NASA Earth Observatory: Greater Denver And The Front Range

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

August 10, 2015 – Astronauts on the International Space Station recognize the smooth, broad bend that separates mountains and plains as the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. This sudden break between plains and mountains makes Denver one of the most spectacular cities in the United States.

Canyons cut through the snow-covered mountains. Boulder Canyon provides water to the city of Boulder, while tourists exploring the Rocky Mountains pass through Idaho Springs in the Clear Creek valley.

The plains fronting the mountains are now heavily populated. The cities and urban counties centered on Denver have an estimated population of 2.7 million people. The rectangular plot of highways and main roads gives the cityscape a blocky appearance–a pattern that has spread southward more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) to the wooded hills south of the town of Parker.

Rich farmland competes with urban land uses areas in the fertile Platte River valley (bottom right of the image) and surrounding plains north of Denver. This intensively farmed area appears from space as a pattern of numerous smaller plots. Less intensive land-use areas (such as spring and winter wheat) are marked by much larger plots of land, as seen around Denver’s international airport.

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