Flag & Symbols

Colorado State Archives
Symbols & Emblems

Colorado has an official state flag, a state seal, two state songs and many official emblems and symbols. These have been officially adopted by legislative action of the Colorado General Assembly or by executive order of the Governor of Colorado. The official designation of several of our symbols and emblems was influenced by the participation of Colorado school children and their teachers in the legislative process.
State Flag
State Seal
State Motto Nil Sine Numine - Nothing Without the Deity
State Name and Nickname Colorado / Centennial State
State Animal Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep
State Bird Lark Bunting
State Fish Greenback Cutthroat Trout
State Flower White and Lavender Columbine
State Folk Dance Square Dance
State Fossil Stegosaurus
State Gemstone Aquamarine
State Grass Blue Grama Grass
State Insect Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly
State Song "Where the Columbines Grow"
State Song "Rocky Mountain High"
State Tartan State Tartan
State Tree Colorado Blue Spruce
State Mineral Rhodochrosite
State Rock Yule Marble
State Reptile Western Painted Turtle

State Flag

Image of Colorado State Flag The state flag was adopted on June 5, 1911 by an act of the General Assembly. The flag was adopted to be used on all occasions when the state is officially and publicly represented, with the privilege of use by all citizens upon such occasions as they deem fitting and appropriate. Laws pertaining to use of the National flag are also applicable to use of the State flag.
The flag consists of three alternate stripes of equal width and at right angles to the staff, the two outer stripes to be blue of the same color as in the blue field of the national flag and the middle stripe to be white, the proportion of the flag being a width of two-thirds of its length. At a distance from the staff end of the flag of one fifth of the total length of the flag there is a circular red C, of the same color as the red in the national flag of the United States. The diameter of the letter is two-thirds of the width of the flag. The inner line of the opening of the letter C is three-fourths of the width of its body or bar, and the outer line of the opening is double the length of the inner line thereof. Completely filling the open space inside the letter C is a golden disk, attached to the flag is a cord of gold and silver, intertwined, with tassels, one of gold and one of silver.
The flag was originally designed by Andrew Carlisle Johnson. Precise colors of red and blue were not designated in the 1911 legislation and some controversy arose over these colors. On February 28, 1929, the General Assembly stipulated the precise colors of red and blue as the same as the national flag. Controversy also arose over the size of the letter C and on March 31, 1964, the General Assembly further modified the 1911 legislation by revising the distance from the staff for the letter C and its diameter. Citations: Senate Bill 118, 1911; Senate Bill 152, 1929; Senate Bill , 1964.
Flag Chronology
The geographical territory which comprises the present day State of Colorado has historically been under many flags.

  • Coronado's expedition into the Southwest in 1540-42 gave substance to Spain's claim to the entire western interior region to the United States.
  • In 1662, when LaSalle floated down the Mississippi River, he claimed for the French King the entire drainage area of the "Father of Waters", which included a substantial area of Colorado.
  • During the 17th and 18th centuries, the British Colonies of New England and Virginia extended their theoretical boundaries all the way to the pacific Coast, overlapping the French and Spanish claims.
  • Between 1763 and 1848, Colorado belonged in varying proportions to France, Spain, Mexico and the Republic of Texas.
  • In 1803, when Napoleon withdrew his claims to the West and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, a part of Colorado came under U.S. jurisdiction for the first time.
  • Between 1803 and 1861, various flags of the District of Louisiana (part of Indiana Territory), Territory of Louisiana, Missouri Territory, the State of Deseret (predecessor to Utah), Utah Territory, New Mexico Territory, Nebraska Territory, Kansas Territory; and last, Colorado Territory.
  • On February 28, 1861, when Colorado Territory was created, the present boundaries were established and have remained unchanged to the present time.
  • On August 1, 1876, Colorado became the 38th State to enter the Union under the flag of the United States.
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State Seal

