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Buffalo Peaks Ranch


Buffalo Peaks Ranch

Directions

  • Take U.S. 285 South to Fairplay, approximately 82 miles

  • Turn left (South) on Colorado Hwy 9

  • Continue 8.7 miles to Buffalo Peaks Ranch

  • Fishing access to the South Platte River is available directly off Colorado Hwy 9

Fishing rights along the South Platte River are managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife as part of the Tomahawk SWA.

Please note that the historic buildings at Buffalo Peaks Ranch have been leased to the Rocky Mountain Land Library. Please contact them for visiting privileges.

Ranch History

Adolph and Marie Guiraud immigrated from France coming through New Orleans, Cincinnati, Kansas and Denver, before settling in Park County around 1861. Adolph and Marie moved to a 160 acre piece of land at the water gap in the Red Hill, where they established one of the oldest and eventually most successful ranches in the county. Their 1861 water rights claims were South Park’s first two permanent ditches for agriculture, one for a wheel to churn Marie’s butter, and the other for draining his hayfields.

In 1864 the vacant ranch served twice as a stop-over for the famous Reynolds Gang in the midst of its stagecoach robbing spree. (It was thought that Guiraud and Jim Reynolds knew each other in earlier times.) The Reynolds Gang was captured and subsequently shot only days later. The growing Guiraud family was in Denver at the time, where Adolph opened a meat market, but they were back on the ranch by the time the famous itinerant preacher, Father Dyer stopped in a snowstorm in 1865 to borrow a horse.

Adolph opened a store in Fairplay in 1865 and built up his ranch to 640 acres before his death in 1875. By that time, the couple had ten children and a determined spirit. Marie increased the ranch to over 5,000 acres, and raised grain, vegetables, hay as well as cattle. She amassed one of the most considerable fortunes in South Park. When she found out that the railroad would bring its tracks near her ranch house, she laid out the Town of Garo (easy to post on the train depot) on part of her property. The Ranch became a transportation center, as a line was added to run up to Alma Junction and the Colorado Springs stage line brought travelers and freight to intersect at the Garo location. Hunters, businessmen, and sightseers were soon disembarking from the stages and railroad coaches at the busy town of Garo.

The ranch stayed in the family until the late 1930s and 40s when it was purchased by the McDowell family, who increased the land even further, updated the old buildings, and added a number of new concrete barns. The McDowells operated Buffalo Peaks Ranch in conjunction with the Santa Maria Ranch and others until 1976, when it was sold to a series of foreign buyers/investors. The McDowells had demolished most of the remnants of the Town of Garo, but the store still stands and the old school house is now on display in the South Park City Museum in Fairplay. The original ranch house burned in 1900 or so, but Marie rebuilt and that building is still part of the rambling ranch house standing today.

Aurora’s Acquisition of Buffalo Peaks Ranch Lands

Aurora purchased the Buffalo Peaks Ranch containing approximately 1,840 acres on July 19, 1985 from Oecofintra AG, a Switzerland Corporation. The Buffalo Peaks Ranch lands were purchased to provide partial mitigation for inundation of six miles of free flowing stream by Spinney Mountain Reservoir. Through a cooperative agreement with the State of Colorado, Aurora agreed to acquire stream fishing rights and access for public use within the project vicinity. Aurora is obligated to have 6 miles of previously private stream fishing open to the public, including a 25 foot right-of-way on both sides, for a period of 99 years. The compensation is being provided by the Middle Fork of the South Platte that runs through Buffalo Peaks Ranch as well as stream lengths above and below Spinney Mountain Reservoir. The Middle Fork through Buffalo Peaks Ranch opened to public fishing on January 1, 1987 and the obligation will terminate on December 31, 2085.

Adaptive Re-Use of the Ranch Buildings

Aurora began discussion with Park County staff in 2005 to determine what the best use of the land and buildings might be. Goals were to provide a benefit to the local economy/community and maintain the City’s asset. There was great interest in finding a way to adaptively reuse the ranch buildings for heritage tourism or other public uses. Studies were conducted on several properties as part of Park County’s heritage tourism planning. Uses that were analyzed included a meat packing facility, a mushroom farm, a wind farm, a shooting range, a brewery and many other ideas. Park County staff preferred the concept of an educational public facility that promoted the natural resources and history of the area. An introduction and discussions with the Rocky Mountain Land Library started in 2006. The Hayden Ranch Buildings were an alternative location, but Rocky Mountain Land Library founders Jeff Lee and Ann Martin “saw their home” at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. A detailed analysis was completed in 2007 that placed the Rocky Mountain Land Library as the top recommendation for the Buffalo Peaks Ranch site. Development of an agreement began shortly after the recommendation and culminated in the Rocky Mountain Land Library Lease Option Agreement taken to City Council in September 2013.

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