Fruita, Colorado

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City of Fruita, Colorado
Home Rule Municipality
Interstate 70 sign at Fruita exit.

Interstate 70 sign at Fruita exit.
Nickname(s): Home of Mike the Headless Chicken
Motto: Honor the Past, Envision the Future
Location of Fruita in Mesa County, Colorado.
Location of Fruita in Mesa County, Colorado.
Coordinates: 39°9′N 108°43′WCoordinates39°9′N 108°43′W
Country United States
State Colorado
County[1] Mesa County
Established 1884
Incorporated April 18, 1894[2]
 • Type Home Rule Municipality[1]
 • Mayor Lori Buck[3]
 • Total 7.81 sq mi (20.23 km2)
 • Land 7.62 sq mi (19.74 km2)
 • Water 0.19 sq mi (0.48 km2)
Elevation[5] 4,514 ft (1,376 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 12,646
 • Estimate (2016)[6] 12,924
 • Density 1,695.17/sq mi (654.55/km2)
Time zone MST (UTC-7)
 • Summer (DST) MDT (UTC-6)
ZIP code[7] 81521
Area code(s) 970
FIPS code 08-28745
GNIS feature ID 0204660

The City of Fruita (pronounced /ˈfruːtə/) is a Home Rule Municipality located in western Mesa CountyColoradoUnited States. Fruita is part of the Grand Junction Metropolitan Statistical Area and within the Grand Valley. The geography is identified by the bordering Colorado River (historically known as the Grand River) on the southern edge of town, the Uncompahgre Plateau known for its pinyon-juniper landscape, and the Book Cliffs range on the northern edge of the Grand Valley. The population was 12,646 at the 2010 census.[8] Originally home to the Ute people, white farmers settled the town after founder William Pabor in 1884. Ten years later, Fruita was incorporated.

Economically, it started out as a fruit producing region, but today it is well known for its outdoor sports such as mountain bikinghiking, and rafting, its proximity to the Colorado National Monument, and its annual festivals. Fruita has been the winner of the Governor’s Smart Growth and Development Award for four consecutive years. The city motto is “Honor the Past, Envision the Future”.




Fruita has had steady population growth for over a century, with descendants of many of the original pioneers still living in the area. The first permanent homesteaders in the Fruita area were possibly Mr. and Mrs. Albert Lapham who settled in late 1882. They resided in a pre-existing cabin with a dirt floor and a blanket door. They were followed by other settlers, nearly all of whom were farmers of one sort or another. The present town was established on May 1, 1884, by William E. Pabor, when he formed the Fruita Town and Land Company. In 1886, for the cost of $500 a farmer could buy five acres, 200 fruit trees and water. Pabor recognized the great promise of the Grand Valley and penned a 300-page volume, Colorado as an Agricultural State, in which he spoke of the fruit-growing potential of this area. Having worked with the Horace Greeley Union Colony, he founded the town in a similar way, including the provision that no liquor be sold or manufactured in the town. This provision lasted until it was voted out in the late 1970s.

The original town site was planned for 80 acres (32 ha) with a park in the middle. The first water reached the town from the Colorado River in 1907. By 1909, the town center was linked with electricity. In the 1930s, Fruita participated in several government projects, including the Grand Valley Resettlement Project (later Western Slope Farms). Settled in groups of two or three families per area, 34 families were relocated by 1937. Later, the Rural Electrification Project brought electricity to around 800 or 900 farms. Fruita also had a Civilian Conservation Corps, several Works Progress Administration projects including the town library (now the Chamber of Commerce), a federal loan for the new central school (now the Civic Center) and the construction of the spectacular Rim Rock Driveto the top of the Colorado National Monument, elevation 8,000 feet (2,400 m).[9] Today, the historic activities of Fruita are supported by the efforts of the Fruita Historic Preservation Board and the Lower Valley Heritage Chapter.


