Way Back When: Meeker natural hot water pool

A bathing beauty contest was sponsored by the Meeker Lions Club in 1926 at the new Meeker Hot Water swimming pool, where 96-degree sulfuric water was naturally produced by a well that was previously tested for oil but was unsuccessful. Meeker residents swam for free until an obstruction stopped the water flow in 1928.

I bought these rare images from a house sale a few years ago. I knew they had to be historical treasures because they piqued my selective curiosity, and I knew there had to be more to the story.

I’d never heard of natural hot water pools in Meeker, so I made a phone call to the Rio Blanco Historical Society. They directed me to Patty and Harold Anderson, who had heard of the pools and had a few tidbits of information, but they admitted my research had yielded more than they had ever known.

The Meeker Hot Water baths came about purely by accident. The Marland Oil Co. drilled an oil well about 2½ to 3 miles east on County Road 8 in March 1925.

Marland was owned by Earnest Whitworth Marland, an oil king from Ponca City, Oklahoma. With the backing of J.P. Morgan, Marland expanded into the western states and by 1928 had soon overextended himself.

His company eventually merged with the Continental Oil Co., and Marland’s distinctive red triangle signs on 600 service stations in 11 midcontinent states were painted over with the word “CONOCO.”

When the Scott Well No. 1 did not produce the oil they were hoping for and water came up instead, it was abandoned and Rio Blanco County commissioners bought the casing for $1,250. What was left behind was hot 96-degree sulfuric water that produced more than 4 million gallons per day.

The citizens of Meeker got pretty excited, and the hot water pool that was formed became a free swimming pool for everyone to enjoy. There was talk of piping it into town and making a big pool like they had in Steamboat or Glenwood Springs.

Meeker might then become a major tourist resort, or the pressure of the well could generate enough energy to light the entire town and surrounding countryside.

On Saturday, July 3, 1926, there were big doings in Meeker for their annual Independence Day celebration. There was the usual rodeo with a whopping $1,000 in prize money, country dances and children’s sports.

New in 1926 was a bathing beauty contest at the new natural hot water pool. The contest was sponsored by the Meeker Lions Club, and “beauties from all parts of the slope were invited” and judged by Atlantic City measurements.

The popular hot water swimming pool brought new recreational opportunities to Rio Blanco County.

The town raised money to build a dam to keep the water where they wanted it, and for his and hers dressing rooms — but by May of 1928 an obstruction in the casing caused the hot water to cease to flow.

More money was needed to reopen the well. The well was capped. Rumors grew as to why it was closed. Was it a drowning? A polio incident? 

Patty Anderson told me that after they plugged the hole, the hot water came up again ¼-mile down the road in an “old man’s” hayfield. The hay has never grown back to what it was. 

Anxious to know exactly where this pool was located, I Google Earth-ed the area and measured out the mileage on Highway 8. Whether it’s my active imagination or because I want to see it so badly, I am conjuring up the image that I want to see. I think I can see it.

I can also see the hayfield that still looks a little less verdant than the rest, a ¼-mile down the road. I really need to go to Meeker to know for sure. 

Written on the back of the postcard with the nine contestants are six names in this order: Annabelle Bartlett, Bea Gentry, Dorothy Groves, Mildred Joy, Barbara Sanderson and Alfreda Moreland. Patty told me Alfreda became a Hamilton.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has more information or photos.


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