New owners plan to blend authentic, modern experiences.
A historic Arizona ranch now has new dudes.
Horses and cattle will soon be headed to Rancho de la Osa, near Sasabe, after it was bought at auction last month by self-described “passionate dude ranch owners.”
The buyers, Robert Bucksbaum, who owns the Majestic Dude Ranch outside Durango, Colorado, Tucsonan Russell True, who grew up at and is now co-owner of the White Stallion Ranch, along with investors Jaye H. Wells and Paul Bear plan to welcome guests Feb. 1.
Wells is an architect and True’s partner on his Southwest dude ranches, and Bear helped revive and renovate Tucson’s Rialto Theater and founded KXCI.
The 240-acre property with 10 buildings was auctioned on Oct. 22, and the sale closed Nov. 23.
Records from the Pima County Recorder’s Office list a sale price of $710,600.
The buyers spared the ranch from fates such as becoming a ghost ranch, a housing site for the Border Patrol or a lavish personal residence.
Rancho de la Osa was owned and operated by Veronica and Richard Schultz, who fully restored and upgraded the ranch that abuts the 117,000-acre Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, along the Arizona-Mexico border.
The couple bought the guest ranch in 1996 and in 2014 put it up for sale, ready to retire and travel the world.
After two years, with no offers, the couple put the ranch up for auction.
True and Bucksbaum were introduced by Veronica Shultz.
True said the Schultzes’ caretaking of the ranch was “a gift for us” and called La Osa “Arizona’s most historic ranch.”
AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE WITH A TWIST
About a 90-minute drive from Tucson, the ranch has 19 guess rooms, a cantina, two dining rooms and 33 wood-burning fireplaces.
The property dates to the 1700s.
The first building was erected by Jesuit priests as a trading post to exchange goods with local tribes and as a place for traveling missionaries who were carrying on the work of Eusebio Francisco Kino. It is believed to be the oldest continually used building in Arizona.
The ranch was included in the Gadsden Purchase and bought by Col. William Spencer Sturgis in 1889, who established it as La Osa Ranch.
When he first visited the property, Bucksbaum said, “I was floored, and I immediately knew it would be part of my life.
“It’s magical when you first walk in,” he said. “Knowing that John Wayne and two presidents had been there and the 300-year-old building that is so well preserved … in Colorado, nothing is that old.”
Along with traditional trail rides on horseback and cattle drives, the new owners plan to introduce other activities.
Guests will have access to fat-tire and electric mountain bikes, ATVs, hunting excursions, rock climbing and outdoor movies.
At his Colorado ranch, Bucksbaum has had success in bringing in corporate retreats with activities such as human foosball, which he plans to introduce at La Osa.
“We are stewards of this one-of-a-kind property,” True said. “We will keep the authenticity, yet expand the options. We’re going to introduce Colorado’s adventure-style dude ranching to Arizona.”
Down the road, the owners want to offer designation venues, such as mission tours in Sonora as part of a guest’s stay, True said.
The oldest building, which now houses a cantina, will be transformed to an event room.
And, unlike some urban dude ranches that have been hurt by rooftops visible from the trail, “We’re not fearful of a bunch of neighbors moving in,” True said.
ATTRACTING GUESTS, NEW AND OLD
Wells was one of the last guests at La Osa and helped haul away the horses.
The chance to partner with the other investors was a thrill.
“First order of business,” Wells said, “will be to welcome back guests that loved the place and then go after the younger people who will enjoy the added activities.
“The wild West is really cool.”
The European visitor will be a large target, especially during the summer months.
“To them, the heat is exotic,” Wells said.
Recent job announcements in the Tucson area make incoming residents a natural guest to invite as the transplants explore their new home, he said.
The owners plan to stock up on a variety to tequilas and have tastings at the ranch and a Sunday brunch for locals to make a day trip.
Being right on the border with Mexico doesn’t concern the owners.
“In Arizona it’s a nonissue,” True said. “But to people in Chicago and New York, it might be, yet I believe some are going to want to come to see the fence … we’ll ride right along the fence.”
True is a co-founder and president of the Arizona Dude Ranch Association and co-owns with partners the 270-acre Tombstone Monument Ranch near Tombstone.
He and Bucksbaum plan to share resources by co-managing the dude ranches — La Osa, White Stallion, Tombstone and the Majestic.
“We see the potential for administering and marketing these historic ranch properties through a centralized modern boutique management system,” he said, “such as a single reservation system and shared marketing with linked websites.”
Visitors who enjoy the dude ranch experience can rotate among the different options.
“Travelers today seek out unique experiences in unique destinations and they have a great appreciation for history,” True said. “People care.”