Rio Blanco Journey: Rangely
The town of Rangely was incorporated in 1947 even though it had been inhabited thousand of years prior by the Fremont People. Later the Shoshone and Ute Indians lived in the area. Rangely is located on a high desert plateau at 5,200 feet above sea level and depends of the water from the White River, which runs through town in an east-to-west direction, for survival and recreation.
The history of Rangely tells the story of crude oil in the Rocky Mountain region. Approximately 300 million years ago the area around Rangely was mostly covered by sea. Sand dunes were built by wind and waves. Over time the sand compressed to form a type of rock known as the Weber formation. A giant folded arch called an “anticline” formed subsurface oil accumulation. In 1931 Chevron drilled the first deep oil well in the area, despite past attempts to discover crude oil in the area. In 1933 the well was producing 230 barrels of oil per day from the Weber Sandstone at a depth of 6,335 feet. Because there was no great demand for oil at the time, Chevron capped the well until WWII when oil was in high demand. Then Rangely became a booming oil camp and the area was formally incorporated as a town. One well expanded to 478 wells in 1949 and by 1956 82,000 barrels a day were coming out of the Weber formation. The Rangely Weber Sand Unit has recovered more than 815 million barrels of oil from the Weber reservoir, making it the largest field in the Rocky Mountain region.
Rangely is located 51 miles from Vernal, Utah; 90 miles north of Grand Junction, Colo.; 240 miles from Salt Lake City, Utah; 280 miles from Denver, Colo., and Las Vegas, Nev., is 600 miles away. Rangely is settled into western Rio Blanco County. This small town population of 2,500 people enjoys a way of life most people only dream about. With access to the outdoors, plenty of opportunity for recreation and a friendly welcoming environment, Rangely is one of Northwest Colorado’s hidden treasures.
Wildlife: This area’s wildlife ranges from big game to birds and predators. With public lands set aside and managed by the Bureau for Land Management and the Colorado Division of Wildlife, thousands of acres of hunting opportunities await, as does recreational opportunities for hiking, biking and photography.
Keep your eyes open for deer, antelope, elk, bald and golden eagles, hawks, owls, coyotes, red foxes, bobcats and mountain lions. Please be careful when driving as deer, elk and antelope tend to graze near roadways.
What to See:
Kenney Reservoir: The Kenney Reservoir was built in 1984 and is managed by the Rio Blanco Water Conservancy District. Reservoir facilities open in early April until the lake freezes in the fall. Boating costs $5 for district residents and $7 for visitors per day or an Annual Boating Pass can be purchased. The lake contains about 13,800 acre-feet of water and is a multi-use lake for water skiers, and fishers. Five thousand rainbow trout are stocked into the lake each spring with crappie and catfish also make home in these waters. Swimming off the docks located on the south side is a great way to cool off on those hot summer days not to mention the cliffs that invite you to jump off them. Wildlife is abundant due to the wetlands at the tail water of the lake. Camping is available for a small fee. Bathroom facilities, picnic tables and trees offer shade and relaxation. Directions: Kenney Reservoir is located five miles east of Rangely on Highway 64
Rangely Museum: The Rangely museum recounts the history and development of the area through Native American exhibits, tales of local cowboys and Indians, the development of energy and Rangely’s first jail. The museum is open May, September and October, Friday and Saturdays from 10 am to 4 pm and Sundays from noon to 4 pm. June, July and August the museum is open 7 days a week; Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and Sundays from noon to 4 pm.
Directions: 150 Kennedy Drive, on the corner of Kennedy Drive and Highway 64 on the east edge of town.
Rangely School Tour: Pick up a brochure to discover where nine different schoolhouses once educated Rangely’s young.
Septemberfest: Septemberfest is an annual Labor Day event that starts with a 5k walk intended for those of all ages and fitness levels. Throughout the day events take place in Elks Park. The highlight comes at the end of the evening with the annual Rock ‘N’ Bull rodeo. Don’t miss the ice cream social, chili cook-off, cribbage and whiffle ball tournaments. Labor Day starts with a pancake breakfast put on by the Firemen of Rangely followed by a parade.
