The Guest Ranch and It's Rich History!

Guest Ranches

The Old West Vacation Lodge:

Henry Sirrine started building the lodge in 1915 and completed the structure in 1917. The lodge pole pine logs used were hand-hewn; the rocks for the fireplace were gathered from the river. A water-generated saw mill fashioned the ceiling boards. At that time, it was believed concrete was a good water barrier. With that thinking, two inches of concrete was poured over the entire roof. However, as the cement was hauled by horse and wagon, a bit too little was used. That, along with dirty sand, caused the concrete over the years to crumble. When a door was closed, little rocks fell from the ceiling. The concrete was removed in favor of a more modern and weatherproof roof.

Decorated with Indian rugs, maps, pictures, and other western items, the lodge has a most pleasant and welcoming atmosphere. The front room is where guests gather to relax in front of the fireplace, and to read, play cards, or puzzle in a quiet corner. The present dining room, which is one big room, was originally three rooms. Half was dining, the other, a kitchen and a bedroom. The interior walls were removed when Garnett and Alvin started the place as a guest ranch. Interestingly, one style through the years was to cover the logs. The dining room was treated in such a manner; first with wallpaper and later with paneling. In 1986, all was removed, and the walls restored to reveal their natural beauty. One wing of the lodge added in 1927, houses the 2016-renovated bathroom, storage, and laundry. The building is completed by the ranch kitchen and business office.

Old West Vacations

Old West Guest Ranch History:

The first people to inhabit the area were the Sheepeater Indians, a branch of the Shoshone Tribe. They were a nomadic people without horses. Big Horn sheep was their food staple. Yellowstone Park was and is a spiritual place for several tribes due to its unique features. One well known Indian story is the trek made by the Nez Perce Tribe through this area on its way to seek refuge in Canada. Their leader, Chief Joseph is noted in the history books as one of the smartest to outwit the U.S. Calvary. Trappers, among them John Colter, discovered fur baring animals in the mountains. He was on the original Lewis and Clark Expedition and chose not to return to St. Louis. Miners tried to find the mother lode. At one time there was a mining settlement of five hundred people just two miles from the ranch on Crandall Creek, named for miner Jack Crandall.

The next wave of inhabitants were the homesteaders. The ranch was done so by Henry Sirrine in 1909.  He started taking in guests early on, and provided tent housing. These structures had four foot walls, a floor, and framing above for additional wall height and roof over which canvas was stretched. The hand-hewn logs, water-powered saw milled boards, and river rock fireplace make for a truly unique historical building.

Henry sold the property to Josie McMann who is remembered for having milk goats. L.E. Peterson bought the place from her in 1939 and used the hay fields for his cattle operation.

L.E.‘s daughter Garnett and her husband Alvin Cary, took over in 1949 and returned operations to a guest and hunting ranch. As the lodge was not used during L.E.’s ownership, Garnett and Alvin had some concerns to deal with. One involved the interior walls in the dining room. They had been home to pack rats and other critters. These walls removed, make for a very nice open dining room. A kitchen was added on. Another obstacle was the barn Henry built with 14 inch logs which had rotted by 1949. Alvin reframed the horse barn with winnie edge bought from a local saw miller. Another forty years later, it was totally rebuilt. The tent housing was replaced with cabins and suites, with added kitchens.

Horseback Riding
Horse Barn with Winnie Edge

Present Day Guest Ranch:

Today’s generation is continuing the family tradition. Louis was raised here on the ranch. Interestingly, he attended school on the property until his older siblings had to travel to town for the higher grades. When his parents had to be on the ranch, the kids were “farmed” out to other families during the week. Shelley arrived on the scene in 1969 as a helper, married Louis, and together raised two children. Julie and Casey had the same school schedule in that they were “farmed” out for the week and returned weekends. Interestingly, in all the years, they missed only two weekends; one during the 1988 Yellowstone Park Fire, and the other for a blizzard, both due to road closure. Louis and Shelley continue operations much the same way as was started by Garnett and Alvin. Julie, and Casey and wife Karri, have a deep appreciation for the guest ranch and want it to remain in the family. The tradition will go on serving up old west vacations for years to come.