Dinosaur Hill

Triceratops skull at Dinosaur Journey Museum, Fruita

In 1900, paleontologist Elmer Riggs and crew, from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, found the first known Brachiosaurus altithorax at a location later called “Riggs Hill,” located off what is now State Highway 340 in Grand Junction. Led here by communications with Dr. S.M. Bradbury of Grand Junction, Riggs had heard that ranchers had been collecting fossils around the area for 20 years. In 1901, Riggs and crew found nearly two thirds of an Apatosaurus excelsus skeleton (commonly known as a Brontosaurus) on the northeast side of Dinosaur Hill, in Fruita. This is still considered to be one of the finest specimens known. Later, other sauropod bones were also found, which eventually led to the landmark’s name. The animals were from the late Jurassic Age (150 million years ago) and within the 600-foot-thick (180 m) Morrison Formation.[10]

Fossils of the Fruitadens (a heterodontosaurid dinosaur), the world’s smallest known plant-eating dinosaur, were first found in the Fruita Paleontological Area (within the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area) off Kings View Road in the 1970s and 1980s. The name means “Fruita tooth”. There is a replica on display at the Dinosaur Journey Museum. The museum is a part of the Museum of Western Colorado and has information on local paleontology and geology.

Also found here and named after the town is the Mesozoic mammal Fruitafossor (“Fruita digger”), discovered 2005. It was a small animal at less than 10 grams body mass, and had a lifestyle similar to modern-day armadillos but was not related to them, but rather close to the ancestor of all therian mammals. Thus, this important find proves that the first “modern” mammals lived in the Jurassic already.

The region is within the Dinosaur Diamond Scenic Byway and includes two other nearby dinosaur-related sites: Mygatt-Moore Quarry and Trail Through Time off Interstate 70 exit 2.

Historic properties[edit]

The stone cottage building located at 432 East Aspen Avenue was built in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration. Originally built as the Fruita Museum in order to house geological displays, it has served as the home of the Fruita Times, the town library (1948–1996), and is currently in use by the Fruita Area Chamber of Commerce. Owned by the City of Fruita, it has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1996.[11]

The two-and-a-half-story, Queen Anne Style stone house at 798 North Mesa Street was built in 1908 by builder A.B. Mahany and first owner Harry Alvah Phillips. It is known locally as the Phillips House and currently run as the Stonehaven Bed and Breakfast. It is bordered by mature cottonwoods, agricultural land, and the Elmwood Cemetery. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.[11]

The two-story Neoclassical building located on 325 East Aspen Avenue was built in 1912 with an addition added in 1936. It was built by the Works Progress Administration as the Central Grade School. In 1993, city and state funds enabled a major renovation, placing it on the State Register of Historic Properties. It currently is the home to the Fruita Civic Center.[12]


Fruita is located at 39°9′N 108°43′W (39.156594, −108.724554).[13] It is 4,514 feet (1,376 m) above sea level in the high desert climate zone on the Colorado Plateau. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 7.3 square miles (18.9 km2), of which 7.1 square miles (18.4 km2) is land and 0.19 square miles (0.5 km2), or 2.55%, is water.[14] Surrounding the city limits is the Colorado River, the Colorado National Monument and the Book Cliffs range which extends west into the state of Utah via Interstate 70.

Distance from Fruita to: Grand Junction-15 mi (24 km), Utah-17 mi (27 km), Montrose-73 mi (117 km), Glenwood Springs-99 mi (159 km), Denver-255 mi (410 km), Salt Lake City-265 mi (426 km).


The coldest and hottest months of the year are January and July respectively. The annual average precipitation is 8.81 inches and the average annual snowfall is 13.2 inches. The average annual number of growing days is 145 days. in 2006, the average temperature was 52.2 °F (11 °C).[15] Fruita experiences an average of 300 days of sunshine per year.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 126
1910 881 599.2%
1920 1,193 35.4%
1930 1,053 −11.7%
1940 1,486 41.1%
1950 1,463 −1.5%
1960 1,830 25.1%
1970 1,822 −0.4%
1980 2,810 54.2%
1990 4,045 44.0%
2000 6,478 60.1%
2010 12,646 95.2%
Est. 2016 12,924 [6] 2.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[16]

As of the census of 2010,[17] there were 12,646 people residing in the city. The population density was 1,733 people per square mile (669.1/km²).

As of the 2000 census, there were 2,610 housing units at an average density of 439.6 per square mile (169.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.65% White, 0.37% African American, 1.16% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 5.45% from other races, and 2.05% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.93% of the population.

At the 2000 census there were 2,447 households out of which 36.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.6% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.1% were non-families. 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city, the 2000 census population was spread out with 27.9% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 16.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city at the 2000 census was $32,929, and the median income for a family was $38,487. Males had a median income of $31,372 versus $20,752 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,024. About 8.3% of families and 12.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.2% of those under age 18 and 16.8% of those age 65 or over.