Cortez is the big town in the county and serves as the base of government and is the commercial center for an area about 50 miles around. The town at the foot of Sleeping Ute Mountain of the west and Mesa Verde on the south. It is somewhat downhill from both Mancos and Dolores and borders the canyon lands of the west county.
The Navajos called Cortez Tsaya-toh, meaning “rock water.” The spring that once provided water for Navajo sheep also attracted ranchers to the area, then known as Mitchell Springs. When the town moved north to the present location, the name changed to Cortez in about 1886. Ranching and farming became the economic mainstay of Cortez with dry land pinto beans changing to high tech farming for hay and alfalfa, sweet corn, wheat and vineyards with delivery of McPhee water.
Today you may still catch a cattle drive in the spring or fall, or join in the Ute Mountain Rodeo every June. Agriculture celebrations include the annual Montezuma County Fair in August and the 4 States Ag Expo in the spring.
Navajos and Utes continue to come to Cortez as they did in the late 1880s and their artwork may be found in local trading posts The Cultural Center is home to the summer Indian Dances and cultural programs. Memorial Day weekend includes Celebrating Our Song, a festival of Native American arts.
Cortez has a wonderful collection of city parks and a recreational center which is open to visitors.