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Dolores County

The Southwest Colorado Steering Committee welcomes you to our 2014 Rural Philanthropy Days for Archuleta, La Plata, Montezuma, Dolores and San Juan Counties.



Dolores County borders Utah on the West and is only a short drive from New Mexico to the South.  The original settlers included Ute, Navajo and Paiute tribes.  The western part of the County was one of the last areas in the United States to be homesteaded, beginning in 1914, though a number of traders, slaves, horses and cowboys passed through the area along the Old Spanish Trail.   Rico and Dove Creek are the only incorporated towns in the County.  There are, however, a number of other settlements and post offices in various locations throughout the County.  These include Dunton, Cahone, Squaw Point, Egnar, Bug Point and Cedar Point. sunflowers and plant


From Disappointment Valley at 5,900 feet to Mount Wilson at 14,046 feet, Dolores County encompasses 1,064 square miles of high mountains, mesas and narrow valleys.  Approximately 60% of Dolores County is public land, managed through the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, and includes such treasures as Dolores Canyon Overlook and the San Juan National Forest, along with a number of hiking and biking trails and other recreational opportunities.  

In addition to the breathtaking scenery, Dolores County is ideally situated for hunting, fishing and wildlife viewing.  Six species of big game animals call Dolores County home; mule deer, elk, black bear, mountain lion and desert bighorn sheep.  Beaver and river otter inhabit the Dolores River, along with bald and golden eagles during the winter.  A large portion of the Dolores River is managed as a quality trout fishery, allowing fishermen the opportunity to hook trophy sized Brown Rainbow and Cutthroat trout.

Demographics & Economy

Dolores County has a full-time population of less than 2,000 people; approximately 700 live within the city limits of Dove Creek, the county seat.  Another 300 reside in the Rico/Dunton area, while the remaining residents live outside city limits.  With an agriculture-dependent economy, Dolores County showcases a difficult and disappearing way of life.  The average farm is 700 acres; typical crops include beans, wheat alfalfa, sunflowers and grass hay. Deer in stream

Dolores County is also the home of the San Juan Bioenergy Plant; a state-of-the-art oil extrusion and integrated bioenergy production facility.  Local farmers produce sunflower, safflower and canola to be crushed for food grade oils, animal feeds and fuel.  The waste from the process is then used to provide most of the heat and power needed for the facility’s operations.

Health Services

Dolores County is one of only thirteen nonmetropolitan counties in Colorado without a hospital. The Dolores County Community Health Clinic is the only medical provider in the County.  Staffed by a physician, a physician’s assistant, a dentist, a dental hygienist and a social worker, each working 3 days a week, the clinic serves approximately 16 patients a day.  Funded in part by a Health Resources and Services Administration grant, the clinic sees insured and uninsured patients alike, with sliding scale fees for uninsured patients.  Services include sports physicals, vaccination clinics, weight loss clinics, tobacco cessation programs, and well woman programs.  The Clinic is currently undergoing an expansion and remodel; when it is complete, the clinic will be 8200 square feet.

For a more detailed overview of Dolores County basic health services infrastructure and demographics, please see the Dolores County profile written by the Colorado Rural Health Center.

Challengesbiodiesel plant

While the rural nature of Dolores County is one our greatest treasures, it has presented significant challenges to our community.  Nearly 50% of Dolores County students qualify for free or reduced lunch programs; significantly above the state average.  The County unemployment rate is rising and recently hit 17%.  Due to a lack of industry, 36% of the workforce leaves the county each day for work.  The big industries of the Western Slope have largely ignored Dolores County; only a handful of the 25,700 active oil and gas wells in Colorado are in Dolores County.  The service industry is likewise largely absent; tourists in Dolores County are most often served by businesses outside the County.  The lack of industry in Dolores County not only affects the unemployment rate of the area; it has a significant impact on overall County resources.


Nonprofits in Dolores County

  • Office of Emergency Coordination
  • Dove Creek Volunteer Ambulance Service
  • Dove Creek Conservation District Service Program
  • Dolores County Senior Services
  • Cahone Recreation Hall & Senior Center
  • Dove’s Nest Early Care & Education Center
  • Dove Creek Volunteer Fire Department
  • Dolores County Health Association
  • Dolores County Historical Society
  • Students Taking action against Underage Drinking (STUD)
  • Dolores County Development Corporation and Foundation
  • Dove Creek Chamber of Commerce
  • Alpine Society
  • Rico Historical Society
  • Rico Volunteer Fire Department

RPD Brings Help to Dolores County Seniors through the Cahone Senior Center

When Nita Purkat became co-director of the Cahone Senior Center in 2000, she had no experience in grant writing or running a nonprofit organization.  By early 2002, Nita found that her budget was unable to support the Senior Center programs, and she had to cut her own salary and the hours of her staff members.  Then she heard about Rural Philanthropy Days.  She left Rural Philanthropy Days with promises of funding assistance from Anschutz Family Foundation, the Colorado Rural Health Center and the Coors Family Foundation.  Still unfamiliar with the grant writing process, Nita took the post-RPD grant writing class offered by the Community Resource Center, which gave her the skills necessary to capitalize on the promises of funding.  She calls the grant writing class “absolutely vital” to the continued success of the Senior Center; CRC review of her first grant applications ensured their success.  The first grant Nita received was from the Phillip Morris foundation for Meals on Wheels programs; $10,000 over two years. 

Because of Rural Philanthropy Days, and the training offered by the Community Resource Center, the Senior Center has been awarded more than $350,000 in grants since 2002. 

Just as importantly, Nita notes that she began supportive relationships with funders that have continued to this day.  The networks that she formed at the 2002 Rural Philanthropy Days have allowed her to participate in leadership programs, which have increased her capacity to lead the Senior Center.  The Senior Center has gone from two programs in 2002 to seven very active senior programs, which helps the Senior Center fulfill its mission of keeping people at home safely, with dignity, as long as possible.