Notable earthquakes in Colorado's history

  • First known reference to an earthquake in Colorado

    Colorado Earthquake History USGS"F.A. Hadsell, writing in the Colorado School of Mines Quarterly (vol. 63, No. 1, Jan. 1968), reports the first known reference to an earthquake in Colorado occurred on December 7, 1870. The Colorado Transcript states, `'A careful observer at Fort Reynolds, 20 miles east of Pueblo, noted that bottles standing 1 inch apart were knocked together violently.''"
  • First earthquake to cause damage in Denver

    The earthquake of November 7, 1882, the first ever to cause damage at Denver, probably centered in the Front Range near Rocky Mountain National Park, and is the largest historical earthquake in the state. The magnitude is estimated to be about 6.6 on the Richter scale. In Boulder County the walls of the depot cracked, and plaster fell from walls at the university at Boulder.
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    Only a few tremors caused damage from 1901-1960

    November 15, 1901, cracked windows and rolled boulders onto the highway in Buena Vista.
    September 8, 1944. During this tremor, bricks fell from chimneys and walls and chimneys cracked at Basalt, about 100 miles west of Denver.
    August 1955, a strong earthquake left cracks in chimneys and ground at Lake City, about 170 miles southwest of Denver. October 11, 1960, a shock cracked a foundation and loosened cupboards from walls at Montrose.
  • Drilling in March of 1962 caused a series of quakes

    In 1961, a 12,000-foot well was drilled at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, northeast of Denver, for disposing of waste fluids from Arsenal operations. Injection was commenced March 1962, and an unusual series of earthquakes erupted in the area shortly after.
    *The USGS does not specify the exact day in March of 1962 that drilling began.
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    Series of earthquakes in teh Denver area

    April 24 the first shock of the Denver series was recorded. Rated magnitude 1.5, it was not strong enough to be felt by area residents.
    By the end of December 1962, 190 earthquakes had occurred. Several were felt, but none caused damage until the window breaker that surprised Dupont and Irondale on the night of December 4. The shock shuffled furniture around in homes, and left electrical wall outlets hanging by their wires in Irondale.
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    1300 eartquakes recorded

    Over 1,300 earthquakes were recorded at Bergen Park between January 1963 and August 9, 1967. Three shocks in 1965 -- February 16, September 29, and November 20 -- caused intensity VI damage in Commerce City and environs.
  • Southeast Colorado tremor rocked a 15,000 square-mile area

    October 1966, a southeast Colorado tremor rocked a 15,000 square-mile area of that State and bordering New Mexico. Minor damage, in the form of broken windows and dishes and cracked walls and plaster, occurred at Aguilar, Segundo, Trinchera, and Trinidad.
  • Denver shock

    Another strong shock rumbled through the Denver area on November 14, 1966, causing some damage at Commerce City and Eastlake. Slighter rumblings (below magnitude 3.0) occurred throughout the remainder of 1966, and through the first week of April 1967.
  • 5.0 quake hits Denver

    April 10, 1967; 118 windowpanes were broken in buildings at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a crack in an asphalt parking lot was noted in the Derby area, and schools were dismissed in Boulder, where walls sustained cracks. Legislators quickly moved from beneath chandeliers in the Denver Capitol Building, fearing they might fall. The Colorado School of Mines rated this shock magnitude 5.0.
  • Boulder 4.4 magnitude earthquake

    Boulder sustained minor damage to walls and acoustical tile ceilings on April 27, 1967, as result of a magnitude 4.4 earthquake.
  • Denver 5.3 magnitue earthquake

    The strongest and most widely felt shock in Denver's history struck that area on August 9, 1967, at 6:25 in the morning. The magnitude 5.3 tremor caused the most serious damage at Northglenn, where concrete pillar supports to a church roof were weakened, and 20 windows were broken. An acoustical ceiling and light fixtures fell at one school. Many homeowners reported wall, ceiling, floor, patio, sidewalk, and foundation cracks. Several reported basement floors separated from walls.
  • Second largest Denver quake

    The second largest earthquake in the Denver series occurred on November 26, 1967. The magnitude 5.2 event caused widespread minor damage in the suburban areas of northeast Denver. Many residents reported it was the strongest earthquake they had ever experienced. It was felt at Laramie, Wyoming, to the northwest, east to Goodland, Kansas, and south to Pueblo, Colorado. At Commerce City merchandise fell in several supermarkets and walls cracked in larger buildings.
  • Western Colorado Quake

    A sharp earthquake struck western Colorado January 30, 1975. The magnitude 3.7 earthquake occurred at 7:49 a.m. MST. Police and fire departments received many telephone calls from residents wanting to know what was going on. The quake was felt strongest at Colorado National Monument and in the Fruita area. It was also felt throughout Grand Junction and other adjoining area. Maximum intensity V.
  • Mild earthquake Denver

    The residents in the northeast Denver area were shaken by a mild earthquake on June 10, 1978 at 2:58 p.m. MDT. The magnitude 2.9 earthquake was centered approximately 10 km northeast of Denver and was felt sharply in the east Denver, Commerce City, Thornton, and Northglenn areas. There were no reports of damage (MM IV).
  • 1979 rare earthquake

    In 1979, a small but rare earthquake occurred in the central part of the State on January 5 at 6:59 p.m. MST. The magnitude 2.9 tremor was centered about 50 km northwest of Colorado Springs near Florissant and Lake George. Some minor damage (MM VI) was reported at Cripple Creek and Royal Gorge.
  • 4.1 earthquake near Denver

    On April 2, 1981 at 9:10 a.m. MST, a sharp earthquake, magnitude 4.1, occurred that was centered approximately 20 km north of downtown Denver in the Thornton area. Some slight damage (MM VI) was observed at Commerce City and Thornton. The quake was felt in other parts of Adams County and in parts of Arapahoe, Boulder, Clear Creek, Denver, Douglas, Jefferson, Gilpin, and Weld Counties.
    *USGS told Chris Vanderveen today this earthquake was a 4.5 instead of the 4.1 written in this report.
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    Small earthquakes recorded over the years

    Colorado Earthquake History USGS
    This report on the USGS website, along with the USGS Earthquake search tool you can find hundreds of recorded quakes.
  • Christmas Day quake in Denver

    A magnitude 4.0 earthquake was felt in Denver and surrounding areas.
  • 5.3 earthquake near Trinidad

    Chris Vanderveen reports from the USGSThe magnitude 5.3 quake hit at 11:46 p.m. MDT about nine miles southwest of Trinidad, or 180 miles south of Denver.
    Aftershocks continued Tuesday, August 23.