from the Colorado River. If so, you’d be right; early explorers believed that the river began in Colorado, though it was later discovered to be Wyoming.

Where, then, did the river get its name? In 1776, Spanish missionary and explorer Silvestre Velez de Escalante passed through modern Colorado on his way from New Mexico to California. He encountered Native Americans who had labeled the Colorado “Red River” for the reddish silt it carried from nearby mountains.

Thanks to Escalante’s obsessive note taking throughout his journeys, the name “el Rio Colorado” stuck.

Chris Butsch

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