Tony Nakazawa*, Bill Hall*, Andrew Crow** and Larry Dickerson
Montana Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations LLC is owned & managed by Karen Searle. She works on behalf of the 20 ranch families who operate cooperatively to host guests. ( http://www.montanaworkingranches.com/) Many of them are 4th – 5th generation ranches established by the early pioneers to the Rocky Mountains and plains of Montana. While the ranches are functioning businesses, they are deeply invested in the heritage of Montana ranching. Through their involvement with the Montana Bunkhouses, they share their heritage, contribute to the cultural history of the Yellowstone region, and through the Montana Bunkhouse collaboration, make a few dollars too.
The Barron Ranch is a typical Bunkhouse member/owner. It is run by the fifth generation of homesteaders who established the first trading post in the area, and cut a trail in 1873 from Oregon to “Big Sky” country, near present-day Absarokee (115 miles east of Bozeman). The original homesteaders inter-married with the Indians and when the white man killed off the buffalo, they rode all the way to Oregon and trailed back 4,000 sheep to provide food for their families. Five generations later the ranch family at the Barron Ranch continues to raise sheep and cattle, while sharing their way of life with guests. Today the 15,000-acre working ranch includes 740 sheep, 100 cattle, 150 horses, and a handful of mules and llamas. They offer a unique heritage tourism experience for their guests by running overnight pack trips to the Wyoming’s Beartooth Mountains. (see National Geographic http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2012/07/03/wrangling-under-the-big-sky/ )
Montana Bunkhouses promotes the Barron Ranch’s unique Heritage Tourism offerings by advertising the experience online as well as handling the booking and payment, which allows the Barron Ranch to offer its tours without having to set up their own website, or manage booking. The Bunkhouse model can also appeal to a wider variety of tourists because it offers not one but 20 different Heritage Tourism experiences.