Rio Blanco County (1889) is named for the White River, which flows through both Meeker and Rangely, the only sizable towns. Approximately 6,000 people reside in this rural county, which had a considerable prehistoric population. Among many pictographs, fortifications, and dwellings of the Fremont Culture, the Duck Creek Wickiup Village, 36 miles south of Meeker (NR), is the largest reported in Colorado. Archaeologists have excavated the remains of eleven wickiups, made of juniper or piñon poles braced against tree trunks. Wickiups were generally 4 to 6 feet high and 6 to 10 feet in diameter. The boughs or skins that would have covered these poles are gone, but thick mats of shredded juniper bark remain on the floors, along with fire pits.
The Utes, who also left art and artifacts at some of this county's many archaeological sites, here offered their last effective resistance to the white invasion of Colorado. They defeated Major Thomas Thornburgh and his troops near Yellow Jacket Pass, preventing them from rescuing Nathan Meeker at the White River Ute Indian Agency, where Meeker and ten civilian employees were slaughtered in 1879. Quick U.S. Army retaliation crushed the Utes, who were forcibly relocated to Utah and two small reservations in the southwest corner of Colorado.
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