AZ 'dude ranches' are plentiful and prospering - Tucson News Now

AZ 'dude ranches' are plentiful and prospering

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -  Dude ranches are alive and well in the southwest and Tucson is playing host to the annual Dude Ranchers' Association convention. 

There are seven DRA member ranches in Arizona three in Tucson - the Tanque Verde, Elkhorn Ranch and White Stallion; one in Tombstone, Tombstone Monument Ranch; one in Patagonia, the Circle Z Ranch and two in Wickenburg, the Flying E Dude Ranch and Rancho de los Caballeros. 

According to DRA officials more than 60 member ranches, associate members, and vendors are expected to attend this year's event.  They will exchange ideas on continuing the high standards of the dude ranching industry, how to promote the Western ranch vacation, as well as how to preserve parks, forests and wildlife that can be an essential part of the dude ranch experience. 

The DRA was created in 1926, and is now the official governing body of the West's Dude Ranch industry and was founded to preserve, protect and promote the unique experience and identity of a dude ranch vacation: the original all-inclusive vacation destination. DRA membership stands at nearly 100 guest ranches from all over the U.S.; these members undergo a rigorous two-year inspection and approval process before being accepted. 

The dude ranch experience has evolved over the years, to fit with the times and the 2015 four-day conference is no different. It will feature numerous seminars related to the various aspects of the dude ranching and hospitality industries such as new vendor introductions, marketing initiatives and risk management. 

Arizona is home to several successful dude ranches, thanks in part to less than 20 percent of the state being developed, mainly in the cities like Phoenix and Tucson. This allows for plenty of open landscapes and tourist attractions like the Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, and The Painted Desert for the dude ranch vacationer to take advantage of; another added bonus are milder winters than the rest of the U.S. that allows for a booming winter vacation experience. 

This mild weather and wide open landscapes have allowed Arizona ranches like the Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia and the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch to exist for as long as they have. The Circle Z began as a sheep camp in the 1880s and in 1926 it opened its doors to its first guests; 88 years later the ranch claims the honor of being the longest continuously operating guest ranch in Arizona.  While the Tanque Verde Guest Ranch, established in 1868 and hosting its first guest in 1928 is one of the oldest registered businesses in Tucson.  

According to DRA officials, in the 1920's there were a lot of ranchers in the west offering a dude experience to generate a little extra cash flow for their cattle operations. 

Out of those ranches that operated with sole purpose of offering the dude ranch experience, many are still around today. The dude ranch industry in Arizona is very healthy and showing good growth.

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