Over 10,000 years ago Nomadic tribes first inhabited this fertile valley, hunting game and foraging plants. The Ute Indian tribe, descendants of these early people, called themselves ‘Yampatika,’ or ‘those who eat the root of the yampa plant.’ The Ute could not withstand the surge of settlers moving West. Upon their removal to reservations, Meeker became the first incorporated town in northwestern Colorado in 1885. Even though its setting was remote, with no railroad connections, Meeker was the central banking and trading hub in the region for several years. People were attracted to Meeker’s remoteness and the area’s wilderness and untamed adventure. Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, was among them. He came to town on several occasions while hunting wild-game and fishing its gold medal waters.
Did you know that the Ute Indians called today’s White River the Smoking Earth River for the clouds of mist rising from the water on cool mornings?
For the Utes, this country was a great living land with an abundance of deer, bear, elk, buffalo and antelope. Here, they raised their prized racing ponies amidst a green valley on the banks of the White River. Later, this pastoral setting would be forever changed as miners and settlers arrived in covered wagons, on horseback, and on foot. Drawn by news of mineral wealth and the promise of the Homestead Act, they trekked the trails to the Colorado mountains.
The Ute Indians, who considered the whole of Colorado their home for generations, resented their diminishing hunting ground and the white men resented and distrusted the Indian. The fateful events resulting from this conflict can be retraced, viewed, and relived in Meeker today.
Visit the Rio Blanco County Historical Society to learn about the Meeker Massacre and the Battle at Milk Creek.
Did you know that Teddy Roosevelt hunted near Meeker and stayed at the Meeker Hotel?
By the early 1900s Meeker was well known for its big game hunting—enticing such notables as Theodore Roosevelt. Vice President-elect Roosevelt stayed at the Meeker Hotel and as reported by the Meeker Herald left with a guide on the morning of January 12th 1901, ”about nine o’clock, all on horseback, for the Keystone Ranch in Coyote Basin, which, for the present will be their headquarters.”* For the next three weeks, the famous ‘rough rider’ found plenty of adventure—shooting several mountains lions.
Today, Meeker is home to one of the largest elk herds in the United States, and each year, thousands of hunters arrive in search of big game. Fishing and boating are popular activities here as well, and the Rio Blanco Ranger District offers 111 miles of streams, 757 acres of natural lakes, and 25 acres of reservoirs.
Did you know that Meeker is close to a wilderness area and a national forest?
Meeker is the west gateway to the Flat Tops Wilderness and the White River National Forest. The Flat Tops Scenic and Historic Byway takes visitors on an 80 mile ride through the Flat Tops Wilderness, and offers stunning vistas and wildlife viewing opportunities. Outdoor recreational activities abound in White River National Forest, where visitors can experience over two million acres of wilderness at elevations ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 feet. Hikers can trek through dramatic geologic formations caused by basalt lava flows or along sub-alpine meadows and alpine tundra. In winter, snowmobilers and cross country skiers can take backcountry trails, roam the steep canyons, or enjoy the abundance of open parks and meadows.
Did you know that Meeker was the first—and for twenty years—the only incorporated town in all of Northwestern Colorado?
Meeker was once the hub, the business and the banking center, of the vast territory of Northwest Colorado. Today, Meeker is the county seat of Rio Blanco County and is a stable agricultural community producing cattle, sheep, small grains, and hay with an additional industry of coal, lumber, oil, and natural gas. The Piceance Basin, located 40 miles southwest of Meeker, is estimated to contain 1.3 trillion barrels of oil equivalent.
CULTURAL AND NATURAL HERITAGE
- Rio Blanco County Historical Society: Housed in a 1880s U.S. Army officer quarters, the museum offers insight into Ute heritage and pioneering families of the region.
FORESTS & WILDERNESS JOURNEYS
- Flat Tops Scenic Byway
- Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Highway
- Cradle of Wilderness Journey
- White River Ute Journey