Spreading Books across the Ranch


How do you turn an abandoned historic ranch into a residential library?

Sometime during our long (& still ongoing) planning process we decided that Buffalo Peaks Ranch would house not one, but several libraries spread across the ranch — in various buildings and barns.

The list is not complete, but Buffalo Peaks Ranch will have special libraries dedicated to Natural History, Western & Native American history, poetry & literature, environmental studies, astronomy, mining, railroads, and the fur trade.

Plus one very special library that we are really excited about!


In the ranch’s Main House, right through the green screen door to the right, we’ll be setting up the Marie Guiraud Ranching Library — celebrating ranching history & traditions, from the early days to the present, with books on ranching in the American West, and across the globe.

This constantly-growing library is named after Marie Guiraud, who along with her husband Adolph, first established this homestead ranch, back in 1862 along the Middle Fork of the South Platte River.

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Marie’s life was a remarkable one that we’ll return to again and again. Her story will help us tell the larger story of women in the west. We continue to gather books on this wonderful topic.

photo of Marie Guiraud courtesy of Jacquelyn Guiraud Miller & Fred Guiraud


The library has many books on artists & photographers who captured this traditional way of working on the land.


The growing collection includes old ranch histories, ranch memoirs, cowboy songs & poetry — plus tales of new ranching traditions springing up across the globe.


And yes, this is a Ranch Library dedicated to ranching across the world!

Stay tuned for more on other libraries that will inhabit the historic buildings at Buffalo Peaks Ranch. Next up with be the Cooks House Library. The Cooks House is currently the focus of our Kickstarter Campaign:

For more on the Cooks House Campaign, read on!


The Rocky Mountain Land Library’s long-awaited Kickstarter Campaign is LIVE! Help bring books, people & programs to Colorado’s Buffalo Peaks Ranch. With your support we will transform a historic high mountain ranch into a residential library devoted to land, community, and the many positive ways we can all move forward together.

But first, CLICK HERE and you’ll find out much more. Learn how you can be an important part of this land-inspired, book-loving grassroots project!




Riding with Carl



Jay Halsey, Sarah McLaughlin, with Carl Young at the wheel. photo by Carl Young

How lucky are we? Even in the midst of the past two summers of ranch renovation, we’ve had a steady stream of visitors. Not only folks attending our first workshops and field classes, but many who have flocked to Buffalo Peaks Ranch on their own — artists, writers, naturalists of all stripes, college classes, History buffs, book clubs, and even the Boys & Girls Club of South Park!

Two years ago, photographer Carl Young drove out from back east, and spent a day or so at the ranch. He gave us a full folder of amazing images from that trip, including the panoramic view of Buffalo Peaks Ranch that we use in our masthead above.

This past fall Carl took his second road trip to the ranch, this time with fellow photographers Jay Halsey and Sarah McLaughlin. It’s a thrill to see Buffalo Peaks Ranch through their eyes!


photo by Carl Young

a rare angle on the ranch complex, under a river of clouds.

photo by Jay Halsey

 sunrise at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, with Mount Silverheels aglow.

photo by Carl Young

the old horse barn looking brand new!

photo by Carl Young

 many, many views of the ranch we seldom get to see.

photo by Sarah McLaughlin

it’s amazing how much use we’ve put the Main House’s porch to, even if it’s just to sit & watch the clouds go by.

photo by Jay Halsey

and here’s the focus of next week’s KICKSTARTER Campaign!

photo by Jay Halsey

The Cooks House — looking shiny after the past two summers of re-roofing, painting, and rehabilitating the old windows. The Kickstarter Campaign will allow us to complete the interior, giving us a smart new power & water system, along with two lodgings, a new classroom space, a warm & wonderful kitchen, and the ranch’s first library!

photo by Sarah McLaughlin

one of our volunteer-made Leopold Benches, just up valley from the Cooks House.

photo by Sarah McLaughlin

With thanks to Carl, Jay & Sarah — we hope you come back often!

Stay tuned for Tuesday’s launch of the Cooks House Kickstarter Campaign. We’re hard at work on our campaign page. We think it will be fun to see — from our video, to our plans, drawings, and no doubt many, many wonderful photographs of our favorite old ranch!


Worlds Above & Worlds Below


Alex Witze adjusts one of the Star Night telescopes for 10-year old Mekhi

What a summer it has been! Renovation at Buffalo Peaks Ranch continues while a full slate of workshops and field classes are underway. Astronomy authors Jeff Kanipe and Alexandra Witze led off on July 9th with the ranch’s first Star Night. A terrific crowd came out and enjoyed glimpses of far away planets and galaxies, starting with our age old companion:


Early in the night, Lynn Willcockson took this wonderful shot of the Moon

After a very successful, cloud-free Star Night, we decided to stick closer to home. Colorado State University’s Denise Culver led us on a tour of Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s wetland plants. The absolute highlight was a thorough exploration of the ranch’s 4-acre fen — home to many globally rare plants.


