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Denver by the Data, Vol. 1: Size, Scope & Scale


This is the first installment of Denver by the Data, a quasi-monthly, data-driven belly flop into different topics of importance, inevitability and infamy to the city. For starters, we're looking at sheer size, global geography and planetary scale.
Total land area in Denver city limits: 153 square miles

This makes Denver the 41st largest city in the U.S., right behind Aurora, Colorado (154 square miles), and just ahead of Birmingham, Alabama (146).

The city was about 60 square miles in 1940. The 1988 annexation for Denver International Airport was about 54 square miles. Excluding the DIA annexation, Denver is a quasi-square 10 miles by 10 miles.

Most north-south blocks in Denver are one-eighth of a mile, while the standard east-west block is one-sixteenth of a mile. Standard downtown blocks are 266 feet by 400 feet.

There are more than 5,000 acres of parkland in city limits in about 200 different units. There are about 100 miles of trails.

From end to end, Colfax Avenue is 26.1 miles long, cutting through Aurora, Denver, and Lakewood. Broadway is about eight miles from where it enters Denver at Yale Avenue to where it turns into Brighton Boulevard northeast of downtown. The South Platte River is 10.5 miles from where it enters Denver city limits on the southwest side of town to where it exits on the north. It's a 37-mile drive from far southwestern Denver to DIA.

Population: about 649,495 (2013 estimate), in the no. 22 slot right between Seattle (652,405) and Washington, D.C. (646,449).

Population density: about 4,245 per square mile. Considering that a square mile is about 128 city blocks, this pegs the average population of a city block (or block-sized parcel) at 33 people.

For comparison, New York City has 8.4 million in 303 square miles, L.A. has 3.9 million in 469 square miles, Phoenix has 1.5 million in 517 square miles, San Francisco has 837,442 in 47 square miles, and Austin has nearly 900,000 in 298 square miles.

If Denver had the same population density of New York City, it would have 4.1 million residents.

In the same population and size ballpark as Denver (of U.S. cities with populations of 100,000 or more) are: Omaha, Nebraska (434,353 in 127 square miles); Atlanta, Georgia (447,841 in 133 square miles); Portland, Oregon (609,456 in 133 square miles); Las Vegas, Nevada (603,488 in 136 square miles); Mesa, Arizona (457,587 in 137 square miles); Detroit, Michigan (688,701 in 139 square miles); Raleigh, N.C. (431,746 in 143 square miles); Albuquerque, N.M. (556,495 in 188 square miles); and Colorado Springs (439,886 in 195 square miles).

Metro population: The Denver metro area has about 3.2 million residents, good enough for 17th largest in the U.S. (between Cleveland and San Diego) and 173rd in the world, between Cali, Colombia, and Katowice-Gliwice-Tycky (a.k.a. the Silesian Metropolis), Poland.

Elevation: Mile High City is the third most famous city nickname in the U.S. after Big Apple and Windy City. Denver is easily the highest major city in the U.S. and third-highest state capital (after Santa Fe and Cheyenne).

The highest point in Denver city limits is near Belleview Avenue and Kipling Street (5,680 feet above sea level). Ruby Hill is 5,390 feet above sea level and the Colorado State Capitol is exactly 5,280. The low point in Denver is 5,130 feet above sea level where the South Platte River exits the city near 52nd Avenue and Franklin Street.

Denver's 5,280-foot elevation is comparable to Kabul, Afghanistan (5,928 feet above sea level); Nairobi, Kenya (5,669);  Andorra la Vella, Andorra (4,623); Kathmandu, Nepal (4,259); Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (4,212); and Pretoria, South Africa (4,169). But it's not even half as high as La Paz, Bolivia, the world's highest city (12,506 feet above sea level).

Location: The latitude is 39° 44' 21" and the 105th meridian west passes right through Union Station. Kalamath Street is the closest to running down the meridian, which also passes through Saskatchewan and Durango, Mexico.

The 105th meridian west becomes the 75th meridian east at the poles and runs through Russia, China and India.The Indian Ocean is on the exact opposite side of planet from Denver. The most westernmost city in China, Kashgar occupies roughly the same spot on the eastern side of the northern hemisphere on the Silk Route.

Denver is 346 miles west of the geographic center of continental U.S. (Lebanon, Kansas) and 65 miles north of the geographic center of Colorado (Hartsel). Nothing against Colfax and Broadway, but 6th Avenue and York Street is the closest major intersection to the geographic center of the city.

Distance to the closest larger city: 635 miles (El Paso, Texas). But it's 823 miles to Phoenix, the closest larger metropolitan area.

Does this make Denver the most remote major urban area in the continental U.S.? Arguably. The world? No.

Distance to other cities and places: As the lark bunting flies, it's 830 miles to L.A., 948 miles to S.F., 1,629 to New York, 2,398 to Anchorage, 3,344 to Honolulu. 4,690 to London, 5,885 to Rio de Janeiro, 6,353 to Beijing, 8,340 to Sydney and 93 million miles to the Sun.

Read more articles by Eric Peterson.

Eric is a Denver-based tech writer and guidebook wiz. Contact him here.
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