Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Rangely, CO (5/24 & 5/25/2017)

After a week in NE Utah, I returned to Colorado, stopping for a couple days in the small town of Rangely, population around 3000.  Oil and gas production is the mainstay of Rangely's economy, with one of the largest oil fields in the country located nearby.  The town also works hard at its tourist industry, promoting some of its unique features, but really doesn't want to become a large city.  Their web site declares "We don't have it all, nor do we want to".

When Fathers Dominguez and Escalante came through this area in 1776 to find a better route from Santa Fe to California, they discovered ancient rock art on the canyon walls and named it "Canon Pintado (Painted Canyon).  Since then, more than fifty rock art sites have been identified, and fifteen or so are documented in the town's tour guide for the public to visit.  The art consists of both petroglyphs and pictographs, created by the older Fremont culture as well as the Utes in more recent times.  I went to most of the sites, some of which are so small as to be disappointing after the effort required to access them.  Since most people have less interest in this subject than I do, I will show photos only of those that are unusual.

One site, located deep in a gully, contains pictographs in both red and blue dyes.  It's called the "Carrott Man Site" because of the shapes used to depict human figures.  Actually, I think you could argue that aliens are the subjects here.  Notice that some of the figures were lost when part of the rock fell off.
Any images of horses were done by the Utes, since horses were not present here until brought in by the Spanish in the 16th century.  One depicts the horse stolen from General Crook, clearly marked with the general's brand.  Nearby, a cowboy engraved the phrase "we are here because we ain't in hell, but we are on our way".  Also, a Basque sheepherder engraved his name and date (in 1975) along with an image of a "pin-up girl".  Apparently, some locals took offense and shot up the artist's masterpiece.

A site called "Waving Hands" (for obvious reasons) is very unusual, as is the "White Birds" location.

One of the larger sites has not only an unusual piece of rock art, but also the remains of a cowboy line shack, used for round-ups, and pieces of petrified wood sticking out of the sandstone.

A figure called Kokopelli, similar to the mythical flute player from the Anasazi culture, was another victim of rock breakage.  Note how the broken part has been re-attached with a cable.
The Fremont Indians lived in pit houses that have long since been covered by earth and haven't been excavated, and the Utes lived in teepees as part of their nomadic lifestyle, so there are no Indian ruins to be seen.  However, I did locate a colony of nests built by cliff swallows, one beak-full of mud at a time.

Beyond the large number of archeological sites, Rangely is home to a unique phenomenon called "The Tank International Center For Sonic Arts".  An abandoned water tank, sixty-five feet tall, has amazing sound reverberation qualities.  I met the man who discovered these properties in 1976 when he crawled into it through a small inspection door  He and the lady who now runs it gave me a tour and invited me to "make a note, any note".  Although I was reluctant, not having any singing ability, I did make an "Ahhhh".  The two of them joined in with harmonizing notes, making an incredible sound.  The acoustics are so good in The Tank, even I sounded pretty good.  It is in constant use as a recording studio.
Rangely also has a history museum and an automobile museum, both of which looked interesting, but I passed on them.  Because of the oil industry, the many canyons in the area are full of dirt roads that attract off-road vehicle drivers (like me).  They also have a 560 acre park for rock crawling vehicles (not for me).  The mountains and mesas nearby are home to a large number of wild horses, some of which I encountered on a previous visit, as well as what they claim to be the largest elk population in the world.  The White River flows through town and a dam just east of town creates the Kenney Reservoir, great for all water activities and a good spot for watching sunsets.

  I'll be home for a while now, enjoying my grand-daughter, Lauren, who will be visiting for the summer, working in a local thoroughbred stable.


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