Fen plants tend to be tiny. Here’s Denise leaning in to identify a grass, with a handy plant guide that she also wrote: the Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetland Plants.


Denise Culver shows off a small carnivorous plant at home in Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s fen.

In August we were thrilled to have former Colorado State Geologist Vince Matthews return for his second Field Geology tour of South Park.


Here’s Vince giving everyone the lay of the land before heading out on a full day exploring South Park’s diverse geological wonders and mysteries.

And just this last weekend, artist Sherrie York returned to lead a Nature Journaling class across the ranch:


Starting off with several loosening-up exercises:


Erin Durant warms up by sketching her left hand.

We love having classes and workshops at the ranch, even before we can turn on water or power to the old buildings and barns!

There’s such a joy in learning. Sometimes the only reaction is awe:

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WORLDS ABOVE : Milky Way over the Cooks House by Jeff Kanipe


WORLDS BELOW: a “star cluster” at our feet, taken on our fen walk

September is just around the corner, and so are two terrific Poetry Workshops that we’ve been waiting for all summer long.

Yes, it’s been a great summer, and we’re already planning for more workshops and field classes for next year!


A Summer to Remember

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Larry Glass, one of last week’s amazing HistoriCorps‘ volunteers, just sent us a wonderful batch of photos. Before the day’s work began, Larry roamed around Buffalo Peaks Ranch, camera ready. Above, you’ll see the Main House at sunrise, and below there’s cattle grazing in the early morning mist:

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Whenever we’re at the ranch our eyes are always moving across that big bare valley, home to grazing herds, along with pronghorn, coyote, badgers, and an occasional bear.

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Larry Glass is also adept with his metal detector. On his free time he scanned the patch of grass in front of the house (above), alongside the cottonwood to the right. Here’s what Larry found:

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Larry uncovered an old logging tool (a wooden cant hook with a metal dog), once used for lifting & turning logs. Here’s a nice bit of detective work: a root from the cottonwood tree stretched above the cant hook, a good clue that the hook was much older than the tree. Chances are this tool goes back to the early days on the ranch, back when it was called the Guiraud Ranch.

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Larry made it out to the old Lambing Barn, a structure visitors especially love. Someday we’d love to keep it pretty much as is, clean up the corral a bit, and create an indoor/outdoor space for classes and events.

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More from the Lambing Barn corral: an amazing storm cloud to the east, as dusk starts to settle over the ranch.

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Larry Glass has a great eye for images that capture the long ago work of the ranch (above), and he sure appreciates all the reasons people love coming to Buffalo Peaks Ranch:

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Looking off toward the western mountains: Red Hill at sunset (along with one of the Leopold Benches we built last summer).

Thanks to Larry Glass for sharing these wonderful images, and for being part of the HistoriCorps volunteer team for the past two summers. We can’t wait to have you back!


Field Trip to a Biologic Hot Spot


At first glance, South Park appears to be a never ending expanse of shortgrass prairie. However, within this high mountain grassland, peatlands occur, or more specifically fens. South Park’s fens are home to many globally rare plant species, including several that can only be found in the great northern boreal belt.

JOIN US on Saturday August 6th as we explore one of South Park’s most unique landscapes. Our first-ever Fen Field Class will be led by Denise Culver, a botanist/ecologist with the Colorado Natural Heritage Program. Denise has been mucking around Colorado’s wetlands for over 20 years, She is also the co-author of the Field Guide to Colorado’s Wetlands: Identification, Ecology and Conservation (pictured above).


You’ll definitely get your feet wet, but you’ll also learn so much more about why South Park is such a truly special place! For more on the upcoming Fen Field Class, and how to register, click here!


Last Few Shingles of a Memorable Month

Click here for Harry Smith's Sunday Today Show story!

Click above for Harry Smith’s story on Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

The Sunday Today Show just aired NBC’s second report of this past week on the progress being made at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

This morning’s piece perfectly described the Land Library’s plans to create a book-lined residential learning center on the banks of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River. Reporter Harry Smith (a true lover of Colorado’s wide open spaces) also sensitively captured the stark beauty of this historic high mountain ranch. It was a real pleasure having Harry and his NBC crew at Buffalo Peaks Ranch!

We hope you enjoy the video clip above. There’s more news to come from this exciting summer, but for now we’ll close with a few photos as the last few roof shingles were nailed into place. Thanks to HistoriCorps and all its remarkable volunteers for your hard work and dedication, and many thanks to our major funding partner for this summer’s roofing project, the South Park National Heritage Area!

