Mancos, Colorado

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The Town of Mancos is a Statutory Town located in Montezuma County, Colorado, United States. The population was 1,119 at the 2000 census.

The Town of Mancos is located in southwestern Colorado, near the Four Corners, at the base of Mesa Verde National Park, and holds the trademark for "Gateway to Mesa Verde". Surrounded by rangeland and mountains, Mancos offers a variety of outdoor recreational activities. The Town was founded in 1894, near the site where early Spanish explorers first crossed the Mancos River. It is the commercial center for east Montezuma County, and was considered at one time as a county seat for Montezuma County. It is served by U.S. Highway 160 and State Highway 184.

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History

The Mancos Valley has been settled since at least the 10th century, although various severe conditions in the mid to late 13th century saw the area and its multitude of small villages abandoned by the Anasazi. The Mancos area is dotted with inventoried and uninventoried archeological sites, including both isolated houses and shelters and small village complexes. Mancos Valley residents were probably among those who withdrew to the cliff dwellings on Mesa Verde, perhaps for defensive purposes, due to climate change, or as part of concentration policy of possible invaders and occupiers of the region.

Control of the area was contested by nomadic Navajo and Ute for centuries. Spanish friars and military passed through the area as part of the Old Spanish Trail connecting New Mexico and California, in the 18th century. The name “Mancos” comes from the famous Dominguez-Escalante Expedition of 1776, though the reason for the name remains unclear (see below). By some unverified accounts the name Mancos refers to the crippled nature of the Spanish explorer's horses after they crossed the San Juan mountains. According to unverified lore, the horses were rejuvenated by the lush green grass in the Mancos Valley. Somewhere in the town is the point at which the Expedition crossed the Rio Mancos on its way to California from Old Mexico.

Part of the original Ute Reservation in 1868, Mancos was part of the San Juan Cession of 1873, and cattle ranchers began settling the Mancos Valley in the 1870s, providing cattle to the mining camps of the San Juan and La Plata Ranges. Today, the boundary of the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation is located some six miles south of town. At the time it was founded, Mancos served as the primary commercial trading center for eastern Montezuma County, rivaling the Town of Dolores to the northwest. At that time, the Cortez, Colorado, now the County seat, was barely a bend in the wagon trail. In the 1890s, Mancos was platted and built as a stop along the Rio Grande Southern Railway built by Otto Mears - Colorado's southwestern railroad pathfinder, connecting Durango, Colorado to the east, and to the Telluride mining districts to the north, via Dolores. Ranchers in the Mancos Valley continued to provide beef, timber, and other agricultural products to the mining camps. Following this, LDS colonists moved into the area and established farms and small communities such as Weber and Cherry Creek.

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