Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Denver’s Urban Expansion

Detailed Description

The story of Denver bears the classic marks of substantial urban growth.

Landsat images reveal expanding residential areas, industrial zones, and new freeways that loop around the metropolitan area. Also noteworthy: One of the largest airport building projects in U.S. history.

False color imaging from Landsat that combines shortwave infrared and near-infrared bands shows growth of the city. Bright green is vegetation, so parks and golf courses are the brightest green; dark green is the forested areas in the Rocky Mountains; and the more mottled green shades are the residential areas of the city. Purple hues represent streets, highways, and other mostly unvegetated infrastructure.

Denver is experiencing post-1950 growth similar to other western cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Dallas. The Denver metropolitan area expanded in urbanized land from 150 square miles in 1950 to 499 square miles in 2000, primarily onto prairie and agricultural lands.

Landsat is a powerful tool for monitoring such changes, but there are many others. The USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center archives troves of aerial photography, declassified, international, and commercial satellite imagery, and land cover data that can be used to tell stories of urban growth and change.

Visit our newly-released Denver Earthshots page to see more of stories from the area’s recent past, built using Landsat, aerial photography and commercial imagery.


Public Domain.