The historic oil well location is a road side stop with no pull off. A visitor would need to pull off along the edge of the road in a safe location near the plaque in order to view the plaque. It is located 5.8 miles north of Canon City starting at the intersection of Reynolds Avenue and US highway 50. The plaque is visible along the west side of the road.
A grain-miller and sometime prospector Gabriel F. Bowen saw an oil spring along Oil Creek (Four Mile Creek) in August 1860. Using the newly formed Claim Club he claimed it in the name of “G. Bowen & Co” thus recording Colorado ‘ s first oil company. From the first edition o f the Canon Times, also called the Canon City Times:
“New Discovery-G. Bowen of this place, last week discovered an Oil Spring eight miles from this city in a northeastern direction, which runs five gallons per hour. This oil resembles in smell and light, the coal oil so much in use in the States, and doubtless a goodly fortune can be made preparing it for burning purposes. Mr B. has recorded the claim, and purposes trying what can be done with the discovery.”
We have a more detailed description of this discovery and the history within this same website!
Geologically, this is not a location where any significant commercial production could be expected.
In 1874, while making a horseback survey for coal and oil lands for the USGS, S. G. Williams visited the Oil Spring and concluded:
“The nature of the strata in which these wells are situated, with what we know of the underlying rocks, does not afford any very favorable prospect of a large supply of oil from this locality. “
Discoveries of oil did continue though to the southeast of this area in the Florence Oil Field, Colorado’s oldest oil field and it continues to operate today.
The site location is actually across the river valley on the north side of Four Mile Creek. The plaque was placed in this location as the only available location near the site with a view of the original site.
It would make sense to widen the road for a good sized pull off at this location for maybe one bus or three or four cars. This would require some engineering to protect the pull off site from potential erosion and damage from Four Mile Creek. If a reasonable pull off were developed, an additional interpretive sign or two could be added. Considering this is the first oil well drilled in the United States outside of the Titusville locations in Pennsylvania, it seems worthy of such an investment.