Cotopaxi, CO


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Cotopaxi is a census-designated place and U.S. Post Office in Fremont County, Colorado, United States. The population as of the 2010 Census was 47.The Cotopaxi Post Office has the ZIP Code 81223. Today, Cotopaxi remains a small train stop on the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad along the Arkansas River. There is a small local population living in Cotopaxi, most of whom are Caucasian. Because of this low population, there are no major businesses in Cotopaxi except for a successful white water rafting business that attracts thousands of tourists each year to ride on the Arkansas River.
The township was named after Mount Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, located in Ecuador. Henry Thomas was the man responsible for naming Cotopaxi. Henry was an early prospector to the western territory in the mid-nineteenth century. Cotopaxi is also known for its early failed colony of approximately sixty-three Jewish-Russian immigrants who first settled there in early 1882. These colonists, most of whom were related, traveled to Colorado in hopes of starting a successful farming community and to reap the benefits of the new Homestead Act, which would grant each head male of a family one hundred and sixty acres of land. When the colonists arrived in Cotopaxi, they discovered that only half of the houses that were promised to be built upon their arrival had actually been erected; this forced many of the families to live out of small make-shift canvas houses during the first winter. In addition to the housing problems, the colonists also faced an extreme shortage of supplies that were needed to support them through the first winter and to plant their crops. Desperate to plant their crops, the colonists soon opened large lines of credit with the local store to buy the seeds and equipment they needed to get their crops planted. The variety of crops that the colonists chose to plant mostly consisted of potatoes and corn. The immigrants soon discovered, however, that the climate in the Colorado Mountains was only suitable for growing crops for less than four months out of the year, and the first frost of winter killed most of what was still planted in the fields. This failed season of crops forced the immigrants to look for jobs elsewhere to help pay off their fast growing debt to the local store. They soon found work with the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad which had decided to lay down more tracks to the west over the Marshall Pass. The men of the colony were paid three dollars a day which helped the struggling settlement get through its first winter. The colonists made it to spring but the second crop was also a failure and entire families soon started leaving. Only about six families remained in Cotopaxi to plant a third crop which was wiped out by a large blizzard and this officially ended the attempted farming colony in early June 1884.
Today, Cotopaxi has a few small businesses, the most notable of which is the Cotopaxi General Store. This general store was opened in the early 1920s and has since been connected to a Sinclair gas station and a small hotel.