The Arizona Dude Ranch Association

The Arizona Dude Ranch Association
P. O. Box 603
520-823-4277

History 

The Circle Z Ranch, which started as a sheep-herding operation in the 1880's, was developed as a dude ranch in 1925 when the Zinsmeister family of Germany purchased the 5,000-acre spread from the Sanford family who had homesteaded the property. It was the golden age of dude ranching and the Dude Rancher's Association was just forming. The facilities were opened in 1926 with a capacity of 24 guests. Over the next few years, it was increased to accommodate 70. The average length of stay for a guest then was one month and some families remained the entire season. Private railway cars of some guests remained in town on a siding by the Patagonia station. By 1929, the annual Fourth of July picnic and barbecue at the Circle Z was one of Santa Cruz County's biggest attractions. Upwards of 2,000 people would attend this event; arriving by train and private car. They were served pit barbecue with all the trimmings, enjoyed band concerts, a rodeo, and a cigar race. A dance in Patagonia concluded the day. 

World War II put a crimp in the resort and travel business, and the Circle Z ended up changing hands several times. In 1949 Fred Fendig came from Chicago and purchased the Circle Z. He was the owner-manager for the next 25 years. When Fred Fendig decided to retire and sell the ranch in 1974, there were rumors it would be acquired by a corporation and turned into a land development or tennis ranch. Mr. And Mrs. Preston Nash of Novelty, Ohio, purchased the spread and decided to operate it in keeping with its honored tradition of an old-time family-style ranch with an emphasis on good riding, good food and congenial guests. Their deep interest stems from Mrs. Nash's many visits to the ranch as a child, with her family, dating back to Zinsmeister's ownership. They have continued preserving, improving and perpetuating a rare and unique spot in the west.

About fifty miles southwest of Tucson, you will find Elkhorn Ranch nestled into the foothills of the Baboquivari Mountains. Ranching heritage lives strong in the working landscape of the Altar Valley, where the Millers raise horses and neighbors operate successful cattle ranches. The third generation of the Miller family carries on guest ranching traditions pioneered by their grandparents, Grace and Ernest Miller, in the Gallatin Canyon of Montana. In 1945, the Millers found an ideal winter ranch location at what had been the Fresnal Ranch School and before that a cattle ranch homesteaded by Sabino Otero in the late 1800's. The first guests arrived by the spring of 1946; and after many years of migrating north and south, Bob and Jan Miller settled permanently in Arizona in 1961 to raise their children and focus on the Arizona operation. These days, the Millers continue to welcome many returning guests and new friends to Elkhorn Ranch, a place to enjoy friendly horses, friendly people, and beautiful country. 

Flying E Ranch - The original 3,000 acre, working cattle ranch was purchased in the early 1940’s by Lee Eyerly of Salem, Oregon. Lee fashioned a ranch brand “E” with wings on the first initial of his surname, thus registering the Flying E brand. With the cattle industry not making ends meet, Lee and his group decided to change course and built the original lodge and eight guest rooms along with a picturesque “Oregon” type barn, corrals and 3200 foot airstrip. In 1946 he switched from a private ranch to a guest ranch hoping for a return on his investment. George and Vi Wellik came to the ranch in their private plane as ‘guests’ in 1948. The Welliks first circled the ranch. “It looks like a motel in the middle of the desert!’ was Vi’s remark. Closing the season at Camelback Inn, George & Vi flipped a coin to decide whether to go back and try Flying E (tails) or press on to their original destination (The Flying W in Bandera, Texas). Tails it was; a flip that completely changed the lives of the then Bellflower, California residents. The Wellik’s became frequent visitors and invested funds for a ranch pool and new guest & employee quarters. By 1952 they found themselves in full ownership. The Wellik’s owned, occupied, and managed the ranch for over 55 years. Additional land and leases were also purchased over the years. George passed in 1983 and after Vi’s death in 2004 the ranch was transferred to the Wellik Foundation. This 20,000 acre dude and cattle ranch remains a lasting western heritage for all to enjoy.

