Zapata Ranch

To view entries by location, click on a ranch name: Zapata Ranch // Chico Basin Ranch


The Zapata Ranch is a 103,000-acre bison and guest ranch owned by The Nature Conservancy. Located on the eastern wall of the San Luis Valley of Southern Colorado near the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the Zapata consists of high desert grasslands, alpine forests, wetlands, sand dunes, creeks, and lush meadows that offer one of the most scenic and ecologically diverse landscapes in the United States.

April 13, 2016

New Arrivals

Last week the MZ took on 103 new soon-to-be mother cows.  They’d spent the fall & winter at the Chico and had started dropping babies in March.  Twenty-five calves took the ride outside of mom here on the semi.  They also sent us another 56 yearling heifers.

Forty-five cows arrived on two trucks first.  Kate & Andrea helped me unload them into a holding pen as I counted them off.  Soon truck three arrived with the pairs & yearlings.  The yearlings

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March 14, 2016


Growing up in California, I always had great access to produce that had been grown no more than 50 miles away. It felt like farm-to-table at its finest when I presented a dish with several different varieties of vegetables and was able to say, “this entire meal is made with local produce.” Unsurprisingly, it took a bit of adjusting moving from coastal California to landlocked Colorado. But thanks to our local co-op, Valley Roots Food Hub, I’m getting to that

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March 12, 2016

Stoked on Stoats

I’ve lived on the ranch for three years now and it seems I have one or two really pivotal wildlife sightings each year. I’ve seen bears, bobcats, pronghorn, bighorn sheep, beaver… An endless list really of varied and exciting species… but today I saw my first Stoat! I had seen Long-Tailed Weasels aka “big stoats” in my mammal books on the area, but never come across one in real life, so I was practically giddy when I saw one pop

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February 22, 2016

A Bison Move

During bison works, we wean some calves and bring them down to the lodge corrals.  Here, we train them to electric fence and acclimate them to seeing a person afoot and horseback so that they are gentle and easy to manage.  Once they’re ready, we turn them out to a small pasture where they can graze and learn to follow a feed truck. We keep them in this small pasture as long as we can so we can keep a close eye

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February 1, 2016

January Ranch Roundup

January was a busy month processing our bison herd on the Zapata and our largest cattle herd on the Chico.

January 29, 2016

Easy Grader

The road to the Medano side of the ranch is roughly 3 miles long and was once a county road that stretched from Hooper to Lane 6, winding throughout the ranch.  Now a private road, it’s rough and wash boarded and really hard on equipment and vehicles.  Weekly or bi-weekly maintenance is key in making the trek out of the ranch a smooth experience and in this case, a seemingly mundane task can be a rewarding experience.  The process of

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January 22, 2016

Office Coyote

I spend the majority of my day in the office, but that is not to say I don’t see a lot of incredible things from my window. Lately a lone coyote has been loitering around the lodge grounds, behind the office in particular. The dogs let me know with a low growl every time it’s around and we watch through the large office window until it leaves. Usually it’s just passing through, but today I watched it do a few

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January 21, 2016

Ranch Maps

Having a good map of the ranch is one of the best tools you can have, especially as we teach new people to get around.

January 19, 2016

A Bison Gather

Yesterday we moved the Zapata bison herd to the Medano side of the ranch.  There are no facilities to process, e.g. pregnancy check, vaccinate, the bison on the Zapata.  Several folks from our sister ranches came to help.  Most of us saddled up and rode out to gather except for Duke Jr. who drove the cake truck.

Tom, from the Chico, and I rode south to bring up 6 heifers from the Elk pasture that Duke Jr. spotted from the mountain

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