The first documented discovery of gold in the Rocky Mountain region occurred on June 22, 1850, when Lewis Ralston, a Georgia prospector headed for the California gold fields, dipped his sluice pan into a small stream near its mouth at Clear Creek. Ralston found about 1/4 ounce (6 g) of gold, then worth about five dollars. Ralston's companions named the stream Ralston's Creek in his honor, but they all left the next morning, drawn by the lure of California gold.
During the Pike's Peak Gold Rush in 1858, Ralston brought another group of prospectors back to the site of his first discovery. The placer gold in the area soon played out, but hard rock deposits of gold were found in the mountains to the west. Some of the miners abandoned their search for gold and returned to farm the rich bottom land along Ralston Creek and Clear Creek. They found an eager market for their crops among other gold seekers. The Territory of Colorado was formed on February 28, 1861, and the farms in the valley expanded to feed the growing population of the region.
In 1870, the Colorado Central Railroad laid tracks through the area on its route from Golden to link up with the Kansas Pacific Railroad and the Denver Pacific Railroad at Jersey Junction, 3 miles (5 km) north of Denver. On December 1, 1870, Benjamin F. Wadsworth and Louis A. Reno platted the Ralston Point townsite along the railroad. To avoid confusion with other communities along Ralston Creek, Ralston Point was soon renamed Arvada in honor of Hiram Arvada Haskin, brother-in-law of settler Mary Wadsworth. Her husband, Benjamin Wadsworth, became the first postmaster of Arvada. Colorado was granted statehood on August 1, 1876, and the Town of Arvada was formally incorporated on August 14, 1904. A vibrant agricultural community, Arvada claimed the title "Celery Capital of the World."
Arvada grew rapidly during the latter half of the 20th century as a suburb of nearby Denver, the state capital. Arvada became a Statutory City on October 31, 1951, and a Home Rule Municipality on July 23, 1963. By the end of the millennium, the population of Arvada exceeded 100,000.
On December 9, 2007, Matthew J. Murray walked into the Youth With a Mission Center in Arvada and, after he was refused his request to stay overnight in the dormitories, opened fire and killed two people, injuring two more.
A memorial was held the following Wednesday, December 12, in which Youth With a Mission leaders forgave Murray's family for what happened.
The city of Arvada is a Home Rule Municipality with a council-manager form of government. The Arvada City Council has seven members: a mayor and two councilmembers elected at large, and four councilmembers elected from council districts.
The City Council selects the city manager. The Arvada City Manager is Mark Deven. Periodically, the City of Arvada conducts a citizen survey wherein residents rate Arvada as a place to live, among other traits. Since 1997 about nine or ten residents have given the city a rating of "Very Good" or "Good."
Arvada is located at 39°49′12″N 105°6′40″W (39.819962, -105.110975).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 32.8 square miles (85 km2).84.6 km²; (32.7 sq mi) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (0.58%) is water.
The climate is described as Humid Continental by the Köppen Climate System, abbreviated as Dfb.
Arvada is the western terminus of Interstate 76, which begins at the intersection of Interstate 70 and State Highway 121. Other state highways in Arvada include SH 72, SH 93, and SH 95. Major highways near Arvada include Interstate 25, Interstate 270, U.S. Highway 36 and U.S. Highway 287.
The Amtrak California Zephyr passes through the City of Arvada westbound each morning and eastbound each evening. This route through the scenic heart of the Rocky Mountains is one of the most popular rail routes in the United States. Full Amtrak passenger and parcel service is available at the nearby Denver Union Station.
The Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD) currently serves Arvada with eight local bus routes (31, 50, 51, 52, 72, 76, 80, and 100), four express bus routes (55X, 58X, 72X, and 80X), and one regional bus route (GS). RTD plans to provide Arvada with a commuter rail Gold Line along the old Colorado Central Railroad route (now operated by the BNSF Railway) by 2015.
Arvada is served by Denver International Airport and nearby Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport.
In 2014 the League of American Bicyclists designated Arvada as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community.
As of the census of 2010, there were 106,433 people, 42,701 households, and 28,927 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,028.1 people per square mile (1,207.6/km²). There were 44,427 housing units at an average density of 1,216.7 per square mile (469.7/km²) with a median value of $240,000. The racial makeup of the city was 89.08% White, 0.9% African American, 0.8% Native American, 2.2% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 3.5% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.7% of the population.
There were 44,427 households out of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.5% were married couples living together, 10.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.3% were non-families. 26.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 5.5% from 20 to 24, 25.1% from 25 to 44, 29.8% from 45 to 64, and 13.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.5 years. There were 51,984 males and 54,539 Females.
The median income for a household in the city was $66,125 and the median income for a family was $78,591. Males had a median income of $42,126 versus $30,802 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,679. About 4.6% of families and 6.4% of the population were below the poverty line.
Arvada is largely a commuter town to Denver and Boulder. The primary retail corridors are along Wadsworth Boulevard, 52nd Avenue, 64th Avenue, Ralston Road and Kipling Street.
Attractions include:Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities
Cussler Museum (rare automobile collection)
Notable individuals who were born in and/or have lived in Arvada include novelist Clive Cussler, Joe King, baseball pitcher Roy Halladay, and Isaac Slade of the rock band The Fray, and professional golfer and U.S. Olympic track and field gold medalist Babe Didrikson Zaharias. Arvada Man of the Year 2017: Bill Orchard. Arvada Woman of the year 2017: Rebel Rodriguez.
Arvada has three sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International: Kyzylorda, Kazakhstan