the Colaborative Inc

Zapata Ranch

Client: Formerly the Great Sand Dunes Inn & Country Club; now the Nature Conservancy

Site: Mosca, Colorado

The Zapata Ranch near Mosca, Colorado in the San Luis Valley, is one of the oldest and largest continuously operated cattle ranches in the continental United States. At 100,000 acres and near Great Sand Dunes National Park, elk share this landscape with the ranch’s resident bison and cattle herds. The San Luis Valley and Great Sand Dunes constitute the most biologically significant landscape of its size in Colorado. Wetland ponds can be found among the huge dunes and the ranch lies within a vast basin at a 7,500 foot elevation flanked by not one, but two impressive mountain ranges: the San Juans and Sangre de Cristos. Operation of the ranch began about 1870. The ranch’s buildings were constructed of hand hewn logs from the nearby Sangre de Cristos from 1878 to 1912 and one building, which once housed the ranch stagecoach stop and post office, still stands on its original site. The Zapata Ranch is now part of the Nature Conservancy (Zapata-Medano Ranch) and still supports a large cattle operation in conjunction with their native bison herds. The Collaborative prepared the nomination of the ranch to both the State and National Register of Historic Places. The Zapata Ranch was subsequently placed on the Registers as an historic cattle ranch and an exemplary example of “Pioneer Log” construction.