Tall Tales

Here's the truth about Colorado's myths. We swear.

January 2011


20. Breckenridge is named for a Confederate. True

The town of “Breckinridge” was incorporated in 1859 and named after John C. Breckinridge, the vice president under James Buchanan. After Breckinridge, a Kentuckian, sided with the Confederates during the Civil War, the pro-Yankee town switched the spelling to “Breckenridge”—a more P.C. name, if one letter really makes a difference. —PD

21. Colorado has more microbreweries per capita than any other state. False

Oh, how we wished this were true. We wanted to believe the Tourism Office’s list of “Colorado Fun Facts” and the Colorado Brewers Guild when they told us the state’s 114 craft breweries topped the list. Alas, fellow hop heads, it just isn’t so. According to the Brewers Association—the largest organization of brewers in the country—we’re lagging behind: The Centennial State ranks sixth in number of craft breweries per capita, with just one per 46,960 people. (Vermont wins with one per 32,724 people.) And while our total number of breweries is tied for second with Washington state, our beer output from craft breweries ranks fourth. Does that mean our Napa Valley of Beer moniker needs a little reworking? Not just yet. Grab some friends and get brewing—we’re almost there. —DS

22. An aspen tree is the world’s largest organism. False

Individually, aspens aren’t the largest organisms: The trees are measly compared to a 30-acre deposit of fungus (yes, you read that right) in Michigan. So why does this tall tale persist? Like the fungus, aspens mature from a single root system. Some believe a 106-acre stand of 47,000 genetically identical quaking aspens in Utah is the world’s largest organism—by weight (about 13.2 million pounds). —DS

23. At roughly 26 miles, Colfax Avenue is the longest continuous street in the country. False

No one seems to know exactly how far east Colfax stretches, making it difficult to measure the infamous thoroughfare’s length. But, if you really want to split hairs, according to Colorado’s Department of Transportation, Colfax is likely the longest commercial street in the country. But (forgive us, we’re editors) is the zoning continuous? That’s difficult to say because there are residences on Colfax. We called Denver historian Phil Goodstein for an opinion. His answer: The claim is simply Denver provincialism. —JD

24. Ralphie, the University of Colorado’s buffalo mascot, is a girl. True

Get over it, boys: All five Ralphies have been female animals, which are smaller and easier to handle than their male counterparts. (For sure.) To boot, the furry creatures aren’t even buffs, but bison, a close relative—and a fine distinction in bovine science. —AMANDA QUINN

25. The tallest sand dunes in America are located here. True

Sure, Colorado is landlocked, but the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (near Alamosa) lays claim to the largest sand dunes in the country with peaks that top 700 feet. The sand comes from ancient lake beds, and a unique combination of winds and water flows help keep the sand trapped against the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Cue: Colorado’s version of California’s Central Coast…sort of. —NG