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Archuleta County

The Southwest Colorado Steering Committee welcomes you to our 2010 Rural Philanthropy Days for Archuleta, La Plata, Montezuma, Dolores and San Juan Counties.

Archuleta County

Archuleta County is located in Southwest Colorado and sits at an altitude of 7079 feet. It is comprised of 1,364 sq. miles featuring a variety of topography – from high alpine mountains to sandstone river canyons and high desert vistas. Only 34% of lands in Archuleta County are in private ownership; tribal lands make up 14.4% of the county and 51.6% is within the San Juan National Forest.

Pagosa Springs, the county seat, is located 30 miles north of the New Mexico border and 60 miles east of Durango, CO. The two other communities within the county are Arboles and Chromo.  Our community is isolated; residents must travel 277 miles to Denver or 212 miles to Albuquerque, the closest large cities.


The 2008 US Census estimated the county population at 12,648. From 1990 to 2000, the population of Archuleta County grew by 8.5% annually, and was ranked 5th of 63 Colorado counties (14th nationwide) for rate of growth. Since 2000, the estimated rate of growth has slowed down to about 3.7% annually. Racially, Archuleta County residents are 80.7% White (not Hispanic), 16.2% Hispanic or Latino origin, 1.6% American Indian, .5% Black and .3% Asian.

EconomyShuttered business

In Archuleta County most job income comes from the service sector, followed by construction and trade. The most important direct base industry in the county is tourism (including real estate), comprising 1,311 jobs and 67% of all direct base job income. A full 59% of Archuleta County’s real estate belongs to non- or part-time owners, representing the highest percentage in the entire region. This amenity-based growth brings with it a whole set of problems; buyers from outside of the community create housing prices that do not reflect the wages paid in Archuleta County. At the same time, second homes in Pagosa generate the need for more workers in the service industry, but the rise in property values and housing costs have made it difficult for those workers to afford housing. Service industry jobs often do not pay wages high enough to allow workers to purchase or even rent housing. And those who have managed somehow to purchase a home are now in danger: Archuleta County had the fifth-highest foreclosure rate in the state, with one in 53 homes being foreclosed on in 2009 compared to the state average of 1 in 94.

Locally, significant increases in violent crime were identified in 2009, most notably in sexual assault cases (71% increase) and family violence and assault cases (14% increase). Last year, local advocacy agencies served a total of 434 victims, responding to a 30% increase in crisis call volume, most likely due to problems related to the economic crisis.

The Town of Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County governments are currently working together to create a healthy, sustainable economy through the creation of the Community Development Corporation, a 501(c)(3) organization.

EducationSeeds of Learning preschool

The population is served by the Archuleta County 50 Jt. School District, which currently enrolls 1,490 students at its four public K-12 schools. 768 students (51%) qualify for the free or reduced lunch program and 29% of all the county’s public school students are designated minority. Archuleta County has an 80% graduation rate, compared to 74.1% for the state. The district is facing the loss of $2.3 million of its $12.5 million budget in state funding (18%) over the next two years. The looming probability of a 4-day school week, building closures and larger class sizes will force the community to rely ever more heavily on the non-profits that serve the social and educational needs of our children.

The Archuleta County Education Center offers programming for children, youth and adults including basic skills tutoring, literacy classes, GED preparation, ESL courses, job skills training, computer classes, first aid/CPR, foreign language classes and college courses through distance learning. It also administers the Archuleta County High School which currently enrolls 46 at-risk students in grades 9-12. The Education Center has met or exceeded its student contract number and AYP in each of the past 5 years.

Healthcarepagosa mtn hospital

On January 7, 2008, the Pagosa Mountain Hospital (PMH) opened and began offering acute care service to Archuleta County.  Being the first and only county hospital offering 24/7 medical services, the opening of the PMH represents a major milestone.  Previously the nearest hospital was in Durango. In 2009, PMH saw 13,732 total patients. The newest initiative, Pagosa Mountain Clinic, opened in November 2009 to serve the under-served & under-insured populations. Since the hospital opened, 52 FTE jobs have been added to the local economy and more will be created with the addition of supplemental health care services.  These new jobs are a huge boost to Archuleta County’s economy, providing a high standard of pay and benefits that will help set a standard for other businesses in the county.

The San Juan Basin Health Department and the Southwest Colorado Mental Health Center also provide dental, mental health & general health services that are critical to our community.

Recreationpagosa hot springs

The wealth of recreational opportunities is integral to the quality of life of Archuleta County’s residents and also plays an important role in our area’s tourism industry. Whether enjoying world-class skiing or snowboarding at Wolf Creek Ski Area (the Most Snow in Colorado!) or fly fishing, whitewater rafting and kayaking on the San Juan River, our residents and visitors place great value upon the natural environment.  Archuleta County is the gateway to 2.8 million acres of wilderness and national forest areas , providing year-round recreational opportunities including hiking, mountain biking, photography, horseback riding, Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, hunting, ATVing and rock climbing. Pagosa Springs is home to the Great Pagosa Hot Spring, one of the hottest and deepest natural hot springs in the world.

With such an outdoor-centered population, it is no surprise that a key piece of Archuleta County’s community vision is to promote stewardship of the land, protect open space and keep our air and water clean.

Culturefolk west fest

Cultural Tourism plays a huge role in the area’s economic picture. Numerous festivals and events take place throughout the year drawing thousands of visitors to Archuleta County. Additionally, Pagosa Springs has several active theater groups, an arts council and a handful of music-oriented nonprofits that add to the quality of life for residents.

Historical preservation is important to Archuleta County, where the San Juan Historical Society operates a museum and promotes a historic walking tour of downtown Pagosa Springs.  The area is also rich in ancient history; the Chimney Rock Archeological Area was designated an Archaeological Area and National Historic Site in 1970. Hundreds of people visit the Chimney Rock area each season.

The annual Archuleta County Fair preserves our traditional rural culture of ranchers. Its total attendance in 2009 was 5,000 people.

Current Challenges

The economic downturn has hit Archuleta County particularly hard because of our past reliance upon building and real estate as the primary economic drivers. Any true economic development in our future must address not only job creation, but also affordable housing, industry diversification, development of infrastructure, education, small business support, availability of childcare and non-profit support. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing Archuleta County today is aligning much-needed economic growth and development in ways that will enhance the quality of residents’ lives while also protecting our natural environment.