The RED ROCK RANCH – A Legacy Wyoming Dude Ranch
The Red Rock Ranch and memorable vacations have gone hand in hand for over 100 years. From humble beginnings during the late 1800s to setting the pace for ranching in the 1900s, our love for the land has guided many decisions. The legend goes something like this…
Around the time the Wyoming gained statehood, 1890, a hearty group of trailblazers with nerves of steel ventured up to Gros Ventre valley in an effort to build a better life for themselves. The harsh realities of life back in the 1800’s drew many out of the bustling cities but also made homesteading in the valley a survival of the fittest. The original four settlers of the Red Rock Ranch property laid claim around 1894. Not much is known of three of them but James Simpson, the last of the homesteaders went on to open a drugstore in Jackson after selling his 160-acre parcel to William Redmond.
William ‘Bill’ Redmond married the sister of one of the original homesteaders and eventually became full owner of Red Rock Ranch. One of the first major changes of this time was the addition of the Redmond House in 1920.
Private Dude Ranch
Eugene & Agnes Meyer were the second owners of Red Rock Ranch. A Yale graduate turned financier and then newspaper publisher, Eugene was an influential leader in American social life. He published the Washington Post from 1933 – 1946 and the newspaper remained in the family for the rest of the 20th century. However, the finance and publishing world weren’t his only passions. As the legend goes, he always wanted a ranch and a red Irish setter. Then, one night, he went to a dinner party and ended up with a ranch and a red Irish setter! Yearly summer visits from Washington D.C. to the ranch were coveted by the Meyer family who cherished the peaceful trails and streams compared to the hustle and bustle of the East. Nonetheless, in 1943 as World War II intensified, a bittersweet decision had to be made. Red Rock Ranch was sold to an established local rancher who Meyer trusted to care for the land and its wildlife.
“I was always fascinated how people out West would look you in the eye, shake on something and that was the contract. I loved the ranch.”Ruth Meyer Epstein on her childhood at Red Rock Ranch
A More Modern Dude Ranch
Red Rock Ranch’s third owner was a pioneer aviator who also loved horses and the West. Major C.C. Moseley was born on July 21, 1894 in Boise, Idaho. He was a champion athlete and a fearless pilot during World War I. When he arrived in the Jackson Hole Valley in the early 1940’s he immediately set out to make a name for himself in ranching circles. He owned seven ranches in the area at various times. Blessed with a sharp eye, he was well known in the equestrian world as a top notch horse breeder and commercial cattle dealer. Many changes were made to the land, like the addition of a main house and rudimentary communication between Jackson and the ranch. There was no power or telephone even in the 60’s. It wasn’t until 1969 that a system was installed to transmit messages to the ranch through the Sheriff’s office. By the early 1970’s, the ranch fell into a state of disrepair as Moseley’s health began to fail. Like the other owners, Moseley was connected to the land and saw it as a sanctuary. When the sale of the ranch was imminent, he made it clear that it was not to be sold for redevelopment.
All-Inclusive Guest Ranch
David and Deborah MacKenzie shared a similar vision for Red Rock Ranch and preserving its heritage. The new stewards, although from Illinois, were no strangers to the lure of the Wild West and had visited many times separately and together. As the legend goes, the MacKenzie’s had attempted to visit Red Rock Ranch in the early 70’s but turned around after reaching the iconic sign that remained for over 50 years: End of Road – Red Rock Ranch – Not Open to Public. Years later, when the spirit of the west led the couple and young family to find a summer home, they landed back in the greater Teton area. The pull of Red Rock Ranch and its possibilities as guest ranch not only as a summer retreat sold the deal for the MacKenzies. By this time, a manager’s house, guest house, and a little shop had been added to the property. However, they were dilapidated and overrun by by grazing cattle who were left on their own. The MacKenzie’s knew they had the work cut out for them from the start. Nonetheless, in 1974, they made the move to Jackson and a 27-year love affair with dude ranching began as owners of their own ranch.
