Naming Places, Part 3

Canon pintadoCañon Pintado in Rio Blanco County was named by two Spanish speaking priests – Father Domingues and Father Escalante. They passed through the area in 1776 and were struck by the colorful canyon walls decorated with prehistoric Indian pictographs. They named it “painted canyon.”
          Many Spanish names are found in Southern Colorado, which was first settled by Spanish speaking people.
          The town of Nutria in Archuletta County is New Mexican Spanish for “beaver.” In proper Spanish it means “otter.”
          The mountain pass called Raton means “mouse.” In rural New Mexico the term identified a squirrel.
          “Rito” meant a creek in the Spanish language of rural New Mexico and early Southern Colorado. Rito Gato in Conejos County means “cat creek.” Rito Hondo in Hinsdale County means “deep creek.” Rito Oso or “bear creek” is found in Huerfano County.

For more information about place names in Colorado, see Colorado Place Names by George R. Eichler (1977) or Colorado Place Names by William Bright (1993).

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