||Lying on the western border of Colorado, Mesa County is surrounded by the starkly contrasting natural landmarks of the Colorado National Monument and its red sandstone monoliths, the Uncompahgre and Grand Mesa National Forests, and the colorful Bookcliffs. The county encompasses 3,309 square miles, much of which is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Today, Mesa County is home to more than 115,000 people in 15 communities, the largest of which is Grand Junction.
|In prehistoric times, western Colorado was a flood plain with a humid climate. It was home to dinosaurs whose bones are still an attraction for tourists and scientists from around the world. The first known humans in this valley were Fremont Indians, living here between 250 and 1300 AD. The Fremonts were hunters, farmers, and artists; their pictographs and petroglyphs continue to fascinate visitors today. In the 1800s, Mesa County was home to the Northern Ute Indians and their revered leader, Chief Ouray. Two traveling Spanish friars - Dominguez and Escalante - named many of the region's mountains and rivers. The discovery of gold and silver drew prospectors and towns were founded to meet the needs of miners.
Although Colorado became the 38th state in the Union in 1876, it was not until 1883 that Mesa County was created from neighboring counties and Grand Junction was named the county seat. Grand Junction was staked in the early 1800s through a land rush settlement. It was first called Ute, then West Denver, and finally, Grand Junction, because of its location at the confluence of the Gunnison and Grand (now the Colorado) Rivers. Grand Junction began to thrive when the main line of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad came into the area in 1887. Soon after, major irrigation projects transformed the Grand Valley into a fertile agricultural area. Mesa County is now noted for its wide variety of agricultural produce, often boasting to have the best peaches money can buy. The mild climate and low humidity create perfect growing conditions for grapes, supporting many vineyards and wineries around the valley. Mesa County is also home to a number of light manufacturing and service industries, hospitals, a regional airport, ski resort, and numerous outstanding recreational opportunities and cultural activities.