Bent County is located in southeast Colorado approximately 80 miles from the New Mexico border and 38 miles from the Kansas border. Bent County is 36 miles from east to west and 43 miles from north to south, with a total land area of 970,880 acres.
Bent County is part of Congressional District 4; Senate District 2; House District 64 and the Southern CCI District.
The elevation of the county at the southern border is 5,000 feet. The southern portion of the county contains bluffs, mesas and canyons that open to the rolling plains of the Arkansas River valley. The Arkansas River, which sits at an elevation of approximately 3,775 feet at the eastern border of the county, runs from west to east in the northern half of the county. Las Animas lies at an elevation of 3,901 feet. The northern part of Bent County is a series of rolling plains that slope south to the Arkansas River.
The climate in Bent County is characterized by a wide range in temperature, low and variable precipitation, low humidity, and considerable wind. Based on climate data collected since 1930, the average annual temperature is 54.5 degrees, with an average annual maximum temperature of 71.8 degrees Fahrenheit and an average annual minimum temperature of 37.1 degrees Fahrenheit. The warmest month is July with an average maximum temperature of 96.2 degrees. The coolest month is January with an average minimum temperature of 13.4 degrees. Average annual precipitation is 12.55 inches, and average annual snowfall is19.7 inches. Periods of high winds usually occur in late February, March and April. The growing season is approximately 161 days.
In general, the air quality in Bent County is good and is in attainment of state air quality guidelines. Non-point sources of air pollution, which are not regulated by the state, can include fugitive dust from unpaved roads and open lands, and smoke from ditch burning.
Bent County, and specifically Las Animas, has experienced several major flood events since its settlement. After a major flood in 1921, several potentially damaging flood events were averted in 1936, 1955, 1957 and 1965 by the construction of emergency levees around the town. In 1978, a nine mile levee was constructed around the Las Animas. The levee is an earthen-fill dike totaling 50,700 feet in length. The levee begins at State Highway 50 about five miles west of Las Animas and extends around the city to the north ending one and a half miles east of the city near the railroad. The levee substantially reduces any flood hazard by the Arkansas River to the city of Las Animas.
U.S. and State Highways
There are two major transportation corridors in Bent County: U.S. Highway 50 (US 50) and State Highway 101. Interstate 25, a major north-south link in Colorado and a part of the National Highway System, can be reached 85 miles west of Las Animas on US 50 at Pueblo.
US 50 is an undivided regional highway running a distance of approximately 36 miles east-west through Bent County, generally along the old Santa Fe Trail route. As US 50 passes through Las Animas it is classified as a non-rural principal highway.
There are four state highways that support the US 50 corridor in Bent County: State Highway 101 (SH 101), State Highway 194 (SH 194), State Highway 183 (SH 183), and State Highway 196 (SH 196). SH 101 originates in Las Animas and runs in a north-south direction through the southern portion of Bent County. The roadway is classified as a non-rural arterial within Las Animas and as a rural highway in the rest of the county. SH 194 runs east-west from the western county line into Las Animas, and SH 196 is located just west of McClave and runs north-south from CR HH to CR WW. Both roadways are classified as non-rural arterials within town areas and as a rural highway throughout the rest of the county. SH 183 runs north-south between US 50 and the Fort Lyon Correctional Facility. SH 183 is classified as a non-rural arterial, and is the shortest state highway in Colorado. Including a short section of SH 109 that crosses the southwest corner of the county, Bent County has 176.67 lane miles of State highway.
748.83 miles of road in Bent County are eligible for Highway Users Tax Fund (HUTF). 347.12 miles are classified as arterials, with 401.71 miles classified as local roads. 28.65 miles of road are not eligible for HUTF, and 117.57 miles of road are not maintained. The County road maintenance shop is located at 203 9th Street in Las Animas.
Golden Age Transportation Service is a demand responsive transit service serving seniors and people with disabilities, operating from 408 East 6th Street in Las Animas.
The Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railroad has two major rail lines in Bent County, one running east-west generally following the Arkansas River, and the other running south from Las Animas generally following the SH 101 alignment. Although Amtrak passenger service crosses Bent County, the Las Animas depot is currently closed. The closest active rail depot is in La Junta to the west.
County residents are assessed $80 per year for trash service. Over 100 dumpsters are located throughout the county for residential use. In addition, two roll off systems for larger items include one at the county shops and one at the former landfill south of McClave. A new landfill is under consideration at Bell Farms located south of Las Animas. The Southeast Colorado Recycle Center is located at 264 North Bent Avenue in Las Animas. The recycling center serves 35 communities within 13 counties in Colorado and one county in Kansas. Materials recycled include paper, aluminum and steel cans, and clear and brown glass.
Community water systems are in McClave and Hasty and are operated by local water associations. The Fort Lyon system is now owned and operated by the Colorado Department of Corrections, and a system located at the John Martin Reservoir is operated by Colorado State Parks. Approximately 14 percent of the county population is served by individual private wells.
The only community sewer systems in the county are those located at Fort Lyon and in Las Animas. McClave and Hasty have no sewer system. The Fort Lyon system is now owned and operated by the Colorado Department of Corrections.
Residential lots must be a minimum size of 21,000 square feet to accommodate septic systems. In Hasty, septic tanks are prohibited by the Colorado Department of Health on land that lies north of Kansas Avenue due to a high water table.
The unincorporated areas of Bent County, not including the area immediately surrounding Las Animas, receive electric power from the Southeast Colorado Power Association.
County Public Lands
Bent County features a wide range of state and federal lands within its borders. The Bureau of Land Management, US Army Corp of Engineers and other Federal agencies manage land within the county. The State of Colorado manages lands at the State Wildlife Areas and at John Martin Reservoir State Park. The State also oversees the school “sections” scattered across all counties in Colorado, including Bent.
County Private Lands
Private lands in Bent County are predominantly in uses related to agriculture. The county is a large producer of alfalfa, corn and winter wheat, and thousands of acres are under cultivation. Land used for agricultural purposes in Bent County consists of 676,505 acres of rangeland, 55,069 acres of non-irrigated cropland, and over 59,638 acres of irrigated cropland. The A-1 Agriculture District is intended to protect and preserve agricultural industry in the county and to protect rural property owners from incompatible land uses. The majority of unincorporated Bent County is zoned A-1.
McClave Hasty, Caddoa, and Fort Lyon and are all zoned M.U.D. Multiple Use District. The M.U.D. is intended to provide for a mix of uses in “traditionally mixed-use areas”, or areas that are in a state of transition towards mixed use. A platted subdivision just south of McClave is zoned R- 3, which provides for single family homes on minimum 7000 square foot lots.
The County Fairgrounds are located in the city of Las Animas just south of the City Park and just north of the railroad line. The fairgrounds feature exhibition halls, barns, and a grandstand/rodeo arena.
The Bent County Sheriff’s Office is located in a new facility at 11100 CR GG.5 in Las Animas and provides law enforcement services within the unincorporated areas of Bent County. The County Jail located at the Sheriff’s Office houses 52 inmates for both the city and the county.