Brief by Clint Driscoll
Development – April 2001 – Colorado Central Magazine
Beginning on May 25, Chaffee County will be serenaded by cowboys singing under the stars at the foot of Mount Princeton. That prediction comes from Michael Martin Murphey, known by older listeners as the Cosmic Cowboy and by many Coloradans as the host of Westfest.
Murphey spoke to about 40 business owners, public officials, and media representatives at Buena Vista’s community center on March 12 about his plans to bring a western ranch/chuckwagon operation into the valley. “I’ve never seen a more beautiful area for what we want to do,” he said.
The venue will be known as Michael Martin Murphey Singing Cowboy Ranch and will be located at the Mount Princeton riding stables on County Road 162 just west of Nathrop. An agreement has been drawn up with the owners of Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, who also own the stables, to run the operation from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Operations at the Hot Springs Resort will remain unchanged.
The Singing Cowboy Ranch will feature a stable, along with a tack and souvenir shop, and it will provide daily horseback riding, wagon and surrey rides, and chuckwagon breakfasts and dinners, to go with the entertainment. Murphey hopes to create a western atmosphere that will appeal to tourists and locals as well. He plans to entertain at the ranch beginning on July Fourth and every Sunday through the season. Rick Devin, ranch manager and a cowboy singer in his own right, will entertain on other days.
Western music, cowboy poetry and tales of the Old West will be performed nightly around the campfire or on the adjacent open air stage and amphitheater. Murphey also hopes to bring in Native American and Mexican musicians as well.
The ranch operation plans to offer rafting-horseback riding-show packages and work in conjunction with other businesses in the valley to provide a memorable experience for tourists. The primary thrust will be the chuckwagon meals and the shows.
Murphey plans include marketing primarily on the Front Range to draw in-state tourists, although advertising will be extensive through Murphey’s Website as well as at performances throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Murphey was hesitant to say what initial expectations for guest numbers would be but said he would he happy with serving and entertaining 100 to 200 per night. He referred to operations such as the Flying W in Colorado Springs and others in Durango, northern New Mexico, and Amarillo which handle 600 to 1600 per night. He did not say whether he expected the Singing Cowboy Ranch to become that extensive. He did say that in the future he would like to make the ranch a destination for conventions that want a western theme but he did not want to sacrifice the trail rides and entertainment to meet that end.
Other plans include overnight and longer pack trips along the Colorado Trail, which runs north and south along the Sawatch Range a few miles west of the ranch. That will have to wait for outfitting licenses from the Forest Service, though.
Overall response to Murphey’s presentation seemed positive. Business owners, particularly lodging owners, appreciate the probable demand for rooms. Most also said they were reassured by Murphey’s plans to work with them to bring tourists into the valley.
— Clint Driscoll