Skip to content

Rangely History

Within the Town Limits of Rangely, there are over 2600 acres of land. Much of this area lies in the narrow gently sloping southern plain of the White River valley. The rest is along the tops of the Mesas to the south of the river.

The town of Rangely was incorporated in 1947 even though it had been inhabited thousand of years prior by the Fremont People. Later the Shoshone and Ute Indians lived in the area. Rangely is located on a high desert plateau at 5,200 feet above sea level and depends of the water from the White River, which runs through town in an east-to-west direction, for survival and recreation.

The history of Rangely tells the story of crude oil in the Rocky Mountain region. Approximately 300 million years ago the area around Rangely was mostly covered by sea. Sand dunes were built by wind and waves. Over time the sand compressed to form a type of rock known as the Weber formation. A giant folded arch called an “anticline” formed subsurface oil accumulation. In 1931 Chevron drilled the first deep oil well in the area, despite past attempts to discover crude oil in the area. In 1933 the well was producing 230 barrels of oil per day from the Weber Sandstone at a depth of 6,335 feet. Because there was no great demand for oil at the time, Chevron capped the well until WWII when oil was in high demand. Then Rangely became a booming oil camp and the area was formally incorporated as a town. One well expanded to 478 wells in 1949 and by 1956 82,000 barrels a day were coming out of the Weber formation. The Rangely Weber Sand Unit has recovered more than 815 million barrels of oil from the Weber reservoir, making it the largest field in the Rocky Mountain region.