James Michener's "Fictional Geography of Colorado" via the 1974 Book "Centennial"

Date and Time: 
Monday, June 20, 2016 - 7:00pm to 8:30pm
John Dietz

James Michener's  Fictional Geography of Colorado, from the 1974 book Centennial" shows how real world Colorado provided the setting for the fictional book, CENTENNIAL .  Michener moved events and combined personalities but the overall development trends are valid.  There is no specific model town for Centennial but there are several towns in northeastern Colorado which have similar characteristics. Physical locations mentioned in the book, such as the Chalk Cliffs, really do exist in Colorado........so explore Colorado's geography, while exploring the book Centennial.  As an added bonus, the 1978 filming of Centennial, the TV Mini-series,  at the Highlands Ranch Mansion will be highlighted.

Pawnee Buttes became Rattlesnake Buttes in the book.  Michener’s Venneford Ranch was based on the Iliff Ranch of the 1880s which included the Buttes and the Chalk Bluffs as well as the present day town of Hereford. The 1978 Centennial filming by Universal Studios utilized the Phipps Ranch now Highlands Ranch in Douglas County as the set for Venneford Ranch. These and other comparisons are used to demonstrate that Michener’s book is essentially a geographic novel focusing on Northeastern Colorado as a place.

Speaker:  John Dietz

John Dietz taught Geography at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley for thirty-five years--retiring in 2002.  One of his classes was Colorado Geography and that led to interest in James Michener’s Centennial book in 1974. He used the book as a basis for summer workshops for Colorado teachers and for a series of public lectures around the state.  He remains active in the James A. Michener Society which began in Greeley after Mr. Michener died.  John and his wife Corki live in Greeley.  His daughter and son-in-law Molly and Jamie Pickett and their children Emma and Nathan live in Highlands Ranch. Another daughter Leslie and her husband Kevin Farrell live in Steamboat Springs.

Centennial Book


Registration is Required




Southridge Recreation Center
Upstairs Auditorium
4800 McArthur Ranch Road
Highlands Ranch 80130