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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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2 comments:

  1. I've been to a couple of ranches and my favorite is Echo Valley Ranch in British Columbia. They offer comfortable deluxe accommodations while you can still enjoy the unspoiled nature surroundings. My favorite part was being able to get spa treatments (Thai and European) after a long day of riding.A helpful site to help you find a good ranch is www.ranchseeker.com

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  2. I think visiting a cattle ranch would be so fun. I'm thinking of taking the family to a ranch for a vacation.

    http://www.nmranchproperties.com/listings/new-mexico-ranch.html

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We would like to hear your dude ranch stories.