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Red Canyon Ranch

DEDICATED TO RAISING TRULY GLORIOUS BISON

 

 

 

Red Canyon Ranch is located in the foothills of the Owl Creek Mountains outside of Thermopolis, Wyoming. The area is categorized as an Upper Sonoran environment with sagebrush, juniper, limber pine, and short bunch grasses. The location is remote, bordered by the Wind River Indian Reservation on the south and west, and by BLM (Bureau of Land Management) on the north. By best count, the ranch is only separated from the largest remaining American wilderness by three fences. The most prominent geological feature is the Red Canyon dome, an uplift that has exposed bright red Chugwater sandstones, the multicolored Gypsum Spring formation, and Morrison and Cloverly sandstones. Dinosaur fossils, bellomnites and oyster shells remain from the Triassic and Jurassic periods. The ranch contains sixteen hundred acres of deeded ground and ranges in elevation from 4,900 to 6,020 feet.

The location is ecotonal, the meeting of the Upper Sonoran and Montane environments, which provides a greater species diversity in grasses than is found lower in the basin. Our Bison thrive on western wheat, bluebunch, steppe blue grass, june grass, blue gramma, needleandthread, green needlegrass, Indian rice grass, sacaton and threadleaf sedge. Each of these species greens at a different time depending on their carbon cycles. In addition, buffalo love yucca, of which we have a plentiful supply.

Bison had been on the ranch for the last three hundred and fifty thousand years before being shot out in the mid nineteenth century. We were proud to return them to their ancestral home. Not only have their ancient trails worn deep grooves into the soil, but we have recovered substantial amounts of prehistoric bison bone from the cut banks and exposed archaeological strata. The draw for the bison, as it is for us, is the Nostrum Spring which produces three hundred gallons of water a minute along the fault line above the Chugwater sandstone.

Bison were not the only early inhabitants of Red Canyon Ranch. Numerous archaeological sites are present throughout the canyon and rim area. The water, the high sandstone ridges with their shelter from the prevailing winds, and the animals drew the first humans here fifteen thousand years ago. From that moment on, people have lived in Red Canyon. We have stratified--or layered--deposits left by subsequent human occupations from PaleoIndian up to the historic Nostrum Stage Station. The Red Canyon site is an important part of Wyoming and America’s cultural heritage.

The ranch is perfect bison habitat and they thrive here. We are in the process of conducting controlled burns, rehabilitating the riparian areas, cross fencing to control grazing impacts, and encouraging the native grasses. Some of our juniper and limber pine are nearly two thousand years old. The ranch provides critical winter range for deer and antelope, and is a stop for migrating neo-tropical birds. On occasion we have a moose or two pass through to enjoy the willow bottoms before traveling back to higher country. Elk are rare, and seen only in the deepest and coldest winters. Coyotes, black bear, bobcats, badgers, and raccoons are common visitors. When it comes to coyotes, we should note that unlike cattle, the bison barely tolerate them. As a result, we have some of the fastest coyotes in the county — and they know every hole in the fence.

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