The Circle K Ranch & Outfitter Southwest Colorado’s Guest Ranch
The Cannon family has been in the guest ranch and outfitting business at Circle K Ranch for the past 30 years. The business has grown from a small camp setting in the early 80’s with just a handful of guests , to a ranch serving over 1000 guests and horseback riders every summer and outfitting hundreds of sportsmen and women each fall.
The Circle K Ranch has a rich history.
The Dolores River Valley was a busy cattle ranching area. Old weathered barns and large grazing fields can be seen as you travel Highway 145 between Dolores and Rico. In those days Circle K Ranch was known as the Cushman Ranch.
In 1948 Dr. R. G. Odaffer from Farmington, New Mexico purchased the Cushman Ranch (now known as the Circle K Ranch) with a desire to turn it into a summer tourist resort and hunting lodge. Dr. Odaffer owned a hospital in Farmington. With the sale of the hospital, he was on his way to building his dream. The Rio Lado Lodge was finished in the fall of 1948 and ready for business.
The Circle K Ranch has been owned and operated by several people over the past many years. In 1982 the Cannon family purchased the Circle K Ranch, with a desire to see young people and families experience the wonder of the San Juan Mountains in a Christ-centered atmosphere. Through years of hard work and self-sacrifice a business has been formed that has touched the hearts and lives of many people.
The main lodge area still has the original 1948 design. The Program Room was once a dance hall, and the bar room mirror, is said to be one of the first to come over the mountain to Rico. The old upright piano has been there for an unknown number of years. It was made in 1914.
A Rio Lado trail ride will take you down the old Rio Grande Southern Railroad bed and past the old Rio Lado switching station. The railway bed is all that is left at the switching station. You will also go past an old cabin made of rail road ties. The cabin was used during the summer by a family who ran cattle in the area.
The Rio Grande Southern Railroad, founded in 1889, connected Durango, to Ridgeway, Colorado. The train track ran along the Dolores River, crossing the Circle K Ranch driveway just before you come to the bridge. The train was used for hauling cattle, various kinds of freight, and passengers in the early years. When the stock market crashed in 1929 the railroad had to find a more economical way of transporting freight, passengers, and mail over the high mountain passes. The first Galloping Goose (a vehicle with a Buick front-end and a boxcar back) was built in 1931. The Goose was the railroads answer to cut costs. After WWII the old wagon roads began to turn into passable highways which took business away from the railroad. In 1952 the railroad was abandoned. The Rio Grande Southern Railroad ripped out the railroad track taking the rails and leaving most of the ties behind.