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Thursday, December 13, 2012


Guest Ranch Properties in the West

 

A Brief History

The guest ranch industry began in the late nineteenth century with cattle ranches that started to take in guests as a way to bring in more money. The guests were known as “dudes” which means a person who doesn’t know anything, like a greenhorn or tenderfoot. This is where the term “dude ranch” came from. The dudes got to experience cowboy life riding horses, working cattle, learning to drive teams, and roping a runaway calf. Guests rode with the cowboys and fished the pristine rivers and streams.  With scenery of unsurpassed beauty, abundant wildlife and genuine western hospitality, word quickly spread about how much fun it was to spend time on a real western ranch. Adventure seekers from eastern states came to ranches in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Arizona. The “Dude Ranch Experience” became so popular that in the early twentieth century Montana ranchers made deals with the Northern Pacific Railroad to promote dude ranch vacations to people in the east. As the railroad expanded in the 1920’s, dude ranches spread across the west. At one time it was estimated that there were more than 1000 guest ranch operations.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show ran for nineteen years between 1887 and 1906. Along with tours all over the United States the show did eight tours in Europe and convinced countless travelers to visit dude ranches in the West. After World War One the industry exploded with visitors from crowded urban cities flocking to the magnificent landscapes of the American West. In 1926 the Dude Ranchers Association was formed to help promote the industry, establish cooperation among ranchers and railroad officials, and to standardize practices. Motion pictures glorified the cowboy and even Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower spent their summers riding and fishing at Rocky Mountain dude ranches.  Writers like Prentiss Ingraham and Zane Grey and painters like Fredrick Remington and Charlie Russell brought the adventure and romance of cowboy life on an open frontier to millions throughout the world.

Guest Ranch Properties Today

Many dude ranches began as homesteaded ranches in some of the most spectacular settings in the Rocky Mountains. Most of these ranches border National Forest lands giving them unlimited areas to ride and access to exceptional fishing and hunting. Another kind of ranch is a US Forest Service Lease. These ranches operations were set up in the early twentieth century. They are not deeded properties but rather a parcel of Forest Service land designated for use as a guest ranch operations. This provides an inexpensive way for entrepreneurs to buy a ranch business. The rancher buys the right to operate the dude ranch business and pays a minimal annual fee to the Forest Service.

Buyers interested in purchasing a guest ranch operation might question whether they should look at deeded land or Forest Service lease ranches. Generally speaking a Forest Service lease guest ranch operation can be purchased for considerably less than deeded land ranches of similar size. Lower purchase price can make a big difference in the time line for breaking even and in return on investment. Most of these operations are located close to National Parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton which is a huge marketing advantage.

Deeded land ranches offer security for investors as the land and improvements are tangible assets. Typically these ranches make use of National Forest lands for trail riding and other guest ranch activities and pay minimal annual fees for special use permits (these fees would not apply to private guest ranch operations). Boarding National Forest the ranch retains all the advantages of public land use while enjoying the freedom and flexibility of private property.

Today's dude ranches have modern amenities and activities to enjoy but still retain the charm of the Wild West. Dude ranch vacations offer many activities in addition to horseback riding such as world class fishing, rafting, hiking, hunting, and shooting sports. Many dude ranchers would not consider any other way of life than owning a guest ranch. It can be very rewarding and provide a profitable income. There are also good potential tax benefits both as an agricultural operation and as a business. Many ranches available today ran dude ranch operations in the past but now because of their prime location and historical significance are among the most sought after private ranches in America.

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Saturday, June 2, 2012

My friend Chuck.

A Cowboy is a person who will do anything for money as long as it has to do with horses and cattle.

A Buckaroo is a person who will do anything for money as long as it has to do with horses.

A Wrangler will do anything for money.

Chuck was a Wrangler.

Back in the old days wranglers were teenage boys that were hired on cattle drives to handle the string of horses. (I use the term correct term of string instead of herd because Chuck would have been offended by the word herd.) These were tough, scrawny kids who knew horses and could really handle them. They were poor with shabby cloths, hand me down hats and spurs handed down from their father.

When Chuck showed up at Black Mountain in 1988 he did not look like a wrangler from the past. He looked like he came out of a box. He had his red stovepipe boots, a blue slicker, and a new white hat. He had a moustache that a cat could lick off. Sam and I looked at him and thought there is a cocky kid. But Chuck was the one wrangler and cowboy who could back it up. Chuck was great with horses, great with people, and a pretty fair plumber.

Today being a wrangler is about taking care of dudes on a dude ranch vacation.

The word dude is defined as “a person who doesn’t know anything”. Chuck took care of his dudes with patience and thoughtfulness. He didn’t just take people on trail rides. He taught them about horses, riding and the cowboy way.

There is an old cowboy saying “Ride for the Brand”. A ranch’s brand is it’s trademark, and it represents pride, duty and stewardship for the ranch. When a cowboy signed on with an outfit he was honor bound to protect the ranch property, livestock and even defend the ranch owners. Chuck understood this and lived by it.

Chuck was not just good with horses and guests he was also a mentor to his staff. Chuck taught them how to handle horses, how to work and how to take care of guests. He didn’t like foolishness. If you didn’t brush a horse right or put a saddle away properly Chuck had a way of looking at you that let you know he wasn’t having it. Chuck didn’t like foolishness but he did like fun. Chuck would dress up as the clown at the rodeo, have a Bush beer or two with the wranglers and even was known to wear a dress at the talent show.

I have known a lot of wranglers and Chuck was the best. He and I only rode together for 3 years but we have been friends for 24 years. After Black Mountain he and I went in separate ways and work on different ranches.

Lisa and I moved to Cody a little over a year and a half ago. At that time Chuck was not riding any more. Chuck asked me to take care of his horse Rowdy. Rowdy was born at Black Mountain. 23 years later I am proud to take care of Chuck’s horse.

Last night Amy, and Rob were sitting with Lisa and I talking and telling stories about Chuck and Kerry and the kids. Rob made the point that it was not coincidence that we moved to Cody at a time when Chuck and his family needed some extra friends. Maybe God does have a plan for us. We are very thankful to have had the time to spend with Chuck and Kerry, Ethan and Eli.

Chuck was a great Wrangler, friend, father and husband. I am proud to have been his friend and I will miss him. Chuck will always be remembered at my fire.




Monday, January 16, 2012



Dude Ranch Vacation is happy to announce our newest featured ranch.  If this is your first Dude Ranch vacation, or you are veteran dude rancher you will surely be impressed. The Beckley family are now 4th generation Dude Ranchers, have been teaching guests from around the world to ride and enjoy western horsemanship since 1952. Three generations of the Beckley's now live on the ranch and are involved in the day to day operations of the ranch. Three Bars Ranch is also home to Beckley Reining horses, where Jesse Beckley trains full time and Jeff and April Beckley train and show as non-pro's. To learn more about three Bars Ranch click on the picture or go to our reservations.