Arapahoe Exclaves in Denver

On June 10, 2010 · 5 Comments

I’ve had my eye on a certain set of geo-oddities for a long time, the Arapahoe County exclaves that are fully enclosed within the boundaries of Denver City/County, Colorado. Denver had to find a way to grow as people moved to the area. They found a simple solution: annex land from their neighboring counties wherever necessary and possible. Denver succeeded in their expansionist strategy most of the time but not always. Two small parcels of Arapahoe County territory escaped annexation into Denver, but at an unusual cost. They were left stranded. They are totally isolated and physically separated from the rest of Arapahoe County.

The larger exclave defines the boundaries of the City of Glendale, a 0.6 square mile (1.4 sq. km.) tract with a population of about 4,500. There is also a second, much smaller triangular parcel nearby that doesn’t seem to house much of anything.

Glendale Colorado

I discovered that it’s really easy to drive to Glendale but a bit more difficult to determine when I’d actually arrived officially within its borders. I saw no signage announcing any crossings into Arapahoe County. On the other hand, Glendale itself was entirely indistinguishable from surrounding Denver. You would absolutely not be able to determine that you’d encountered anything unusual geographically unless you knew about this anomaly in advance. Glendale blends in seamlessly with Denver.

Fortunately I had the presence of mind to program my destinations into a portable GPS after carefully researching and calculating the boundaries using Mapquest. I figured the Glendale Municipal Center would be a particularly safe bet. After all, who would have the audacity to locate Glendale’s center of government outside of its boundaries? Mapquest agreed and I set off on the most direct route to this specific destination. Obviously I arrived without difficulties and I took a photograph with my crappy mobile phone camera to record my achievement for posterity.

Creekside Park in Glendale

That wasn’t enough. I wanted to experience all 0.6 square miles of this glorious anomaly. I’d researched a spot unquestionably within the heart of the oddity where I knew I could also find parking without any problems (special thanks to Google Street View), a place called Creekside Park.

I had to operate quickly. A thunderstorm loomed on the horizon with amazing cloud-to-ground lightning strikes like one only sees out here in the West. People were also looking at me like I was half-crazed: standing in the middle of the parking lot, thunderstorm looming, car running, door wide open, snapping rapid-fire photos of some random park.

I know that all of you understand this fascination of mine, but you also realize it’s not well understood by the public at large. I’d captured my geo-oddity though and I called it a success.

Totally Unrelated

I read "USA Today" about twice a year, usually when it’s been left at the door of my hotel room as has been the case all this week. The had an article a couple of days ago, and fortunately it’s still online, that talks about a United States interstate highway signed entirely in the metric system: I-19 is in midst of metric muddle. Enjoy!

Oh, and here’s something I stumbled across from a different source about a con man caught sneaking across the border in Vermont.

I wish I had more time to explore these topics but unfortunately my work and travel plans have made that impossible this week.

On June 10, 2010 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Arapahoe Exclaves in Denver”

  1. pfly says:

    Hehe, good work! Thunderstorms in Denver are amazing.

  2. Jim says:

    Just a little bit south of Glendale is an Arapahoe Exclave called “Holly Hills”. I found some information on it in a City-Data thread:

    Interestingly, this exclave is split in two by I-25.

    Arapahoe also has the best named GIS system: ArapaMAP

    It looks like there’s a small area of Adams County within Denver county as well. Old Aerial shots show a parking lot full of trucks and boats, and new ones show a newly developed residential area.,-104.624176&sspn=0.561435,1.005249&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Denver,+Colorado+80249&ll=39.782718,-104.761822&spn=0.002317,0.003927&t=h&z=18

    Adams County has a similar system, but I can’t find any more information for the lot that is an exclave in Denver County.

    Similarly, it looks like there my be a parcel or two of Jefferson County as an exclave in Denver County.

    You can see a lot of the gaps on this map:

    Awesome work! I hope to see more Colorado oddities before you leave town!

  3. Matt says:

    If you like enclaves and appendages, you should visit Ohio, which had, or used to have very liberal annexation laws, from the cities’ point of view anyway. Columbus is splattered throughout with islands of unincorporated land. Also, Gaithersburg, Maryland, looks like a doughnut with a big hole in it.

  4. Cape May says:

    The Boston area has some weird exclaves. There are two exclaves of Norfolk County, one in Plymouth County and one that straddles Suffolk and Middlesex Counties. As a result of the latter, Suffolk County has a semi-exclave into Middlesex County which is barely connected to the rest of the county by a thin border. I’d like to know the stories behind these exclaves.

  5. I live about a half-mile from Glendale, and there’s actually a pretty easy way to tell whether you’re in Denver or Glendale: just look at the street sign blades. Signs located on a Denver parcel are green, while signs located on a Glendale parcel are blue. Also, at several of the more well-traveled entry points into Glendale, the city has placed concrete mini-sculptures that say “Glendale”. But you’re right: I don’t believe there are any references to Arapahoe County. Most Denverites would probably be surprised to hear that Glendale is in Arapahoe… they probably think of it as nothing more than a neighborhood within Denver.

    In my opinion, the other Denver enclave is more indistinguishable from Denver proper. For one thing, it doesn’t have a real name. Someone upthread mentioned “Holly Hills”, but the majority of people living in Denver metro wouldn’t have any idea whence that term refers. The sign blades are the same green as Denver’s, but if you look closely, you can see that the Arapahoe County signs have a different style. Also, there are some areas within this enclave where it appears that the building/zoning/property requirements are a little more lax than in Denver proper.

    Once, when I was in high school, I drove my girlfriend to the little park in the middle of South Dahlia Lane (which is in the northwest part of this enclave). We hadn’t been parked for more than a couple minutes when a resident came out with a notebook and pencil, and copied my license plate number. I asked him what was going on, and he explained that crime is a problem in their neighborhood, since they have to rely on the Arapahoe Co. sheriff’s dept.). He then proceeded to write down my name. I point that out to demonstrate that enclaves are more than map anomalies – they can have real-life ramifications.

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