Colorado was originally part of the Kansas and Nebraska territories, but was separated and made into its own territory in 1861. It became a state in 1876, 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Rio Blanco County, located in northwest Colorado, has a rich and interesting history. Before European settlement, the area was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Ute, who relied on hunting and gathering for sustenance. The first recorded European expedition to the region was led by Spanish explorers in the early 18th century, seeking potential trade routes and valuable minerals. However, it wasn't until the mid-19th century that white settlers began to establish permanent residence in the area.

The discovery of gold in the White River in 1879 sparked a significant period of growth and development in Rio Blanco County. The town of Meeker, named after Nathan Meeker – a prominent figure in the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs – became a hub for trade and mining. As more settlers arrived, conflicts between Native Americans and the newcomers increased, leading to the Ute Indian War in the early 1880s. The conflict eventually resulted in the removal of the Ute tribe from their ancestral lands.

Logging also played a crucial role in the county's history, with vast stretches of forests being cleared for timber and fuel. This industry thrived in the early 20th century, attracting workers and boosting the local economy. Additionally, the establishment of the Ute Oil Field in the 1910s brought further economic growth, as oil drilling and extraction became significant industries in the region.

In recent times, Rio Blanco County has experienced a decline in traditional industries like logging and mining, leading to a shift towards tourism and outdoor recreation. The county's stunning natural surroundings – including the White River National Forest and Dinosaur National Monument – have become major attractions, drawing visitors from all over. Despite the changes, the county still retains its historical charm and serves as a reminder of its exciting past.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Rio Blanco County, Colorado.

  • 1883: Rio Blanco County is established in the state of Colorado.
  • 1911: Meeker Massacre Plaza is built to commemorate the Meeker Massacre of 1879.
  • 1926: The White River Museum is established to preserve the history of the area.
  • 1955: The Piceance Creek Road is constructed, providing improved access to the county.
  • 1972: The Rifle Gap State Park is established, offering recreational activities such as fishing and boating.
  • 1980: The Rio Blanco County Historical Society is founded to promote the preservation of local history.
  • 1996: The first Rio Blanco County Fairgrounds are constructed in Meeker.
  • 2008: The county celebrates its 125th anniversary with various events and festivities.