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Rancher Finds Mysterious Crater: 'You Can Smell The Sulfur'

UPDATE: Officials from Anadarko Petroleum say they've solved the mystery behind the mysterious crater.

By Michael Abeyta

ELBERT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) - Between Bennett and Kiowa on County Road 53 there isn't much excitement. So, when something is out of place, residents notice it right away.

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(credit: CBS)

Just ask local rancher and landowner Joanna Meston.

"We gathered up our cattle a few weeks ago to sort them and sell some of them and one of the bulls was missing," Meston said.

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Joanna Meston (credit: CBS)

She looked around and could see her bull wandering down by the Kiowa Creek, which runs through her property.

She let him go for the time being, but after a couple weeks of her bull being away from the herd she decided to go get him.

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(credit: CBS)

"I was coming down from that hill and saw this depression here. At first I thought it was a hole he dug because sometimes the bulls will do that when they are mad. I got closer and it's this hot spring," Meston said.

Something about this crater and the water in it was disconcerting for her.

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(credit: CBS)

"You can smell the sulfur, and you can tell that there's heat, and it looks like the material around it is burnt," Meston said.

So she decided to do a little research.

"I went online and started looking things up, and the best thing I could find that sounded like it was a mud pot similar to what you find up around Yellowstone," she said.

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(credit: CBS)

Meston also thought maybe it could have something to do with oil and gas pipelines.

"There are natural gas pipelines and possibly oil pipelines underlying this property and a gas collection area is only about a quarter mile to the west. So it's possible there could be pipelines pretty close to this thing," Meston said.

After calls to the company that owns the pipeline and local geologists, it appears one mystery might be solved.

The little volcano is caused by a failure in an oil pipe -- owned by Anadarko.

"As far as all are concerned, this is a unique event - none of the engineers or geologists have seen such a crater before," according to Paul Morgan with the Colorado Geological Survey.

"Anadarko engineers were at the site by 2:45 pm investigating the crater, a remarkably quick response after they were notified (thanks to the heads up from Channel 4)," Morgan added.

Michael Abeyta is a 4th generation Coloradan and a Multimedia Journalist for CBS4. His stories can be seen on CBS4 News at 5 & 6. He is on Twitter! Follow him @AbeytaCBS4.

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