Thursday, 9 August 2012

Roaming with the Bison - Zapata Ranch - 7/8/12

After leaving Chico Basin Ranch, Leah and I travelled to the sister ranch, Zapata Ranch which is owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed through a one-of-a-kind partnership with Duke and Janet Phillips Family. The ranch is a 103,000 acre bison and guest ranch located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado. It borders the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the newest National Park in the United States. The high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks and lush meadows offer one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the United States. The ranch and surrounding valley is a wildlife mecca and is home to thousands of elk, bison, deer, coyotes, birds and many other species. The ranch has a 8 inch annual rainfall including snow, with 500 head of cattle and 1500 head of bison. The Zapata Ranch also practises Alan Savory's work. The cattle herd consists of yearlings and mother cows that graze on native rangeland. Depending on variables from year to year, such as drought and markets, some of the cattle are owned by third parties who contract with Zapata Ranch to manage their cattle. All other cattle are owned by the ranch. Jeff Gossage, the Ranch Manager, kindly let us join him for the day where we drove through Bison herds, the Bison yards, giving us a tour of one of their many cell grazing systems where they run yearlings and breeders. The bison herd is located on the North end of the ranch in a 50,000 acre pasture, called the Medano Ranch. The bison are managed as a conservation herd, meaning that they run as a wild herd: no branding, supplimental feed or weaning. The Zapata Ranch has endless amounts of high quality water with it feeding from the Artesian basin. On the 7th of August, Leah and I went on a horse trail ride with Julie Phillips, Anna (An Australian wrangler intern) and four other ranch guests where we rode 20 miles along the edge Great Sand Dunes National Park and ranges. It was an experience that Leah and I will never forget. I would like to personally thank, all the employees at Zapata Ranch who where a great bunch of down to earth people. The website for the Zapata Ranch is