One of the many things I love about fall is the lower temperatures. Those temperatures then allow me the chance to indulge in one of my favorite childhood fantasies — to be a cowboy working on a ranch while wearing a vest and a cowboy hat.
My love of playing cowboy goes back to my dad. I saw my first John Wayne Western with him, and my father created in me the fascination of living in the West — riding a horse, packing a six-shooter; running cattle and running the bad guy out of town! He helped me appreciate a good “old fashioned” Western any day of the week, a love and appreciation I still have to this day.
Oklahoma is home to a number of truly great guest ranches where you, too, can become one with the outdoors and relax, even if you don't engage in a childhood Western fantasy. In other words, you can enjoy the spirit of the Old West!
Experiencing the West is why visitors come to the Island Guest Ranch in Ames, located in northwestern Oklahoma. Carl White is the owner of the ranch, and he says they receive visitors literally from all over the world. But what they want when they arrive is pretty simple.
“They want to experience cowboys and Indians and that's why I always thought what will sell Oklahoma is what we have,” White said. “But that's what they want to do. They want to ride. They want that Western experience.”
Four generations of the White family have owned and run the 5,000-acre ranch. It is indeed a beautiful oasis, a place where you can ride, rope, run cattle, fish, shoot skeet, swim and much more.
Another family-owned operation is the Buffalo Creek Guest Ranch near Talihina in southeastern Oklahoma.
Dave and Darleen Shaw and their family literally built the place from the ground up starting in 2011. What got them interested in putting together a guest ranch was they saw tremendous value in the idea of agritourism.
Dave Shaw said agritourism is “very important. Tourism is a fast-growing industry. And agritourism, I'm told, is the fastest growing segment of the tourism industry.”
Much like most guest ranches, the Buffalo Creek Ranch has different levels of activities, depending on what package you purchase. They have areas for riding mountain and hiking trails, as well as ample opportunity to fish as they have more than 20 ponds on the property. Riding horses is always a favorite pastime, but the most popular activity is sitting on the porch swing relaxing. Shaw says they see a lot of people who just want to come out, and relax and do nothing but listen to the quiet.
Whether enjoying the peace and quiet of nature is what you are wanting or if being a cowboy on a ranch is what you have in mind, there are numerous places from which to choose. Visit www.TravelOk.com to find information about all the wonderful guest ranches in the Sooner state!
Dino Lalli is the producer, a reporter and co-host of the weekly TV travel show “AAA's Discover Oklahoma.”