Image of State Seal The circular Seal of the State of Colorado is an adaptation of the Territorial Seal which was adopted by the First Territorial Assembly on November 6, 1861. The only changes made in the Territorial Seal design being the substitution of the words, "State of Colorado" and the figures "1876" for the corresponding inscriptions on the territorial seal. The first General Assembly of the State of Colorado approved the adoption of the state seal on March 15, 1877. The Colorado Secretary of State alone is authorized to affix the Great Seal of Colorado to any document whatsoever. By statute, the seal of the State is two and one-half inches in diameter with the following devices inscribed thereon: At the top is the eye of God within a triangle, from which golden rays radiate on two sides. Below the eye is a scroll, the Roman fasces, a bundle of birch or elm rods with a battle axe bound together by red thongs and bearing on a band of red, white and blue, the word, "Union and Constitution." The Roman fasces is the insignia of a republican form of government. The bundle of rods bound together symbolizes strength which is lacking in the single rod. The axe symbolizes authority and leadership. Below the scroll is the heraldic shield bearing across the top on a red ground three snow-capped mountains with clouds above them. The lower half of the shield has two miner's tools, the pick and sledge hammer, crossed on a golden ground. Below the shield in a semicircle is the motto, "Nil Sine Numine", Latin words meaning "nothing without the Deity", and at the bottom the figures 1876, the year Colorado came into statehood.
The design for the Territorial Seal which served as a model for the State Seal or Great Seal of Colorado has been variously credited, but the individual primarily responsible was Lewis Ledyard Weld, the Territorial Secretary, appointed by President Lincoln in July of 1861. There is also evidence that Territorial Governor William Gilpin also was at least partially responsible for the design. Both Weld and Gilpin were knowledgeable in the art and symbolism of heraldry. Elements of design from both the Weld and Gilpin family coat-of-arms are incorporated in the Territorial Seal.
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State Motto

Nil Sine Numine
The Latin phrase "Nil Sine Numine", was adopted as part of the Territorial Seal. At recurring intervals, discussion has ensued concerning interpretation of this Latin phrase which commonly translated is "Nothing without Providence". Others say it is "Nothing without God". In the early mining days of the State, the unregenerate said it meant "nothing without a new mine". In a strict sense, one cannot possibly get "God" from "numine", God being a purely Anglo-Saxon word. The word "numine" means any divinity, god or goddess. The best evidence of intent of Colorado's official designers and framers of the resolution for adoption of the seal is contained in the committee report wherein clear distinction was made between "numine" and "Deo" and it is specifically states that the committee's interpretative translation was "Nothing without the Deity".
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State Name and Nicknames

The name of our state, Colorado, has its origin in the Spanish language, as the word for "colored red". This was the name chosen for Colorado as a Territory in 1861 by Congress.
Colorado has been nicknamed the "Centennial State" because it became a state in the year 1876, 100 years after the signing of our nation's Declaration of Independence.
Colorado also is called "Colorful Colorado" presumably because of our magnificent scenery of mountains, rivers and plains. This phrase has decorated maps, car license plates, tourist information centers and souvenirs of all kinds!
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State Animal

Image of State Animal - The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Ovis canadensis, was adopted as the official state animal on May 1, 1961 by an act of the General Assembly. The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep is found only in the Rockies, usually above timberline in rugged mountainous areas. The male sheep is three to three and a half feet tall at the shoulder and weighs up to three hundred pounds, while the female is slightly smaller. These large animals are known for their agility and perfect sense of balance. The bighorn sheep was named for its massive horns which curve backward from the forehead, down, then forward. On the ram the horns can be as much as fifty inches in length. It is unlawful to pursue, take, hunt, wound, or kill the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep except as provided by law. Citation: Senate Bill 294, 1961; Colorado Revised Statute 24-80-911.
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State Bird

