The Hacienda at the historic Rancho del la Osa in Sasabe, Arizona
Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch
The slow, soft swaying of my horse’s gentle gait guided me through Sonoran Desert grasslands, along sandy arroyos, past fragrant mesquite, and back in time to the very heart of the Old West.
Within an hour of my arrival at Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch, I was already on horseback. An uncertain rider, perhaps, but quite certain of my holiday destination. Where else could I go to tread paths worn by Poncho Villa and the great Tohono O’odham tribe? Or rest near a fireplace in John Wayne’s favorite room? Or hear the coyotes’ howl while I write, as did Zane Grey? As soon as I’d arrived, I felt the magic: Rancho de la Osa is the true West.
Located in Sasabe, on the border between Mexico and Arizona, the history of Rancho de la Osa dates back to the 1700s when Spanish explorer Father Eusebio Kino built an adobe structure as a storehouse and place of worship. In 1889, cattle baron William Sturges incorporated that structure into his expansive ranch operation and added an adobe hacienda. By the 1920s, Sasabe had a population of 800. The town enjoyed the kind of rough-and-tumble prosperity that only prohibition-era borderland bars and gambling dens could nurture.
The ranch might have vanished in time, but the birth of the Hollywood Western in the early 20th century ignited a fascination for travel to the American West. In 1926, Rancho de la Osa became a 530-acre guest ranch, a destination favored by Hollywood’s golden-era actors like John Wayne and Tom Mix.
The Rancho de la Osa Guest Ranch Experience
Today, it offers nineteen guest rooms for in-the-know travelers looking for a truly authentic, off-the-beaten-path experience.
The ranch has been meticulously restored and furnished with vintage Western décor. (Interior designers, architects and furniture designers take note! There’s endless design inspiration here.) The owners’ reverence for history and authenticity has created a living museum as much as a holiday destination, one which you’ll be all the richer for having experienced.
Your Hosts, Lynne and Ross Knox
Meeting the couple that runs the ranch is an even richer experience. Lynne and Ross Knox are larger than life. Lynne is the Ranch Manager. Ross is a cowboy and packer who’s worked some of West’s most iconic ranches and American National Parks. To share dinner each night with this couple is magic. Their genuine warmth and kindness creates a welcoming sense of home and family. And after dinner, Ross may just treat you to some cowboy poetry.
Ross Knox: Cowboy Poet
Before meeting Ross, I’d had no experience with cowboy poetry. But when he began to recite one of his poems, I was spellbound. I’ve since learned that he’s a highly respected and well-known cowboy poet. He was an invited performer at the Western Folklife Center’s first National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in 1985 and has been featured at nearly every gathering since. (You can learn more about Ross Knox’s poetry at Cowboy Poetry.)
With Lynne and Ross Knox, dining at Rancho de la Osa is an unforgettable experience. Guests are called to the Hacienda for family-style meals with the ringing of a historic bell.
Chef Chase Smith offers delicious and hearty American country cuisine. His deserts – peach cobbler, chocolate chip cookies, and carrot cake – were truly among the finest I’d ever had. The Hacienda always keeps fresh coffee and hot tea available all hours of the day.
And that historic house of worship built by Father Kino? You’ll be delighted to find that it’s now a Southwestern-style cantina with a full bar and horse saddle bar stools. (The good Father must be turning in his grave!)
The ranch offers all-inclusive holidays, meaning meals and activities are included in the seasonal rates. And there are plenty of activities!
Ranch Activities and Scenery
Twice-daily horseback rides into incomparable Sonoran landscapes make you feel like you’re starring in your own Western. The area north and east of Sasabe is within the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge preserves an ecosystem of grasslands, arroyos, oak and mesquite groves. On my rides, I encountered mule deer, coyote, and javelinas, but you might be lucky and encounter the more secretive mountain lion or coatimundi. The land to the west is the Tohono O’odham Reservation, richly blessed with their sacred and awe-inspiring Baboquivari Mountain. (The nearly-extinct jaguar Pantera onca arizonensis is said to be roaming there again.) The land to the south is Mexico; if you’re interested in seeing the famous (or infamous) border wall, it’s just a short ride from the ranch.
If you’re not keen on horseback riding, the ranch offers guided UTV tours into desert canyons. You’ll explore Tohono petroglyphs and the ruins of long-abandoned stagecoach posts. Electric fat tire bike tours are an entertaining option, as are swimming, sport shooting and archery. Hiking and bird watching opportunities abound. You’re likely to find good weather for all these activities as the region averages 286 days of sunshine a year.
Of course, if you prefer, you can simply relax to the sounds of the Sonoran Desert and a slow pace that the modern world has long forgotten. So isn’t it time you find your place in history?
Rancho de la Osa awaits!
1 La Osa Ranch Rd. / Sasabe, AZ 85633
Email: [email protected]