Dinosaurs once walked the soggy wetlands that became the arid high desert of Ghost Ranch. Millions of years later Navajos and various other tribes roamed the valley. The Spaniards settled here and then came the cattle rustlers, the wranglers and the dudes. Arthur Pack, one of the country’s first environmentalists, bought the Ranch and sold a little piece of it to Georgia O’Keeffe. Scientists took respite time here from the stresses of building the nuclear bomb at Los Alamos. Famous guests have included Charles Lindbergh, Ansel Adams and John Wayne. Arthur Pack and his wife Phoebe gave the Ranch to the Presbyterian Church in 1955 and even though Georgia O’Keeffe wanted the Ranch for herself she eventually became friends of the first director of Ghost Ranch, Jim Hall. The history of Ghost Ranch reads like a novel.
Name and Logo
When the cattle rustlers were hiding their stolen goods in the box canyon alongside Kitchen Mesa, they discouraged their neighbors from looking around by spreading the rumor that the land was haunted by evil spirits. “Rancho de los Brujos” it was called, “Ranch of the Witches,” which naturally evolved into Ghost Ranch. The turn-off to Ghost Ranch was marked by an animal skull long before Arthur Pack bought the ranch in 1936. When Georgia O’Keeffe came looking for the Ranch she was told to watch for the skull on a fence post. O’Keeffe made a drawing of an ox skull and gave it to Arthur Pack; he promptly adopted the artwork as the logo for Ghost Ranch. When Pack gave the Ranch to the Presbyterian Church they used a sketch of Chimney Rock as a logo. By 1971, partly as a result of O’Keeffe’s encouragement, the familiar skull design was firmly established as the official Ghost Ranch logo.
From Past to Present
For more than fifty-five years Ghost Ranch has been a national education and retreat center owned by the Presbyterian Church. At one time in history it had the largest number of employees in Rio Arriba County. From the beginning Ghost Ranch has been deeply involved in support of the surrounding communities and committed to the preservation and protection of the environment. Over 200 classes are offered each year in subjects ranging from Memoir Writing, Adobe Building and Paleontology to Plein Air Painting and Yoga. Groups reserve rooms and meeting spaces for their meetings; individuals and families come for the day or the week to hike, kayak or just to relax. All people of all ages, races, religions and cultural traditions are welcomed to Ghost Ranch.