Zapata-Medano Ranch

Zapata Ranch, Nature Conservancy property in the San Luis Valley of Colorado
The Zapata-Medano Ranch extends to the dunes.
Bison in a pasture below Blanca Peak, Zapata Ranch

In late summer of 1999, the Nature Conservancy closed on the Zapata-Medano Ranch. They came into ownership of about 103,000 acres on the east side of the San Luis Valley bordering the Great Sand Dunes National Park on the north and the Rio Grande National Forest to the east. They got one of the largest bison herds in Colorado. They also got the Great Sand Dunes Golf Course, 18 holes of championship golf that they turned into campgrounds and nature trails. There is a lodge/hotel, some cabins and another campground as part of the package.

Since then, the Nature Conservancy has helped to broker a deal to purchase the Baca Ranch, 97,000 acres that includes the northern part of the Sand Dunes and a lot of the water that keeps the dunes in place. In September, 2004, a major portion of the Baca Ranch was formally incorporated into Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, another large piece has been organized as the Baca National Wildlife Refuge and that part of the ranch that was most appropriate for it was incorporated into the Rio Grande National Forest. That means that Kit Carson Mountain (and lots of stuff around it) is now public property. Part of the Medano Ranch was also incorporated into the National Wildlife Refuge and the National Park.

Blanca Massif
Looking east from the Zapata Ranch entrance
Zapata Ranch
Where the golf course used to be
bison grazing at Zapata Ranch logo
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