Last touches: Steve Harris on the Bunkhouse's ridgeline

Final touches: Steve Harris finishing off the Bunkhouse’s ridgeline.

Such a great team! the last row of the Cook House's cedar shingles fall into place

The last rows of cedar shingles fall into place on the Cook’s House.

Reading South Park’s Landscape

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Grab your pack, and dust off your boots! On Saturday, August 8th, Colorado’s former State Geologist Vince Matthews will lead the Land Library’s very first geology field trip. We’ll all meet at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, and then it’s off to explore the western front of South Park. Along the way, we’ll look for tracks of ancient glaciers, find ample evidence of volcanic activity, and discover why the Mosquito Range is one of the richest sections of the famed Colorado Mineral Belt.

Vince Matthews is also the author of the award-winning book Messages in Stone: Colorado’s Colorful Geology, and frequently posts on high mountain geology on his Leadville Geology facebook page.


Image from: Panoramic Aerial Maps of the American West — a bird’s-eye view from the north, centered on South Park’s vast high mountain basin, surrounded by ranges on almost all sides. Buffalo Peaks Ranch is located virtually in the center of South Park. (A further navigational aid: Pikes Peak is the snow-covered outlier in the center of the top left quadrant of the above image).

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Join us on August 8th, and learn something new about the always surprising landscape of South Park! For much more on Vince Matthew’s field trip, Reading South Park’s Landscape, and how to register, please click here.


For a larger image of this handy South Park cross-section, be sure to click on the image above.

Setting up a Porch Library


As the Land Library renovates Buffalo Peaks Ranch, we’ve had to face up to the necessity of placing over 30,000 books in storage. We know it’s only temporary, but still, we’re anxious to start shelving & sharing these wonderful books. (The photo above, courtesy of The Denver Post, represents just one small corner of one of our donated storage sites).

When we have public tours at Buffalo Peaks Ranch, we break out a few choice titles, and set up a “porch library” at the Main House for visitors to enjoy. Whenever we put out the books we think of the titles we have (yes, alas in storage) from the great prairie photographer Solomon D. Butcher. Many of Butcher’s photographs are of prairie families in front of their old sod homes. Often they display prized possessions. As Butcher noted in this classic shot, the young mother photographed below wanted to reassure her family back east that all was good, and yes, they did own an organ:

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The David Hilton Family, near Weissert, Nebraska 1887

We feel the same way every time we set out the Buffalo Peaks Ranch Porch Library!

porch layout

All is good, and yes we have many wonderful, inspiring books to share!

When we set the books up we strive to feature a breadth of titles from many diverse disciplines, all focused on people and the land.

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A good cluster on a tiny table, representing the Land Art movement, Lisa Hamilton’s Deeply Rooted (on unconventional farms), and one of our favorite collections of essays, Merrill Gilfillan’s  Rivers and Birds.

porch library

Books on trout (though the ranch is actually at 9,000 feet!), A Literary History of the American West, The Ecology of Running Waters, The Southern Cheyennes, The Natural History of Pollination, J. Frank Dobie’s The Voice of the Coyote (with illustrations by the great Olaus Murie!), and many more.

trout, mining, pronghorn

Caddisflies, mining, pronghorns, Henry Beston’s wonderful Herbs and the Earth, the Handbook of Indian Food and Fibers of Arid America, bats, ants, snakes, and the alpine tundra too.


Cutthroat: Native Trout of the West, Ramon Adams’ Western Words, three volumes from Henry David Thoreau’s Journals, and a book that asks a very good question,                 Can Poetry Save the Earth?

It’s always enormous fun to see people browsing through the books, suddenly reaching out to a book they’ve never seen before!

The Abeytas, from just up the road, take a moment to sample the porch library.

The Abeytas, from just up the road, take a moment to sample the porch library.

We also put out a small desk, and make something of a still life, suggesting the quiet creativity the ranch can inspire.

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And we always lay out one of Sherrie York’s wonderful sketchbooks. Do yourself a favor and visit this remarkable young artist’s beautiful website!

In many ways the Rocky Mountain Land Library is already up and running at Buffalo Peaks Ranch:

Porch Library 2014: Casey Cruikshank consults Kaufman's Field Guide to Birds of North America. By the end of the day, Casey added a half dozen new birds to the Buffalo Peaks Ranch Bird List (the handy chalkboard posted on the main house's front wall).  photo by Kalen Landow

Porch Library 2014: Casey Cruikshank consults Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds of North America. By the end of the day, Casey added a half dozen new birds to the Buffalo Peaks Ranch Bird List (the handy chalkboard posted on the main house’s front wall). photo by Kalen Landow

We’re looking forward to an ambitious ranch renovation this summer. Our goal is to make three of the core buildings (including the Main House) ready for books, programs, and overnight guests. There are many ways you can help. If you would like lend your support in any way that you can, please let us know!