The once privately owned cattle ranch in the Upper Gros Ventre would be transformed into a robust guest ranch. The MacKenzies set out quickly to restore the ranch to its former glory while enhancing its beauty. A major feat and testament to their vision, 20 cabins were hauled up Gros Ventre on flat beds from Jackson and only a single tree was damaged in the process. Soon, 80 horses and 40 saddles were added. After all, what’s a guest ranch without horses? The restoration of Red Rock Ranch eventually drew the attention of many, including an icon of the West – the Marlboro Man. The rolling red hills provided a perfect backdrop for Marlboro TV advertisements. Farming and cattle running were added business investments to continue the vision of creating a Red Rock Ranch legacy to span generations.
“I can just remember looking at the corral of 80 horses and wondering which one was for me. I was like a kid in a candy store.”Carolyn MacKenzie-Stimmel
The Red Rock Ranch has been in the MacKenzie family for over 45 years now. David and Deborah handed the reigns over to their daughter Carolyn and her husband, Harley Stimmel. With a true sense of belonging to this land, they proudly accepted the challenge so that future MacKenzie generations can call Red Rock Ranch home. Continuing the heritage of welcoming others into the splendor of the West, they envision new ways to diversify and are exploring even more sustainable business models. They hope to evolve upon best practices that have allowed the ranch such a rich history while embracing new ways to improve the guest experience. The ultimate reward is in seeing the enjoyment on the faces of our family members and guests while spending time at the ranch.
Harley and Carolyn met while having professional careers in Polo as players, coaches, and horse trainers. They have been saddled together ever since. Harley grew up in West Texas under the tutelage of parents that were well-educated and well-traveled. He grew up around horses and longed to be a professional equestrian. And, well, Carolyn was leading ranch guests on pack trips from she was a young teenager. They are head wranglers, Mom and Dad, to four young men that have grown up at Red Rock Ranch and are now offering their unique talents to the ranch in various ways. Operating a guest ranch at such high standards is no easy feat. On any given day you will find the family scattered across the ranch tending to a rodeo of tasks.
Red Rock Ranch Round-Up
Harley: Meeting with engineer with regards to building construction; testing water quality; hauling hay; hiking up the closest hillside to check for “high” water in the creek or look for “poachers” on the river; riding along with guests to catch a Teton sunset.
Carolyn: Heading up a Sunday afternoon staff meeting; dining with guests under the open sky; square dancing with our littlest and oldest guests; planning a Tuesday morning managerial meeting; beaming from horseback as she instructs the Top Hand Riding Program.
Jake: Irrigating pastures; driving the tractor; preparing the ranch for winter time; assisting with Friday morning cattle work; checking on water systems; assisting with hay production; advising housekeeping on cabin arrangements; training younger horses, teaching Polo to players.
Steven: Replying to guest inquiries and questions; checking in/checking out guests; handling logistics for guest travel arrangements; engaging guests on social media; photographing epic memories and moments like first time guest rides; playing guitar during dinner for guests
Russell: Assisting guests for horse rides; doctoring and caring for the horses; greeting guests for Sunday evening festivities; conducting the Monday morning guest orientation; organizing and running the team “cattle sorting” on Friday morning; playing games with guests at the main lodge
JoeMac: Taking guests on a scenic hike; working a horse in the round pen; replacing a lost shoe on one of the guest horses; guiding fly fishing excursions for a day at the creek; conducting a fly fishing clinic outside the store on any given Monday; riding the snowmobile up and down Crystal Creek Road
The Red Rock Ranch is maintained and operated with the help of a dedicated staff throughout the year, seasonal staff, and other family members who call this slice of Wyoming their home. Fill out this form to apply for current and future job opportunities.
*Historical excerpts and further reading on the ranch’s history can be found in The Red Rock Ranch: Up Gros Ventre.