Local properties make history, enhance agritourism.
It’s safe to say ranching is pretty common in Wyoming – after all, according to the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation, the state is home to nearly 12,000 farms and ranches, and it ranks No. 1 in the U.S. in average size of farms and ranches. While each operation is unique, some ranches stand out from the rest, including a few in Campbell County that continue to stand the test of time.
The Geis Cattle & Sheep Ranch
Located in Gillette, the Geis Cattle & Sheep Ranch was established in the early 1900s and is nearing 100 years of continuous operation. The ranch is currently owned by fourth-generation ranchers and brothers Gerry and Kevin Geis and their respective wives, Gwen and Bobbi, and includes a beef cattle operation of approximately 300-350 cows and calves. Gwen says their sheep herd is fairly new, and they also have horses, chickens, pigs and other animals.
The Geis Cattle & Sheep Ranch is open for tours during the spring and summer months, regularly hosting local kindergarten classes as well as tourists – including a recent group from Australia. Visitors have the opportunity to see and touch the animals, and they get a behind-the-scenes look at daily ranch operations.
“We’ve found that many of the elementary students and their parents who come to the ranch for tours have never been around any of the animals we have,” Gwen says. “We explain how the animals are raised and how we take care of them, so they leave with a greater understanding of where their food comes from.”
Located near Wright, Durham Ranch is a 55,000-acre bison operation that began in 1965 with bison sourced directly from Yellowstone National Park. Today the ranch is owned by third-generation rancher Armando “John” Flocchini III, who manages a herd of approximately 3,000 bison during peak times.
“Historically, this [Wyoming] is where you found bison,” Flocchini says. “The environment is one that the bison have evolved with, so it’s very suitable for them, and they know how to deal with our unique elements – the inevitable blizzards, droughts, the type of grass we have and predators in the area.”
Durham Ranch’s bison meat is distributed across the U.S. by Nevada-based Sierra Meat & Seafood, which is also owned by the Flocchini family. The meat is available throughout Campbell County in restaurants such as Prime Rib Restaurant & Wine Cellar, Pokey’s BBQ and Towers West Lodge Lounge.
Those looking to learn more about Durham Ranch can schedule group tours between June and September, and once per year, the ranch offers an educational seminar in Holistic Management. In addition, the ranch hosts trophy bison hunts annually, as well as a 5K/10K walk/run that raises money for local charities.
The LX Bar Ranch
Situated in a remote corner of northern Campbell County about 60 miles from Gillette, the LX Bar ranch is no longer in operation, but its rich history is being preserved, as the ranch has become a state historic site and the county’s first state park.
The LX Bar ranch, acquired by the State of Wyoming in 2016, was established in 1910 by John Kendrick, a U.S. senator for Wyoming and the state’s ninth governor. According to Campbell County Commissioner Micky Shober, the ranch originally comprised 250,000 acres and spanned six counties. Its buildings – all of which are still standing – were constructed with stone quarried on the property.
Although Shober says much of the LX Bar ranch’s land has been sold, 50 protected acres remain. He estimates it will require approximately $750,000 to restore the ranch facilities to their former glory and to build an access bridge over the Powder River. However, once the renovations and construction work are complete, Shober predicts the LX Bar ranch will draw history buffs and tourists who are interested in learning more about the county’s history.