Writer’s note: For the next several weeks we will be focusing on Southern Colorado counties where they came from, what they have to offer and why more Coloradoans should pay them a visit. In this edition we explore one of the most populated counties in Southern Colorado, Alamosa County.
Southern Colorado is known primarily for its agriculture and its mining communities. Though the latter is no longer thriving as it was in the 1920s and 40s, the former continues to be a strong piece of industry for Southern Colorado. That mining has declined over the past century has led many former residents of Southern Colorado to leave their respective counties, one county in which that is not the case is Alamosa County.
Sitting in the center of Southern Colorado, Alamosa County is one of the only Southern Colorado counties to see constant population growth since becoming a county in 1913. According to the U.S. Census Bureau the county’s population is currently an estimated 16,654 up 6.8 percent from the recorded 15.445 of 2010. Of that population 49 percent are Caucasian while 45.8 percent are Hispanic. Native Americans are the second-largest minority population demographic in the county at 5.2 percent.
With a total area of 723 square miles, Alamosa is also one of the smallest counties in Southern Colorado. Its population density is 21.4 population per square mile making it the second most densely populated county in Southern Colorado behind Pueblo County.
As with most densely populated counties Alamosa County enjoys several commercial developments, enough in fact that it is considered the commercial hub of the San Luis Valley. With over 100 businesses located in the county, Alamosa presents a variety of opportunities for employers, investors and consumers. The climate in the county is ideal for agricultural production and, as with many counties that make up the San Luis Valley, that production primarily consists of barley, potatoes and alfalfa.
One of the largest hubs in Alamosa County, however, is Adams State University. According to the university’s most recent “Economic Impact Analysis and Report,” Adams State University’s total economic impact on the San Luis Valley was $78 million in 2014-15 and $112 million on the State of Colorado. The university also employs 808 people and the economic activity of those employees creates an additional 348 jobs in the San Luis Valley.
Alamosa County can get very cold. A valley that sits at 7,764 feet can experience extremes common to both valley living and high-altitude living. The hottest temperatures can reach 95 degrees while the lowest can fall as low as 20 degrees below 0.
Moisture still remains a premium in Alamosa County with an average of 7 inches of rainfall per year and 28 inches of snowfall, compared to national averages of 39.2 and 25.8 inches, respectively.
Of course no conversation about Alamosa County can be had without mentioning the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. The tallest sand dunes in North America rise to a maximum height of 750 feet covering about 19,000 acres. Researchers say that the dunes, which can be seen from space, began forming less than 440,000 years ago.
The park’s visitor guide lists a variety of activities offered at the park whether the visit be for two hours or all day. Among the most popular activities are hiking the high dune to overlook the entire dunefield; taking a trip down Medano Creek; hiking the Montville Loop Trail to view the first ridge of the dunes; hiking the Mosca Pass Trail, which provides a lengthy 7-mile round trip hike; and hiking the Wellington Ditch Trail.
For more information on the Great Sand Dunes visit www.nps.gov/grsa.