Image of State Bird - The Lark Bunting The Lark Bunting, Calamospiza melanocoryus Stejneger, was adopted as the official state bird on April 29, 1931. The Lark Bunting is a migrant bird. Flocks arrive in April and inhabit the plains regions and areas up to 8,000 feet in elevation. They fly south again in September. The male bird is black with snowy white wing patches and edgings, tail coverts and outer tail feathers. In winter the male bird changes to a gray brown like the female bird, however the chin remains black and the black belly feathers retain white edgings. The female bird is gray brown above and white below with dusky streaks. The male bird is six to seven inches while the female is slightly smaller. The male bird performs a spectacular courtship flight, during which he warbles and trills a distinctive mating song. Citation: House Bill 222, 1931; Colorado Revised Statute 24-80-910.
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State Fish

Image of Greenback Cutthroat Trout The Greenback Cutthroat Trout, Oncorhynchus clarki somias, was adopted as the official state fish on March 15, 1994, by an act of the General Assembly. The Rainbow Trout was considered the state fish from 1954 until 1994, however it was never officially adopted. The Greenback Cutthroat Trout was at one time indigenous to many small creeks, streams and rivers throughout most of Colorado. As mining and human occupation expanded across the state, the greenback easily succumbed to pollution from mine tailings in the state's streams and to competition from other species of trout introduced to Colorado waters. The demise was so complete that up until the late 1980's biologists feared the extinction of this native fish. However, researchers in the early 1990's discovered several small populations of the greenback in a few remote streams in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colorado Division of Wildlife and National Park personnel took immediate steps to protect and propagate the greenback. Plans have been made to reintroduce this colorful fish to other waters within the state which are suitable for its repopulation. Citation: House Bill 1164, 1994; Colorado Revised Statute 24-80-911.5.
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State Flower

Image of State Flower - The White and Lavender Columbine The white and lavender Columbine, Aquilegia caerulea, was adopted as the official state flower on April 4, 1899 by an act of the General Assembly. In 1925, the General Assembly made it the duty of all citizens to protect this rare species from needless destruction or waste. To further protect this fragile flower, the law prohibits digging or uprooting the flower on public lands and limits the gathering of buds, blossoms and stems to 25 in one day. It is unlawful to pick the columbine on private land without consent of the land owner. Citation: Senate Bill 261, 1899, Bill, 1925; Colorado Revised Statutes 24-80-905 through 24-80-908.
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State Folk Dance

The Square Dance was adopted as the official state folk dance on March 16, 1992 by an act of the General Assembly. Square dancing is the American folk dance which traces its ancestry to the English country dance and the French ballroom dance, and which is called, cued, or prompted to the dancers and includes squares, rounds, clogging, contra, line, the Virginia Reel, and heritage dances. Citation: House Bill 1058, 1992; Colorado Revised Statute 24-80-909.5.
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State Fossil

Image of a Stegosaurus The Stegosaurus was designated as the official state fossil on April 28, 1982 by executive order of Governor Richard D. Lamm. The Stegosaurus lived in the area we now know as Colorado one hundred and fifty million years ago during the Mesozoic era in the Jurassic period. It is believed that a typical Stegosaurus weighed ten tons though its brain weighed only two and one-half ounces. There are only 6 skeletons of the Stegosaurus on public display in the United States, one of which may be viewed at the Museum of Natural History in Denver. This skeleton was discovered by a teacher and students from Canon City High School.
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State Gemstone

State Gem - Aquamarine The aquamarine was adopted as the official state gemstone on April 30, 1971, by an act of the General Assembly. The mountain peaks of Mount Antero and White Mountain in Colorado are among the finest quality localities known for gem aquamarine. They are also among the highest in elevation, located at 14,000 feet. The granite rock of these peaks contains pegmatite bodies that are characterized by large miarolitic cavities containing the gem quality aquamarine crystals. The cavities are found through a vertical area of a mere 500 feet. The crystals in these cavities range in color from light blue to pale and deep aquamarine green, and in size from very small to 6 cm in length. Citation: House Bill 1104, 1971; Colorado Revised Statute 24-80-912.
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State Grass

