The history of the Murie Ranch began in 1893 when a two year old boy named Buster Estes rode into the town of Jackson on his uncle’s shoulders.
Buster grew up in the valley and eventually met his bride Frances, a Bar BC dude. She had made her way to Jackson in a “white-top” in 1914. The pair were married and settled down to homestead a site on the Snake River, just a couple of miles away from the Moose Post Office. The final papers for their homestead were signed by Calvin Coolidge in 1921.
Buster and Frances set out to open their own dude ranch, the STS. They started out with a single dude cabin, one tent house, and their three-room homestead cabin. Eventually they built their facility up to ten dude cabins, boys’ and girls’ bunkhouses, a saddle house, ice house, barn, chicken house, two-car garage, shop, laundry, and bath house. An addition was added to their cabin to make a dining room for guests. Accommodations were rather primitive, but in those days the dudes wanted to “rough it.”
The STS Ranch offered “cabins, meals, fishing, swimming, hiking, riding,” all at “popular prices.” Their cabins boasted hot and cold running water, full furnishings and private outhouses. The less hardy could pay a small fee to use the bathroom in the main house. Meals were provided, and picnic lunches could be had at no extra cost. Telephone service was one mile away on an “oiled highway” at the Moose Post Office. Saddle horses and guides were available to take folks around the area. A stay at the ranch cost $3.50 a day or $20 for the week, with special deals for families. The STS was a popular spot through the 1920s and 1930s. However, as the tourist market changed, the STS began to lose business. By 1945, the dude ranch was no longer profitable.
The second stage of STS history began that same year when Olaus & Margaret and Adolph & Louise Murie purchased the 77-acre property from the Estes. Adolph and Louise moved onto the property first. Mardy and Olaus, who had been living in town, followed in 1946. At this time, the ranch became the headquarters for The Wilderness Society, of which Olaus was the president. Members visited and stayed in the dude cabins. Board meetings, debates, and discussions were held in the main house from the late 1940s through the 1960s.
During this time, the Wilderness Act was conceived and forged at the Murie Ranch. In 1963, one year before this incredibly influential act was passed, Olaus Murie died. The others stayed on the family ranch, even though it was sold to Grand Teton National Park in 1968. After Adolph’s death in 1974, Louise stayed on the ranch another couple of years before moving. Mardy remained on the ranch under the terms of a life estate with the NPS until her death in 2003.
In 1990, the Olaus Murie residence and studio were listed in the National Registry of Historic Places for their association with regional conservation. The remainder of the property, including the original STS ranch buildings, was designated a National Historic District in 1997.
That same year, the non-profit Murie Center was formed to partner with Grand Teton National Park to become stewards of the ranch and to carry on the work of the Murie family. In 2001, the center launched its campaign to restore the buildings and improve the ranch infrastructure to create an 18-bed retreat center for carrying out its activities. We invite you to participate in our ranch restoration project as a donor and/or volunteer. If you are interested in sustaining the Murie Ranch as a national treasure please contact the Center.
On February 17, 2006, the Murie Ranch was designated a National Historic Landmark, the highest such recognition accorded by our nation to historic properties. These special places are the actual sites where significant historical events occurred, or where prominent Americans worked or lived, and represent the ideas that shaped our nation. Fewer than 2,500 historic places carry the title of National Historic Landmark.
Today, the Murie Ranch is alive with activity and the Muries’ vision for their home is being realized as a dynamic center where people gather for study, debate and inspiration on behalf of wild nature. We invite you to hold your next meeting or seminar in the beautiful setting of the Murie Ranch.
Interview with Louise Murie MacLeod by Carrie Kappel. March 7, 1996.
National Park Service – Historic Resource Inventory Form. #GRTE-0972. Murie Studio, 1996.
National Park Service – Historic Resource Inventory Form. #GRTE-0973. Murie Residence, 1996.
National Park Service – National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.
OMB Number 1024-0018. Murie Residence, 1988.
“Out of the Past–Dude Ranches of Jackson Hole.” Jackson Hole Guide, June 11, 1964.
STS Ranch brochure. Teton County Historical Center files.