The town's name is Salida (pronounced Sah-LEE-dah) Spanish for Exit, as it is the exit of the valley. Local, non-hispanics pronounce it sə-LYE-də.
Founded in 1880, Salida was originally a railroad town and was a significant link in the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad. After World War II the railroad began pulling back its operations in Salida. Many residents in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s worked either in local ranching operations or commuted north to Leadville to work at the Climax Molybdenum Company. Today the most prominent business in Salida is tourism, consisting of skiing at Monarch ski area, whitewater rafting, kayaking and outfitting, particularly on the Arkansas River. Salida is home to the annual FIBArk kayak race, one of the oldest and most prestigious whitewater races in North America.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.2 square miles (5.7 km²). 2.2 square miles (5.7 km²) of it is land, and the Arkansas River, which runs through town, is the major source of water.
There were 2,504 households out of which 25.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.9% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.1% were non-families. 35.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.15 and the average family size was 2.80.
In the city the population was spread out with 21.4% under the age of 18, 6.3% from 18 to 24, 27.5% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 20.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 94.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $28,790, and the median income for a family was $38,240. Males had a median income of $30,447 versus $20,867 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,252. About 9.2% of families and 14.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.7% of those under age 18 and 13.7% of those age 65 or over.