How the “Colorado Guest Ranch” Got its Start
Dude ranches got their start in the west in the 1880’s. Wealthy foreigners took site-seeing and hunting trips to the American west to enjoy the magnificent scenery and hunt wild game. One of the more famous of these was Theodore Roosevelt, who enjoyed riding horses, hunting and exploring the frontier.
Following WWI, these Colorado guest ranches and others throughout the west became wildly popular, especially in the 20’s and 30’s as people began exploring the country and painters captured the romance of cowboy life on canvas.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a huge success in the east and in Europe. At the same time, with the increase of factories and industry, there were less wild places found in highly populated areas. The open spaces and freedom of the Wild West drove many to travel to dude ranches to experience the excitement of wild horses, cattle drives and the cowboy way of life.
The coming of the railroad to the northern plains provided a way for folks from the east to travel more easily to the west. In order to experience the lifestyle first-hand, they often stayed with ranchers in their bunkhouses and guest rooms, helping out with ranch chores in exchange for meals. The easterners were easily identified by their “duds.” Westerners eventually referred to their new found friends as “dudes” and the “Dude Ranch” was born.
North Fork Ranch Today
Established in 1985, North Fork Ranch rests quietly along one-half mile of the tranquil North Fork of the South Platte River. Our 520 acre ranch sits at an elevation of 8100 ft. and adjoins the Pike National Forest, Lost Creek Wilderness and Mt. Evans Wilderness. The Continental Divide with its 14,000 foot snow-capped peaks is always visible to our west.
The North Fork valley is oriented east and west, boasting amazing sunsets and long relaxing days of sunshine. The fresh evening air will sway your curtains and the quiet of the mountains will give you a magical night of sleep.
Dean and Karen (Kaiser) May met in the summer of 1984 while working at a Colorado guest ranch. Little did they know that their summer jobs would turn into a life-long journey of sharing their ranch and family while taking in friends. They married in 1986 and made their home at North Fork Ranch in Shawnee, Colorado.
The history of this ranch property goes back to the early 1900’s and was named for the section of river that runs through it, the North Fork of the South Platte River. At one time, it was the home of the National Organization of Wild American Horses, preventing the destruction of wild horses and burros on open lands that were about to be developed. The animals were brought in for care and then put up for adoption. Many of these horses and burros are still in the area today.
The Staff and Your Hosts:
One of the unexpected joys of a vacation at North Fork Ranch is getting to know our exceptional staff. They truly make you feel at home. You can count on them, whether it’s helping you map your trip, cleaning your fish or handing you a glass of cold, refreshing lemonade. Each and every one of us is committed to making your stay at the ranch the adventure of your life.
As your hosts, Dean and Karen May, along with our daughter Hayley and son Tyler, we welcome you to our home. We are a small family-owned and operated ranch. You’ll find us each day involved with all of the daily activities. We take great pride in getting to know each one of our guests and sharing our special kind of western hospitality. We look forward to meeting you soon!
Gourmet Meals and Family Dining:
The ranch takes great pride in feeding you well! Exceptional family dining with gourmet flair is sure to satisfy every appetite. Full, hearty breakfasts, unique lunches, and dinners that are anything but typical!
- Champagne Brunch
- Steak Cook-out
- Candlelight Farewell Dinner
- Afternoon Appetizers
- Special Diets Accommodated
Once at home, you’ll find that your kitchen isn’t complete without a copy of Karen’s Feedin’ Friends cookbook!!
What to Pack
We’ve compiled a list to help you prepare for your vacation at our Colorado guest ranch in the Rockies. A complete list of items to pack will be provided in your reservation packet. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us or call 800-843-7895.
Hat (Cowboy hats available for purchase in the trading post)
Light hiking boots (for hiking, not riding)
Riding Boots (boots to borrow available)
Small day pack/fanny pack
Warm hat & gloves
Active athletic clothing (non-cotton)
Day pack for extra clothing & supplies
Liner socks & outer socks
Swim suit for hot tub
Warm coat (for evenings)
Camera – extra memory cards
Deck of cards
North Fork Ranch has been making memories with families, groups, reunions, weddings, anniversary and fishing trips and more for over 30 years. Many of our guests book the same week, year after year and become part of our ranch family.