The TANK: This acoustical wonder offers a reverb more extraordinary than the Taj Mahal. The Tank is actually an old 60-foot water tank that musicians and recording artists from around the world came to use as an underground studio. In 2013 money was raised to turn The TANK into a Center for Sonic Arts. www.tanksounds.org
Wild Horses: Over 150 horses have made a home of the area east-southeast of Rangely. The horses are believed to be descendents from runaway Spanish horses. The earliest recorded sighting of wild horses in the area was in 1882. As settlers made this area home the horse population increased until The Great Depression hit. When ranchers and farmers could no longer take care of their horses, they turned them loose. Todays horses are a cross of Arabians, thoroughbreds, draft horses, and many other breeds.
The roads to view the wild horses are maintained but are not paved. Four-wheel drive vehicles are highly recommended. Use the “good neighbor policy” and leave gates as you find them, watch for signs and fences signaling private property, and be aware of your impact on the environment and be respectful of all the wildlife, including the wild horses.
Located at the east end of Main Street, this park has an immaculate location; as it is well shaded by the large trees, river flowing close behind with a park in between. There are approximately 25 spaces with some having electrical hook ups and some without. Centrally located you will find a bathhouse with restrooms and hot showers (14 day limit on camping). This facility also offers a waste dump station
Cedar Ridge Golf Course:
This par 72 golf course was designed by architect Frank Hummel and is open from mid-March to mid-November (weather permitting). The course is visited by people from miles around. The course has a pro shop, snack bar, practice putting and chipping green and driving range. The course is short but challenging with 3,433 yards from the championship gold tees, 3,140 from the blue and 3,080 from the white. Cedar Ridges is a spikeless facility. Several tournaments are hosted annually and golfers can get more information and a schedule by calling the pro shop at (970) 675-8403 or the Western Rio Blanco Recreation and Parks center at (970) 675-8211. You don’t need a tee time for this course and the prices are more than reasonable. http://www.rangely.com/golf.htm
Directions: Cedar Ridges Golf Course is located about two miles east of Rangely, just above Columbine Park.
Phelks Park is located down the road, on Stanolind, from the Recreation center. The large park is full of lush green grass and spectacular mature trees. In 2007 the recreation district put in a top of the line playground. In 2011 the Recreation and Park District Board of Directors completely renovated Elks Park with new restrooms, pavilions and ball fields. This renovation made this park suitable for events of all types; from the smallest picnics to largest weddings, which can be rented for a nominal fee. Softball is a sport enjoyed by many in Rangely and Elks Park has two completely remodeled regulation size ball fields.
In the winter enjoy the hockey rink before the center opens up to swimming and rollerblading in the summer. Public showers are available for campers and those passing through town on long road trips. This center has a new pool, spa and waterslide. The pool also serves as a practice pool for the Rangely Hurricanes swim team, and the cardio and weight room has a large variety of machines and free-weights. A multi-purpose room, A/C room and game room are available to rent for an hourly rate. Hunters are welcomed, and can also use the showers for a minimal fee. Racquetball is still a love in Rangely and has two well-maintained racquetball courts and hosts a tournament every year, taking place March 15-17, 2013. Lighted outdoor tennis/basketball courts and a lighted outdoor skating rink are just steps from the Recreation center. Brochures are released every few months with detailed programs being offered for people of all ages! Pool hours changed with the seasons so call 970-675-8211 for current hours. Located at 611 South Stanolind Ave.
Rock Crawling Park
Just a few miles southwest of the town of Rangely is the only designated natural rock crawling park in the state of Colorado. With more than 560 acres of natural terrain designated by the Bureau of Land Management as a four-wheel drive park, the Rangely Rock Crawling Club has one of the largest areas in the country to climb. Entrance to the park is free. Many of the trails in the park are still waiting to be discovered. Rock crawling and four-wheel drive enthusiasts can take on trails like the Megasaurus, Chain Break, Poison Ivy and Willy’s Way. The park consists of one main trail with the park broken up into four sections. Trails range from easy to extreme. For information and a map of the trails go to www.rangelyrockcrawlers.com.
Canyon Pintado Rock Art Sites
Sixteen rock art sites can be found close to Rangely. The art includes petro glyphs, which are ‘pecked’ (tapped) or rubbed into the rock with another stone and pictographs, which are painted onto the rock with pigments that come from plants, animals or minerals. In some cases more than one type of pigment can be found on the same piece of art.
Canyon Pintado National Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in the Douglas Creek valley between Rangely and Fruita on highway 139. The canyon is believed to have been occupied by prehistoric people for approximately 11,000 years. Various cultures migrated through this area thoughout the years. The art that can be found there today came from the Fremont and Ute Indians. The Fremont lived in the valley from 200BC to 1200 AD before they mysteriously disappeared or more likely moved south when faced with war or drought. Their ancient astronomy sites lined up with the solstices, equinoxes and movement of the stars. The most unique images left by the Fremont people are those of carrot-shaped figures and Kokopelli, the hunched-back flute player.
