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Cañon City is a Home Rule Municipality that is the county seat and the most populous municipality of Fremont County, Colorado, United States. The city population was 16,400 at the 2010 United States Census. Cañon City straddles the easterly flowing Arkansas River and is a popular tourist destination for sightseeing, whitewater rafting, and rock climbing. The city is known for its many public parks, fossil discoveries, Skyline Drive, The Royal Gorge railroad, the Royal Gorge, extensive natural hiking paths, and the tropical-like weather year-round."
In 1994, the United States Board on Geographic Names approved adding the tilde to the official name of Cañon City, a change from Canon City as the official name in its decisions of 1906 and 1975. It is one of the few U.S. cities to have an Ñ in its name, others being La Cañada Flintridge, California; Española, New Mexico; Peñasco, New Mexico; and Cañones, New Mexico.
Cañon City was laid out on January 17, 1858, during the Pike's Peak Gold Rush, but then the land was left idle. A new company "jumped the claim" to the town's site in late 1859, and it put up the first building in February 1860. This town was originally intended as a commercial center for mining in South Park and the upper Arkansas River.
In 1861, the town raised two companies of volunteers to serve with the Second Colorado Infantry during the American Civil War. This regiment fought in skirmishes in nearby New Mexico and as far east as the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and Missouri before ending its organization in 1865.
In 1862, A. M. Cassaday drilled for petroleum 6 miles (10 km) north of Cañon City, close to a known oil seep. Cassaday struck oil at the depth of 50 feet (15 m), and he completed the first commercial oil well west of the Mississippi River. He drilled five or six more wells nearby, and he refined kerosene and fuel oil from the petroleum. Cassaday sold the products in Denver.
A number of metal ore smelters were built in Cañon City following the discovery of gold at Cripple Creek in 1891.
The Cañon City Downtown Historic District is an historic district that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Cañon City is located in eastern Fremont County at 38°26′48″N 105°13′42″W (38.446800, -105.228305) at an altitude of 5,332 feet (1,625 m). It sits primarily on the north side of the Arkansas River, just east of where the river exits from Royal Gorge. It is bordered to the south by the unincorporated community of Lincoln Park. Via U.S. Route 50, Pueblo is 39 miles (63 km) to the east and Poncha Springs is 62 miles (100 km) to the west. Colorado Springs is 45 miles (72 km) to the northeast.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.5 square miles (32.4 km2), of which 0.01 square miles (0.03 km2), or 0.09%, is water. Cañon City sits in the "high desert" land of southern Colorado, the same desert lands of Pueblo and Florence.
The city's nickname, "the Climate Capital of Colorado", derives from the combination of unique geography and 5,300-foot (1,600 m) elevation protecting the city from harsh weather conditions. The average daily high temperature in January is 14 °F (10 °C) warmer in Cañon City than in Grand Junction, even though the elevation of Cañon City is higher.
The average minimum temperature in January is 20 °F (−7 °C). During July, overnight lows are 59 °F (15 °C) on average. Cañon City has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk).
As Cañon City has grown, the city has both annexed surrounding communities and developed new subdivisions to create the city that exists today.
Cañon City is home to many city-owned parks, as well as parks owned by the Cañon City Area Recreation and Park District.
The Cañon City Area Recreation and Park District, commonly called the Rec District, was created in 1965 to better serve the community's recreational needs with parks, the R.C. Icabone Pool (a public swimming pool), a dog park, an archery range and a ropes course along with a rec district office with a community room.
The following parks are operated and owned by the Rec District:
As of the census of 2000, there were 15,431 people, 6,164 households, and 3,803 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,284.1 people per square mile (495.7/km²). There were 6,617 housing units at an average density of 550.6 per square mile (212.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.15% White, 1.59% African American, 1.04% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 1.61% from other races, and 2.01% from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 8.33% of the population.
There were 6,164 households out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.0% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.3% were non-families. 33.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.90.
