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About Colby, KS

Visitor-CenterColby is located at 39°23′32″N 101°02′51″W (39.364781, -101.054756) at an elevation of 3,160 feet (960 m). It lies on the south side of Prairie Dog Creek, a tributary of the Republican River, in the High Plains region of the Great Plains. A small tributary of the creek flows northeast through the town. Located at the interchange of Interstate 70 and K-25 in northwestern Kansas, Colby is 212 mi (341 km) east-southeast of Denver, 232 mi (373 km) northwest of Wichita, and 347 mi (558 km) west of Kansas City. Colby is a city in and the county seat of Thomas County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2020 census, the city population was 5,570.



Prior to 1879, the area was nothing but buffalo, antelope, wild horses, and bunch grass, and was designated as "Indian Country". The original Post Office, established in 1882, was near the geographical center of Thomas County. There was talk of a need for a town to provide the many newly arriving settlers with their lumber and provisions. The settlers homesteaded the land under highly adverse conditions, such as living in sod houses. It was decided that the best place to build the town was on railroad land which had enough slope for drainage and reliable availability of water. This new location was three miles north of the original post office and was finally secured from the railroad in March of 1885.

In April of 1884 J. R. Colby secured a patent to establish the town. He was one of the oldest settlers in the county. By profession, he was a land assessor who later ran a boarding house and was a "sometimes" preacher. He was the father of 10 children. In April of 1885, the Colby Town Company received the Town Charter from the office of the Secretary of State. March 12, of 1885, the Thomas County Cat newspaper was published. Through many owners and publishers, it is today the Colby Free Press. The same year, Mike Donelan was recognized as the first Colby merchant when he established a general merchandise store at what is now 5th and Franklin.


Governor Martin declared the county organized with Colby as the temporary county seat in October of 1885. The census showed 1900 hearty folks. The county was named for Major General Thomas and five of the townships were named for Kansas soldiers killed under his command at Chickaumaugua during the Civil War. Colby was incorporated in 1886 and the first court house was built at 615. N Court where it still stands as a residence. The present courthouse, which is still in use, was built in 1906 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Union Pacific Railroad Railroad came through in 1887 and the Rock Island in 1888. Transportation has played an important role in the development of Colby. The inter-state highway was not supposed to come through Colby, but some political pressures in the Senate changed those plans. I-70 was finished in 1965; today we can thank it for the traffic that supports the economic climate through hotels, restaurants, convenience stores, and gas stations. Although the hospitality industry is important to the local community, agribusiness is "king". The chief crops grown are wheat, corn, milo, and sunflowers. Livestock production and dairy are also vital.

Throughout its history, Colby has been progressive and forward-thinking. We can thank our ancestors and today's community leaders for helping to shape Colby into "the Oasis on the Plains".

Although the hospitality industry is important to the local community, agribusiness is "king". Chief crops grown are wheat, corn, milo and sunflowers. Livestock production and dairy are also very important.


Throughout it's history, Colby has been progressive and forward thinking. We can thank our ancestors and today's community leaders for helping to shape Colby into "the Oasis on the Plains".


Colby has a transitional climate between a humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa) and a semiarid climate (Köppen BSk) with hot summers and cold, dry winters. The average temperature in Colby is 50 °F (10 °C), and the average relative humidity is 61%. Over the course of a year, temperatures range from an average low of 12 °F (−11 °C) in January to an average high of 90 °F (32 °C) in July. The high temperature reaches or exceeds 90 °F (32 °C) an average of 50 days a year and reaches or exceeds 100 °F (38 °C) an average of 6.5 days a year. The minimum temperature falls below the freezing point of 32 °F (0 °C) an average of 166.5 days a year. Typically, the first fall freeze occurs between mid-September and the second week of October, and the last spring freeze occurs between the fourth week of April and the third week of May. Colby receives nearly 21 inches (530 mm) of precipitation during an average year with the largest share being received from May through July; that period averages over 25 days of measurable precipitation. During a typical year, the total amount of precipitation may be anywhere from 15 inches (380 mm) to 29 inches (740 mm). There are, on average, 72 days of measurable precipitation each year. Annual snowfall averages 29 inches (74 cm), but the median is less than 23 inches (58 cm). Measurable snowfall occurs an average of 70 days a year with at least an inch of snow being received on nine of those days. Snow depth of at least an inch occurs an average of 31 days a year. Typically, January is the coldest month, and July is both the hottest and wettest month. The hottest temperature recorded in Colby was 113 °F (45 °C) in 2012; the coldest temperature recorded was -32 °F (-36 °C) in 1989.


Historical Information from:
Convention & Visitors Bureau | Colby Free Press; Centennial Edition, September 28, 1985 | Thomas County Herald; Centennial Edition, October 9, 1985 | | National Weather Service

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