Cowboys & Indians — Ted Turner Reserves
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Cowboys & Indians

Ted Turner’s Photo Safaris
February/March 2016
By Stephanie Stephens

He owns western acreage the size of small countries. And, boy, can you get some good shots on the media mogul’s conservation ranches.

It’s dinnertime in the main lodge at Vermejo Park Ranch. Longtime guide and cowboy poet Frank Long commands the attention of guests who’ve just polished off a repast of authentic ranch cuisine. A slightly hesitant tap of a fork on a water glass slices through the rumble of bantering and note-comparing about the day, spent variously hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, and birding. For much of the day, eyes have been looking through camera lenses, but now they all turn to the head of the table.

Long’s been a hunting guide on the ranch for 19 years — mostly leading hunts for elk, deer, and occasionally bear — but at the moment he’s become a bit of a bard. With minimal goading, he begins to recite some original verse that pays homage to the ranch’s creek-like namesake “river,” the Vermejo, one of many fishing spots that have made these hundreds of square miles an outdoorsman’s haven for a century.

… The Vermejo cuts a long, thin swath / And finally flows into the sea. / The name means red, the Indians said. / But does it know what its fate is to be? … (Long swears he dreamed up the verses while dozing lakeside with a friend — both pals with fishing rods firmly in hand.)

The fate of any visitor to Vermejo Park Ranch, the biggest of Ted Turner’s massive conservation properties, is to know the exhilaration of reveling in nature’s widest open spaces. At 585,000 semiarid acres, it is the largest contiguous privately owned property in the West, spanning 920 square miles in New Mexico and Colorado, from the Great Plains to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

That’s plenty big enough for the approximately 8,000 Rocky Mountain elk, 1,500 North American bison, 2,000 mule deer, 500 pronghorn antelope, 100 feral horses, and 200 species of birds that flourish in five ecosystems, along with 1,094 species of plants. And it’s plenty big enough for guests who come with cameras to explore the great outdoors and capture nature unobstructed.

It’s all part of the vision of Ted Turner, whose newly minted eco-adventure program, Ted Turner Expeditions, makes the land accessible not only at Vermejo in northeastern New Mexico but also at his Ladder Ranch in south-central New Mexico and at a third Turner property, Sierra Grande Lodge & Spa in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which offers excursions to his Armendaris Ranch.

Under Turner’s ownership and stewardship, all the properties remain self-sustaining, ecologically sensitive, and dedicated to conservation of native species, says 15-season ranch veteran James Reidy, Vermejo’s activities director. “It’s no secret that Mr. Turner wants to provide the best nature tourism venues in the world, and no one really doubts that probability.”

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Vermejo Park Ranch’s Upscale Casa Grande Opens in June
February/March 2016
By Stephanie Stephens

Ted Turner’s long-awaited Casa Grande opens this June on the media mogul’s 585,000-acre Vermejo Park Ranch.

It’s big news that Vermejo Park Ranch’s upscale Casa Grande opens in June. The magnificent mansion, built in the early 1900s by then-owner William H. Bartlett, had been resting quietly until recent renovations brought it back to life, painstakingly preserving its architectural integrity while conforming to modern building codes. Casa Grande includes the property’s greenhouse, where the Vermejo kitchen grows herbs, fruits, and vegetables.

If you don’t buy out Casa Grande, you can opt to stay at the one of the six comfortably welcoming guest houses. Evoking ranch history with names like Barker, Chandler, Bartlett, Gourley, and Pennzoil, they surround the massive wood-and-stone main lodge rebuilt in 1991 after a fire — a fitting centerpiece structure with views for miles, dining rooms, and a shop stocked with requisite hunting and fishing supplies, seasonally appropriate clothing, and ranch-worthy cookbooks. Three larger retreats with individual bed-and-breakfast-style rooms are also available; one of these, Costilla Lodge, is located 25 miles away in the high country and is operated by a separate staff.

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