Universally known as the Mile-high City, Denver's official altitude is exactly 5,280 ft. Settled in 1858, shortly after gold was discovered in the nearby mountains, the town grew rapidly after silver was found in the region as well. By 1890, Denver supported a population of more than 100,000 people, many of them still engaged in prospecting and mining but many also involved in businesses that supplied the mining industry.
Although the Colorado mining boom made Denver an important transportation and financial center, it was not until the 1930s that Denver's importance really came about. The reason was cattle. Until then, western ranchers simply let their cattle roam the range, eating whatever grass was handy. The Monfort family, who came to Denver in 1930, decided that it might be more efficient if the cattle were restricted to pens and fattened with hay, corn, and grain. With cattle feedlots concentrated in the area, the city's railroad yards expanded to get them out to the rest of a hungry nation. While never as centrally important as Chicago, by the 1940s Denver had grown to be a major city with a real social and cultural base.
Today, Denver and its suburbs are the focal point of Colorado's growth. With a greater metropolitan area population of nearly 1 1/2 million, the Denver region contains almost one-half of the entire state's people. The financial industry is more important now to the city's economy than cattle ever were. Many visitors are surprised to find that Denver is vibrant and fun filled, with something to offer everyone---from a variety of professional sports to nearby skiing at world-class resorts, museums and galleries, and sightseeing. The restaurants and hotels are some of the finest in the Rocky Mountain region.
Those who don't know Denver may be in for another small shock. Despite its mile-high moniker, the city itself is quite flat (its other name is "Queen City of the Plains." Looking east, you might almost imagine you can see Kansas in the distance---the view is that uninterrupted. The Rocky Mountains are a backdrop, and as such, Denver has a remarkably mild climate (over 300 days of sunshine a year), something its residents take for granted as they actively pursue outdoor recreation to their heart's content.