Meeker is a small ranching town lying at the western edge of the Flat Tops Byway at an elevation of 6,240 feet. About two thousand people reside in this Rio Blanco County town.
There are a few restaurants, shops and lodging options in the historic downtown of a couple blocks. In addition to Old West lodging, the Meeker Hotel has a cafe that’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s Northwest Colorado’s only historic hotel – Teddy Roosevelt was a guest. The town’s motto is “The river runs through it.”
Meeker is an iconic town in the history of Colorado. Meeker’s roots came from the Yampatika people, early descendants of the Ute People, who suffered during the turbulent period of the gold rush.
During this era, there was a big chaos happening at the Kansas-Nebraska territory, which had eventually proceeded to the Civil War. The biggest turning points in town were the tragedy of the Meeker Massacre and the Battle of Milk Creek during the time when the town was founded in 1885.
The town is named for Nathan Meeker, an agriculturalist, who was killed in the Meeker Massacre in 1879. When the Settlers moved in, Nathan Meeker, an expert in irrigation, pushed a farming lifestyle onto the nomadic Utes.
Feeling tension, Nathan Meeker dispatched for armed troops from Wyoming. Although he wasn’t intending war, that’s how it was perceived when an infantry of 153 soldiers and 25 civilians arrived.
Meeker, in the early 1900s had been a destination for regional hunting. It was so popular that then Vice President-Elect Theodore Roosevelt visited the White River Valley for mountain lion hunting. Roosevelt usually stayed in a cabin by Coyote Creek. One time, Roosevelt reportedly took home twelve mountain lions during his hunt.
Aside from leisure and agriculture, Meeker’s landscape also captivated Hollywood’s early directors. Different cowboy films had been shot here, including those starring Buddy Roosevelt.
One of the popular Meeker natives who conquered Hollywood was Kenneth Sanderson who left the town at the age of 18. Sanderson performed as a stunt man, and had eventually been known to be a stunning leading man. Sanderson’s career spanned decades until he died in 1973.
Though Sanderson’s influence got Hollywood to pay attention on Meeker, the industry didn’t turn their backs on Meeker even after Sanderson’s death. Many celebrities continued to visit the town to enjoy its natural wonders, especially during the summer months.
Once the business and banking center for Northwest Colorado, Meeker, today is a steady, agricultural community and the county seat of Rio Blanco County. Though the White River Valley averages less than fifteen inches of rain per year, irrigation makes it some of the best farming land in the state. Coal, lumber, oil and natural gas also play a role in the economy.
Flat Tops Trail Byway – This enjoyable road connects Meeker with Yampa to the east. It’s a designated national scenic byway and fine for 2WD vehicles. Meeker is a little larger than Yampa, but not by so much.
Hunting – Numerous hunting exists nearby in White River National Forest and the Flat Tops Wilderness. Meeker is home to one of the largest elk herds in the U.S. It’s a popular hunting destination, with plenty of opportunities close to town.
Trappers Lake – This is Colorado’s second largest natural lake, located within the Flat Tops Wilderness. Although it’s located an hour and a half east of downtown Meeker, the trip along the Flat Tops Byway is part of the adventure and well worth the drive.
- A variety of fee and free dispersed camping can be found along the Flat Tops highway. The area down by Trappers Lake in the Flat Tops Wilderness has several Forest Service campgrounds, most of which, are first-come, first-serve.
- Read about the camping near Meeker and Flat Tops.
- The trout filled White River runs through town.
- Lake Avery lies nearly 20 miles east on the Flat Tops highway.
- Read about the hiking trails near Dinosaur and Meeker.
- Meeker Hotel & Cafe – Historic hotel and restaurant in downtown.
- Read about the best hotels in Meeker.
Jun – Meekerpalooza – Live performances, workshops, concerts for all aspects of dance, singing, music, visual and culinary arts, held annually in mid June.
Jul – Meeker Range Call – Fourth of July celebration featuring the oldest annual rodeo in Colorado, as well as a Meeker Massacre Re-Enactment.
Sep – Meeker Classic Sheepdog Championship Trials – Five days of sheepdog herding competition held annually in early September.
Activities near Meeker
- Flat Tops Wilderness Area
- Spring Cave (31mi)
- Trappers Lake (49mi)
- White River
- White River National Forest
State Wildlife Areas:
- Rio Blanco Lake SWA (19mi)
Visit the town’s official website.
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