Hidden Meadow Ranch

The original property that became Hidden Meadow Ranch was homesteaded by frontiersman John Chellis Hall and his family in 1916. The Halls were originally from Utah and migrated to Eagar, Arizona -- the watershed of the Little Colorado River. Pop Hall homesteaded the ranch in 1916, and President Harding signed the Homestead Agreement. Pop built a cabin and corral and used hewn logs to create an aqueduct to bring water down to the cabin from Patterson Spring. Pop Hall drove a buckboard wagon to Greer every week for supplies. His three eldest daughters milked 15 cows every morning and night, while Pop ran nearly 300 head of cattle on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. The family also grew potatoes and barley on the ranch property. In 1946, Pop Hall's son bought the ranch for $7,500 after returning home from the armed services.

In 1984, the Andersen family of Mesa, Arizona, acquired the ranch from the Hall family. For the next 10 years, it was used for family outings and little else. Between 1993 and 1995, the Andersen family built the central ranch house, the outfitter barn, and the original 14 cabins. They ran the property as Aspen Meadow Ranch, a church youth camp and small guest ranch. In December 2000, Tim and Casey Bolinger and Gary and Jeanne Herberger purchased the property and constructed the many new buildings and facilities you see today. Providing first-rate accommodations and service was second nature to these new owners, as they first teamed up to create the mixed use, master-planned community called Kierland in northeast Phoenix. From that large-scale success story, the two couples turned their attention to this unique property to create a luxury lodging experience that complements the naturally beautiful, secluded setting, while providing a high level of service and comfort.

Rancho De La Osa has a colorful past that is woven into the pages of Arizona and U.S. history. In the late 17th Century, the fertile Altar Valley was settled by Spanish Jesuits. Father Eusebio Kino and his followers built a mission outpost on the ranch, which was used for more than a century to trade with the local Indians. The ranch property is part of the original three million acre land grant given by the King of Spain to the Ortiz brothers of Mexico in 1812. When the Gadsden Purchase was signed in 1854 settling the border dispute between Mexico and the United States, the ranch fell within the US boundaries. Shortly afterward cattle baron and Civil War hero Colonel William Sturges began renovations on the Hacienda to make the structure the center of his massive ranching empire. During the Mexican Revolution Pancho Villa fired on the Hacienda, and a cannonball embedded in the adobe walls now sits on a fireplace mantle for all to see. In 1921, Louisa Wade Wetherill, one of the foremost Navajo historians, came to the southwest looking for a lost tribe of Navajos. She never found them, but she started "Hacienda De La Osa Guest Ranch" in 1924, beginning an enviable tradition that continues to this day.

It wasn’t long before the ranch’s reputation began to draw some of the world’s leading personalities. If only the walls could talk, they might whisper of former guest John Wayne and his crew staying at the ranch when filming in Southern Arizona, or author Margaret Mitchell, writing in her suite of rooms when she wintered at the ranch. Perhaps they would tell you of the time President Franklin Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor were honored guests, or when the Under Secretary of State William Clayton sat at his desk on the ranch drafting what would become the Marshall Plan to help rebuild Europe after WWII. They could also tell stories of Hollywood stars Cesar Romero and Joan Crawford; western author Zane Gray; Supreme Court Justice William O Douglas; former President Lyndon B Johnson and his Lady Bird, and former presidential candidates Hubert Humphrey and Adlai Stevenson. Ah, if only the walls could talk, 300 years of history they could tell!

Rancho de los Caballeros

Rancho de los Caballeros is a historic ranch resort and golf club situated on 20,000 acres of spectacular Sonoran desert. The Ranch first opened its doors in 1948 and has been owned and operated by the Gant Family since the beginning, and it continues to honor the grand tradition of the Spanish caballeros, the “gentleman on horseback,” who explored and settled the Southwest. The Ranch has a rich history that has made it what it is today, and though it has evolved over the years, The Ranch has retained the same personal service and charm since its opening.

The Ranch’s original construction consisted of 40 main guest rooms, main living room, dining room, saloon and office, swimming pool, one tennis court, barns, corrals, staff quarters and the Gant family home. An airstrip was built in 1951 to accommodate the private planes of early guests. The runway was 2,600 feet long and 120 feet wide and was once used by a DC3. Today, private planes land at nearby Wickenburg Airport. Dallas Gant, Sr., coined the term ranch resort to describe Rancho de los Caballeros in 1951, as he felt is was the best way to describe the property’s fusion of western activities and upscale accommodations.