12 bizarre town names you’ll find in Colorado

No Name, Colorado. Photo Credit: DimiTalen (Wikimedia Commons).

Welcome to the Wild West, where town names get spawned from jokes, misunderstandings, vague descriptions, and cultural melting pots. Here are 12 bizarrely named towns in Colorado.

1. Arriba

A word that means “above others” in Spanish, this town name would make more sense if the town wasn’t found in one of the lower regions of the Centennial State. It’s located at an elevation just shy of Denver at 5,239 feet. The average elevation of the state is 6,800 feet.

2. Bow Mar

If this town name seems like two random syllables put together, it’s because that’s pretty much the case. Bow Mar, found in the Denver metro area, is named for two nearby lakes – Bowles Lake and Marston Lake – but only the first syllable of each spot was used.

3. Breckenridge

12 bizarre town names you’ll find in Colorado

Breckenridge. Photo Credit: Sean Pavone (iStock).

This town is just named after a person, as many towns are. However, the reason behind the current spelling is quite interesting. Originally, Breckenridge was named after John Cabell Breckinridge (with an “i”), the youngest Vice President of the United States. However, when John Breckinridge joined the Confederate Army years later, outraged and embarrassed citizens voted to change the first “i” in their town name to an “e,” thus technically removing his namesake. The end result was the name still used today – “Breckenridge.”

4. Castle Rock

12 bizarre town names you’ll find in Colorado

Castle Rock, Colorado. Photo Credit: ivanastar (iStock).

If you’ve driven past this town, the reason for this unique name is no secret – there’s a massive fortress-shaped butte right where I-25 cuts through this spot.

5. Del Norte

This tiny town in the San Luis Valley is named after the Rio Grande del Norte. Contrary to how some say the name of this spot, it’s pronounced “Del Nort,” not “Del Norté.”

6. Dinosaur

12 bizarre town names you’ll find in Colorado

Yampa River Canyon, Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado. Photo Credit: John Fielder.

This town was named after the discovery of several large dinosaur species still roaming the surrounding mountains, including the Brontosaurus and the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Just kidding… the name of this town was adopted in 1966 to capitalize on the town’s proximity to Dinosaur National Monument, a nearby national monument that is split between Colorado and Utah. The park is known for containing more than 800 paleontological sites.

7. Fairplay

12 bizarre town names you’ll find in Colorado

A herd of bison in Park County outside of Fairplay, Colorado. Photo Credit: Katie Rae Bode.

A name implying justice, Fairplay was named by settlers that were angry that early prospectors got the best claims. When this town was founded, the settlers envisioned doing things differently, in a more “fair” way.

8. Leadville

12 bizarre town names you’ll find in Colorado

Annual skijoring competition in Leadville, Colorado. Photo Credit: Kaila Angello (Wikimedia Commons)

Once the proposed capital of Colorado, Leadville is known for its rich history of silver mining. This town was once called “Cloud City,” and at a different time, “Slabtown,” but the name was changed to Leadville when a post office was built. The reasoning behind the lead-based name in a silver mining town? Lead ore was found in the area.

9. Manzanola

A unique name you might encounter on the drive through Otero County, Manzanola is derived from the words “manzana roja,” which translates to “red apple” in Spanish. Word on the street is that this name comes from an orchard that was once close to the town.

10. Nederland

If you think “Nederland” seems like it could have something to do with the country of Netherland, you’re onto something. A key mine in the area was sold to Mining Company Nederland from the Netherlands in 1873. That’s not where the story ends though. “Nederland” or “Netherlands” means “low land” in dutch. The town of Nederland is located significantly lower than the Caribou Mine that was purchased by the Dutch mining company, thus how this town got its official name. Extractions from the mine where often brought to the lower town of Nederland for processing due to dangerous and frigid weather on the mountain. Oddly, Nederland isn’t that low – found at an elevation of 8,228 feet.

11. Rico

This tiny southwestern Colorado town isn’t named after some dude named Rico. It’s another Colorado town name that’s derived from a Spanish word. In Spanish, “rico” means “rich.” A boom and bust town that saw mining-related highs and lows from the 1870s until the 1970s, this town was named by an optimist. Fewer than 300 still occupy the town with a median household income of $36,875. Colorado has a median household income of $71,953.

12. No Name

Oddly the most interesting and boring name on this list at the same time, No Name is actually named for something, not just a lapse of creativity. It’s named for the nearby No Name Creek and No Name Canyon, both of which I imagine were indeed named during a lapse of creativity.

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