Image of State Grass - Blue Grama Grass Blue Grama grass was adopted as the official state grass on May 20, 1987, by a resolution of the General Assembly. Blue Grama is a grass native to the state of Colorado, growing throughout many of the state's life zones on both sides of the Continental Divide. Grasslands are an important resource to the State of Colorado with considerable economic and conservation significance. A state grass was designated to help inform and educate citizens and tourists about this resource. Citation: Senate Joint Resolution 13, 1987.
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State Insect

Image of State Insect - The Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly The Colorado Hairstreak Butterfly Hypaurotis cysaluswas adopted as the official state insect on April 17, 1996. The butterfly is two inches in width and has purple wings with black borders, orange accents in the corners and blue on the underside. It may be found on both sides of the Continental Divide at elevations of 6,500 to 7,500 feet, in its usual habitat of scrub oak ecosystems. Citation: Senate Bill 122, 1996; Colorado Revised Statute 24-80-913.
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State Songs

"Where the Columbines Grow" was adopted as the official state song on May 8, 1915, by an act of the General Assembly. The words were written and the music composed by A.J. Fynn.  Traveling by horse and wagon to visit Indian tribes in the San Luis Valley in 1896,  Fynn received inspiration to write the song after he came across a beautiful Colorado mountain meadow which was covered with columbines. He dedicated the song to the Colorado pioneers. If you have audio, listen to the state song.
"Where the Columbines Grow" by A.J. Fynn, 1915
Verse One
Where the snowy peaks gleam in the moonlight,
Above the dark forests of pine,
And the wild foaming waters dash onward,
Toward lands where the tropic stars shine;
Where the scream of the bold mountain eagle
Responds to the notes of the dove
Is the purple robed West, the land that is best,
The pioneer land that we love.
Tis the land where the columbines grow,
Overlooking the plains far below,
While the cool summer breeze in the evergreen trees
Softly sings where the columbines grow.

Verse Two
The bison is gone from the upland,
The deer from the canyon has fled,
The home of the wolf is deserted,
The antelope moans for his dead,
The war whoop re-echoes no longer,
The Indian's only a name,
And the nymphs of the grove in their loneliness rove,
But the columbine blooms just the same.
Verse Three
Let the violet brighten the brookside,
In sunlight of earlier spring,
Let the fair clover bedeck the green meadow,
In days when the orioles sing,
Let the golden rod herald the autumn,
But, under the midsummer sky,
In its fair Western home, may the columbine bloom
Till our great mountain rivers run dry.
Sheet music may be ordered through retail sheet music stores. It is not available from the State of Colorado. Citation: Senate Bill 308, 1915; Colorado Revised Statute 24-80-909.
"Rocky Mountain High" by John Denver (lyrics) and Mike Taylor (music) 1973
"Rocky Mountain High" was adopted as another State Song with the passage of SJR07-023 on March 12, 2007. After the song's release in 1973 there was some controversy as some people thought that it encouraged drug use. Denver, in 1985, responded by saying that these people had obviously never experienced the beauty and wonder of the Rocky Mountains. Denver's real name was Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. but his stage name came from the capital city of Colorado.
Verse One
He was born in the summer of his 27th year,
coming home to a place he'd never been before.
He left yesterday behind him
you might say he was born again,
might say he found a key for every door.
When he first came to the mountains
His life was far away
on the road and hanging by a song.
But the string's already broken
and he doesn't really care,
it keeps changin' fast, and it don't last for long.
It's a Colorado Rocky Mountain High,
I've seen it raining fire in the sky
The shadows from the starlight are softer than a lullabye.
Rocky Mountain High, ...in Colorado....
Rocky Mountain High.

Verse Two
He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below,
saw everything as far as you can see.
And they say that he got crazy once and that he
tried to touch the sun,
and he lost a friend, but kept the memory.
Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the stream,
seeking grace in every step he takes,
his sight is turned inside himself, to try and
understand, the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake.

And the Colorado Rocky Mountain High,
I've seen it raining fire in the sky
You can talk to God and listen to the casual reply.
Rocky Mountain High, ....in Colorado....
Rocky Mountain High.

