Rio Blanco County
2009-2010 Community Indicator Report
County is located in rural northwestern Colorado. The
climate ranges from semiarid to alpine with significant
daily temperature changes. The county is 3,228 square
miles, and approximately 75% of county lands are
federally owned and include parts of the White River and
Routt National Forests.
Meeker is the
county seat of Rio Blanco County. The population is
about 2,400 people within the city limits. The elevation
is 6,249 feet. The Flat Tops Wilderness Area and White
River National Forest are only 30 miles away. Meeker is a short drive from Craig, Rifle, Glenwood
Springs, Grand Junction, US Hwy 40 and Interstate 70. It
also has a modern general aviation airport with
full-service fixed base operations and charter service.
The Town of
Rangely is located in western Rio Blanco County. The
quality of living is high and the crime rate is low in
this town of 2,500 people. Colorado State Highway 64
runs through Rangely making easy access for travelers.
In addition, state Highway 139 (south to the Grand
Junction area) intersects with State Highway 64 one mile
east of Rangely. In Rangely, 88 percent of workers
commute, and Rangely features shorter commuting times
than most similar rural areas. Rangely is located on a
high-desert plateau at an elevation of 5,200 feet, and
the White River provides fishing and canoeing
opportunities and runs through the Town of Rangely in an
east-to-west direction. Rangely is located 54 miles from
Vernal, Utah, 90 miles north of Grand Junction, and 280
miles from Denver.
In 2000, the
population of Rio Blanco County was 5,986.
industries of Rio Blanco County are agriculture, coal,
nahcolite, natural gas, oil, oil shale and recreation.
In 2002, the per capita personal income in Rio Blanco
County was $27,439. This was an increase of 22.2% from
1997. The 2002 figure was 89% of the national per capita
income, which was $30,906.Rangely boasts a large number
of college graduates in town. About 68 percent of the
homes in Rangely are occupied by their owners, and
property taxes are low by Colorado standards.
In 1868, Major
John Wesley Powell, his wife, and about 20 others came
to the valley and established winter quarters in this
wide-open space, now called Powell Park. The first
Indian Agency was established here a year later, nine
miles east of the present town.
Nathan Meeker arrived as the Indian agent in 1878,
determined to convert the resident Ute Indians from
“primitive savages” to hard-working, God-fearing
farmers. When Meeker plowed up the Indian’s racetrack,
it was the final insult. The Indians attacked in what
was the last major Indian uprising in the United States.
Meeker and the 10 men employed by the agency were
killed, the agency burned to the ground, and the women
and children captured and held hostage for 24 days.
In response, the
Army arrived quickly and established the Camp on the
White River, banishing the Indians to a reservation in
eastern Utah. The army moved out in 1883, selling all
the buildings to those settlers eager to take the land
and build a town named after the slain Indian Agent.
Four of these buildings still stand on their original
community Fourth of July celebration was held in 1884,
and Meeker was incorporated a year later. For the next
twenty years, Meeker was the only incorporated town in
Rangely is a
young town as towns in Colorado go. It was not
incorporated until 1947. The first paved roads did not
make it to Rangely for another decade. However, people
take pride in the community, and senior citizens recall
with pleasure and nostalgia how their lives were in the
There are three
distinct periods: Native American and Prehistory (from
the distant past until 1883), Pioneer and Ranching (from
1883 until 1946), and Energy Development (from 1946 to
the present day). There are overlaps in these periods:
Native Americans returned periodically from Utah to hunt
and trade well after the turn of the century, shallow
oil wells and deep exploratory wells were drilled well
before 1946, and ranching still continues as an
important contribution to the economy of the region.
Indians lived in the Rangely area until about 1200 AD
when they left, either as a result of a long period of
drought or from pressure from other tribes entering the
region. The Utes followed the Fremonts and were one of
the last Indian Nations to lose their independence.
Europeans to pass through what is now Rangely were
Fathers Dominguez and Escalante who in 1776 led a
Spanish expedition to find a way from Mexico to
California. In the early 1800s, trappers penetrated the
area, and, on rock ledges not too far away, some of
these trappers inscribed their names.
In 1882 Charles
P. Hill and Joseph Studer brought in herds of cattle and
established a trading post where Douglas Creek enters
the White River. Other cattle and sheep ranchers soon
followed. Pioneers came by wagon to establish
As more people
moved into the area, a town center gradually developed.
In 1913, the townspeople got together and built a new
school. This attractive clapboard building was turned
over to the Rangely Museum Society in 1971 and was moved
to the Outdoor Museum in 1993. It houses a series of
exhibits that reflects the life of the Town in those
It was known
from the earliest of times that there was oil in
Rangely. Indians used oil seeping out of the ground for
medicinal purposes. There are place names such as
Stinking Water Creek where surface waters mixed with
oil. However, it was not until after World War II that
an oil boom took place. Thousands of people descended on
the town. Many lived in tents or dugouts. A local
entrepreneur hauled in abandoned trolley cars from Salt
Lake City and rented them out to people for shelter.
There are also
vast deposits of natural gas and coal around Rangely.
Only recently have natural gas deposits been extensively
developed. However, coal from the earliest pioneer days
was mined for home consumption. Later, coal was hauled
from mines to serve the needs of neighboring communities
in Utah, and coal was used to fire steam-operated rigs
and engines in the early exploratory days of the
Meeker has a
modern, 15-bed hospital, Pioneers Medical Center, which
offers 24-hour emergency room service and is equipped
with modern facilities. Attached to Pioneers Hospital
is a 33-bed skilled nursing home facility. Rangely
Hospital District is dedicated to providing primary and
emergency healthcare services for the residents and
visitors of Northwestern Colorado. Services include
Emergency Medicine, a Family Clinic, and Home Health.
Other service providers include Eagle Crest Assisted
Living, Columbine Medical Clinic, and Long-Term Care
Northwestern Community College Foundation
Blanco County Health Service District
Rangely School Foundation
County Department of Social Services
County Historical Society Inc
Enviromental Plant Center