The Utes wintered in the areas of Meeker and Rangely and summered at Steamboat Springs. They lived in the area until the 1880s when they were banished to Utah following the Meeker Massacre. Their art reflects a hunter-gatherer way of life. Images of horses and the coming of the white man are prominent in their art.
Directions: The Rangely Museum Society runs tours several times a year to many of the sites. A fun game to play is how many categories of rock art can you observe? Or you can head out on your own self-guided tour by picking up a brochure when you’re in Rangely. The Canyon Pintado Historic District comprises eight marked sites along Highway 139. By starting in Rangely, travel east on Highway 64 then turn right on Highway 139 and travel south.
Important Information: Rock art is VERY FRAGILE. Please do not touch the art, make rubbings or otherwise disturb rock art. The oil in our fingers can destroy or damage the art. Each piece of art is a natural museum that we must all take care to preserve. To record the art, feel free to sketch or photograph it. http://www.rangely.com/rock-art.htm
Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway
This National Scenic Byway runs through some of the best dinosaur country in the world! Paleontologists have been coming here for over a hundred years to look for dinosaurs and are still making new discoveries. Its world-class dinosaur, fossil and archaeological resources, including rock art, are second to none. Its recreational resources alone attract people from all over the globe. The Dinosaur Diamond’s natural and scenic resources are so spectacular that two national parks and two national monuments embrace only some of them.
The complex and revealing geology attract rock hounds and geologists from afar. Its cultural and historic traditions bring together the rich histories of prehistoric inhabitants, Native Americans, and western settlers. The combined magnitude of these resources warrant All-American Road designation under the National Scenic Byways Program. It would be difficult to find another region that embraces so much. http://www.dinosaurdiamond.net/
The 512-mile “diamond in the rough” loop encompasses parts of western Colorado and eastern Utah. The Dinosaur Diamond embraces an enormous geographic area and travels through several communities. In Utah the Dinosaur Diamond travels through Vernal, Roosevelt, Duchesne, Price, and Green River. In Colorado the Dinosaur Diamond travels through the City of Grand Junction and the communities of Fruita, Rangely, and Dinosaur. The Dinosaur Diamond’s physical and thematic area of influence is yet larger, and includes the Utah communities of, Moab, Monticello, and Blanding as well as the Colorado community of Delta. The Dinosaur Diamond intersects with U.S. Interstate 70 near Green River Utah and Grand Junction Colorado.
Views of prehistoric plateaus, dinosaur quarries, petro glyphs and pictographs can be found in several places along the byway in western Colorado and eastern Utah.
Travelers may access both the canyon areas of Dinosaur National Monument near Dinosaur, Colorado and the quarry area near Jensen, Utah as well as Arches National Park near Moab, Utah. The Dinosaur Diamond National Scenic Byway actually goes through the Colorado National Monument near Fruita, Colorado.
Dinosaur National Monument
Dinosaur National Monument was created in 1915 to preserve one of the world’s largest discoveries of Jurassic-age dinosaur fossils. The monument was enlarged to just over 210,000 acres in 1938 to include and protect canyons of the Green and Yampa Rivers.
Rangely is only 20 miles from the Canyon Area Visitor Center of Dinosaur National Monument and 60 miles from historic Echo Park, where majestic Steamboat Rock towers over the confluence of the Yampa and Green Rivers. World-class geology, white water rafting, wildlife watching, camping and hiking are a few of the many opportunities available in remote and primitive Dinosaur National Monument. Please be aware that there are no dinosaur bones on display at the Visitor center or any other location on the Colorado side of the Dinosaur National Monument.
Visitors can see the world-famous Carnegie Dinosaur Quarry. The fossils in Dinosaur National Monument represent only 10 of the many dinosaur species that existed on earth some 160 million years ago.
The Quarry Exhibit Hall reopened in the fall of 2011 after a huge remodel. The exhibit hall features approximately 1,500 dinosaur bones from numerous different species of dinosaurs including Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, Diplodicus, and Stegosaurus along with several others. One of the highlights of the Quarry Exhibit is the 80-foot long mural that explores the animals that thrived in the Morrison environment during the late Jurassic period. You can even touch 149 million year old dinosaur fossils – with your bare hands!