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“Buffalo Peaks Ranch is a beautiful spot of land, the perfect home for a library dedicated to the conservation and appreciation of the land.”
Los Angeles Times

Wild Fibers at an Old Sheep Ranch

sheep storm

The high mountain grasslands of Colorado’s South Park have a rich history of sheep ranching, perhaps best captured by Myron Wood’s classic photograph above: Sheep Storm, South Park, 1967, courtesy of the Pikes Peaks Library District. Buffalo Peaks Ranch, the Land Library’s headwaters site, shared in that ranching tradition.

Our last post reported on plans to convert the ranch’s eighteen corral stalls into artist studios and maker-spaces of all types:

horse barn & stallsBuffaloPeaksRanch_77CIMG1047

With Buffalo Peaks Ranch’s historic ties to sheep ranching, and the recent donation of a fully-equipped weaving studio, we are especially excited about creating a space for Fiber Arts. We’ll have plenty of space for looms and classes, plus a dedicated library devoted to books such as these:

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The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook by Deborah Robson & Carol Ekarius, and The Book of Looms by Eric Broudy.

dyer's gardenliving fabric
We also have many books on dyes, such as A Dyer’s Garden: Growing Dyes for Natural Fibers by Rita Buchanan. And one of our favorite sections features textile traditions across the globe, such as Living Fabric: Weaving among the Nomads of Ladakh Himalaya by Monisha Ahmed.

As soon as possible, we’ll have a regular schedule of workshops and demonstrations, inspired by new traditions and old. We would love to start this summer by constructing a warp weighted loom, an ancient craft (dating back to 7000 BC) captured in one of our favorite film clips from Norway’s remarkable Norsk Folkemuseum. This short 1947 clip is silent, black & white, and truly wonderful from start to finish:

For much more on the slow craft of Norway visit Norsk Folkemuseum’s YouTube Channel — there’s many more vintage film clips!

We hope that each corral stall will be a nesting place of creativity, but then, there’s just so much anyone can plan. And maybe that’s a good thing. Here’s what happened to one artist open to change:

mooreshhep sketch
In 1972, when the packing and crating for a major exhibition made it impossible for Henry Moore to work in his sculpture studio, he retreated to a small shed that looked out on a sheep meadow. Over the course of several months, Moore captured the scene from his window, and upon completion of his Sheep Sketchbook, it was presented as a gift to the artist’s daughter, Mary.
Who knows what artists will see out their windows at Buffalo Peaks Ranch?

People and the Land A story that Buffalo Peaks Ranch will tell so well!

People and the Land
A story that Buffalo Peaks Ranch tells so well!

New Life for an Old Corral

As many of you know, Buffalo Peaks Ranch, the Headwaters home of the Rocky Mountain Land Library, has been shuttered for almost twenty years now. With the help of the South Park National Heritage Area and the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Architecture, the ranch’s next chapter is being written. Here’s the latest news on one of our favorite corners of this historic South Park ranch:

The Horse Barn (soon the hayloft home for our natural history library), and the concrete corral stalls, a perfect site for art studios and maker spaces of all types

The Horse Barn (soon the hayloft home for our natural history library), and the concrete corral stalls, a perfect site for art studios and maker spaces of all types

On the farside of the Horse Barn is an old ranch complex, ready-made for today’s artists and craftspeople:

Eighteen spacious, rock-solid concrete corral stalls.

Eighteen spacious, rock-solid concrete corral stalls.

Here’s the plan: this sturdy line of concrete stalls will be converted into art studios, woodworking shops, a book-arts center & bindery, plus much more — including a large space for an Art Library. We already have hundreds of volumes (regrettably) in storage, including wonderful books on Western and Native American Art, landscape studies from across the globe, plus the works of artists as diverse as Emily Carr, Andy Goldsworthy, C.F. Tunnicliffe, Maynard Dixon, and Chiura Obata.

Besides books, the Art Library will also be lined with the work of contemporary artists inspired by nature and the land.

Looking out onto Reinecker Ridge, a landscape that has barely changed for the past 150 years.

Looking out onto Reinecker Ridge, a landscape that has barely changed for the past 150 years.

Each space will be a window upon the deep blue skies of South Park, its high mountain grasslands, and rich ranching history.

As you can see, the walls are strong, but there is still much work to do. We remain inspired by the support and help we have already received!

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Denver's School of Architecture, captured by the play of light in the first concrete stall

Graduate students from the University of Colorado Denver’s School of Architecture, captured by the play of light in the first concrete stall

Stay tuned for our next post, and learn how history repeats itself in one particular corral stall!

Special thanks to Berry Oliver Photography for the use of many of the photos above.