The short answer is: it was probably an inevitable accident. The people who lived and made the West were known for their hospitality and neighborliness, so it only makes sense that they would open their doors to friends, family, and visitors from out East. Some people say the first ‘dude ranchers’ –though they didn’t call themselves that at the time—were either Teddy Roosevelt in North Dakota or Kit Carson in New Mexico. I’d like to think it was a little earlier, either Bill Sublette, a famous mountain man, who agreed to take some Easterners to Brown’s Hole for the summer of 1844 or Jim Bridger, immortalized in legends of the West, when he guided Sir George Gore on a hunting trip in North Park in 1850. Yes, the same North Park that we can see from the front porch of our lodge. Grand County alone is currently home to four dude ranches, including the one where I was raised from birth and the one where my parents met and fell in love with the west and each other.
Perhaps there is something in the water, maybe it's the way the mountains slope and the rocks jut that just repel the advance of civilization, and it just might be the utterly shocking beauty of this place that draws people to it who have a desire to remember the West when it was wild.
Regardless of who got it rolling, the fad began to snowball shortly thereafter. The West began to open up to the population out East with the transcontinental railway, and everyone started looking for places to experience some of the magic that inspired all those stories and dime-store novels. These cattle ranches sometimes evolved into dude ranches without even realizing it, and, of course, no one had invented the term ‘dude ranch’ yet, either. Living in the West isn’t a way to get rich, and supplementing the meager income of cattle ranching with paying visitors made ends meet that much easier.
They were "Families That Take in Friends"(an Informal History of Dude Ranches, by Joel H. Bernstein), with the first intentional dude ranch being the Eaton's ranch up in Wyoming; in a testament to true Western hospitality, they are still in business four generations down the line. And, while no one truly knows where the term comes from, 'dudes' were known as the nicely dressed, greenhorn Easterners who sought to find a vacation in the West during the summer months. Dudes came to Ranches, and they were willing to pay good money for it.
Latigo was founded as a dude ranch, set in the ideal location for wild beauty, perfect trail rides, and endless views, in 1928, only shortly after the other ranches in the west organized to form the Dude Rancher's Association and figure out how to sell the unique little industry to a wider market.
All of the ranches in the association have updated over the decades, including Latigo. We've expanded on the original program to include things like a swimming pool, fishing in our trout pond, shooting, wagon rides, and a truly excellent menu. Essentially, the history of dude ranches follows the story of those who love the West and this life enough to share it. That has never changed.
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