Verse Three
Now his life is full of wonder,
but his heart still knows some fear,
of the simple things he can not comprehend.
Why they try to tear the mountains down
to bring in a couple more.
More people, more scars upon the land.


It's the Colorado Rocky Mountain High,
I've seen it raining fire in the sky
I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an Eagle fly
Rocky mountain high
It's the Colorado Rocky Mountain High,
I've seen it raining fire in the sky.
Friends around the camp fire and everybody's high....
Rocky Mountain High, Rocky Mountain High,
Rocky Mountain High,
Rocky Mountain High.
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State Tartan

Image of a sample of the Colorado State Tartan.The Colorado General Assembly passed a resolution adopting an official state tartan on March 3, 1997.  The tartan is comprised of a pattern and colors that symbolize Colorado's splendor and history. The pattern or sett consists of primary blocks of forest green and cerulean blue separated by broad dividing bands of black, with the forest green checks containing two pairs of tram tracks consisting of lavender and white and with the cerulean blue checks containing a gold stripe with red guard lines. The official state tartan is a Celtic and a "district" tartan that may be worn by any resident or friend of Colorado whether or not of Celtic heritage. July 1st is designated as "Tartan Day" in Colorado under House Joint Resolution 96-1014.  Citation: House Joint Resolution 97-1016.  National Tartan Day is April 6.  Click here for the history of the National Tartan Day.
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State Tree

Image of the State Tree - The Colorado Blue SpruceThe Colorado Blue Spruce, Picea pungens, was adopted as the official state tree on March 7, 1939, by a resolution of the General Assembly. The Colorado Blue Spruce was first discovered on Pikes Peak in 1862 by botanist C.C. Parry.  In 1879 it was named by George Engelmann. This tree is known for its stately, majestic, symmetrical form and its beautiful silver-blue color. In Colorado, it grows in small, scattered groves or singly among ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, alpine fir and Englemann spruce. In the northern parts of its range it grows at the 6,000 to 9,000 feet elevation while in the southern parts of its range at 8,000 to 11,000 feet. Its color ranges from green to blue to silver, and is sometimes called the silver spruce. Colorado school children voted on Arbor Day in 1892 to name the blue spruce as the state tree, however it was not until 1939 that the Colorado Blue Spruce was officially designated. Citation: House Joint Resolution 7, 1939.
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State Mineral

Image of Rhodochrosite CrystalOn April 17, 2002, Colorado Governor Bill Owens signed a bill passed by the General Assembly designating the Rhodochrosite as the new state mineral. While there was some debate as to whether the state mineral should be gold or silver or another mined mineral historically associated  with Colorado, it was decided that the deep red to rose pink manganeze carbonate (MnCO3) mineral, Rhodochrosite, is associated internationally with the state more than any other mineral. It is found in some gold and silver ore-bearing veins. The specimen at left is the world's largest Rhodochrosite crystal, called the Alma King, which is on display at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. It was found in the Sweet Home Mine near Alma (Park County), Colorado.
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State Rock

Image of Yule Marble
In 2004, Girl Scout Troop 357 of Lakewood petitioned the Legislature to have the Yule Marble designated as the Colorado State Rock. Governor Owens subsequently signed HB04-1023 into law on March 9, 2004. This white marble is comprised of almost pure calcite grains tightly joined to give it a luminous quality. A marble deposit was reported in 1882 in Gunnison County on Yule Creek although a producing quarry did not begin operations there until 1906. The outstanding quality of the Yule Marble made it the choice for use in the basement of the Colorado Capitol as well as numerous national monuments in the United States including the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
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State Reptile

In 2007, Jay Baichi's 4th grade class began the process to get the Western Painted Turtle designated as the Colorado State Reptile. His 4th grade class the next year completed the legal steps and Governor Ritter signed HB 08-1017 on March 18, 2008. The two classes researched Colorado reptiles and decided that the Western Painted Turtle was most representative of Colorado reptiles. The turtle (Chrysemys Picta Bellii) is a common sight around many Colorado ponds and lakes. 
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Information from www.colorado.gov

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