The age distribution was 23.5% under the age of 18, 6.7% from 18 to 24, 28.2% from 25 to 44, 21.5% from 45 to 64, and 20.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 100.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $31,736, and the median income for a family was $42,917. Males had a median income of $31,258 versus $21,849 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,970. About 7.1% of families and 11.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.9% of those under age 18 and 9.6% of those age 65 or over.
Along with a police department, sheriff's office and detention center, and a municipal court, Cañon City is home to the courts for Fremont County and the 11th Judicial District of Colorado. It has been described as "America’s cheeriest prison town".
Cañon City is governed via the mayor-council system. The city council consists of seven members who are elected from districts. The mayor is elected by the entire city.
The area being situated along the Arkansas River has allowed for soil suitable to orchards, ranching and farming, but Cañon City has slowly transitioned from an agricultural community to more of a diverse economy including not only agriculture, but tourism, education, manufacturing, medicine and many other sectors.
Cañon City depends on its tourism industry which includes the Royal Gorge Route Railroad, Royal Gorge Bridge and Park, Red Canyon Park, The Abbey winery, and various other attractions. The major employers in Cañon City include the quaint downtown shops, the entrepreneurial TechSTART initiative that attracts major technology-based entrepreneurs, Colorado Department of Corrections and Centura Health (owner of St. Thomas More Hospital and the Progressive Care Center).
Colorado Department of Corrections operates the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility in Cañon City. In addition to several correctional facilities near Cañon City in unincorporated areas in Fremont County, Colorado State Penitentiary, the location of the state death row and execution chamber is in Fremont County. Other state prisons in Fremont County include Arrowhead Correctional Center, Centennial Correctional Facility, Fremont Correctional Facility, Four Mile Correctional Center, and Skyline Correctional Center.
On October 3, 1929, a riot at the prison claimed 13 lives.
The Colorado Women's Correctional Facility near Cañon City in unincorporated Fremont County, was decommissioned on June 4, 2009.
Prisons have served an important significance to both Cañon City and the surrounding areas of Fremont County, as well as to the state of Colorado. To learn more about the history of prisons in Colorado, the Museum of Colorado Prisons has been given the role of preserving and presenting the past of the state's corrections system.
From Cañon City's Downtown Historic District located in the heart of the city to the Royal Gorge Bridge, there are many places to see and visit in the area.
Cañon City is home to a daily newspaper, called the Cañon City Daily Record; an FM radio station, Star Country 104.5 FM; and a long-running AM radio station, known as KRLN NewsRadio 1400 AM.
Transportation in the Cañon City area consists of cab service, shuttle bus service, and a downtown wagon ride. The Royal Gorge Bridge trolley had also been used during special events (it was destroyed in the Royal Gorge Fire, but it was reserved for use by the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park. Jeep tours and Segway tours are also available to explore local parks such as Red Canyon Park or scenic places such as Skyline Drive.
The town is served by the Fremont County airport (1V6) which is 6 miles to the East (https://www.fremontco.com/airport/) and currently has no scheduled passenger service. Within an hour's drive is the Colorado Springs airport with daily service by major airlines.
The area is served by one state and one U.S. highway with a mix of city and county roads to navigate the city or connect to neighboring areas.
Cañon City's school system is under the direction of the Cañon City School District Fremont RE-1. The district currently has four elementary schools, one charter school, one school serving as both an elementary school and middle school, one middle school and one high school, Cañon City High School. For the higher education needs of the community, Pueblo Community College provides a branch campus on the west end of the city along U.S. Highway 50.
The 1948 movie "Canon City" depicts the real-life 1947 escape of 12 prisoners from nearby Colorado State Penitentiary.
A fictional version of the city is depicted in Philip K. Dick's alternate history novel The Man in the High Castle (1963) and eponymous 2015 television series based on it. Cañon City is located in an ostensibly demilitarized 'neutral zone' situated between the puppet regimes of the Japanese Pacific States and Greater Nazi Reich in the former United States.
The season twelve premiere of the tv series ER features characters Samantha Taggart and Luka Kovac going to Canon City to find her son, who'd run away to find his father who was in prison there.
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