Summer 2021 Tour Chama, New Mexico Episode 2: Ghost Ranch

Our second activity while in Chama, New Mexico, was a trip to Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu about 46 miles from Chama.

Ghost Ranch

I learned of Ghost Ranch about 15 years ago when I visited the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Taos. Ever since then, I have wanted to see the place where O’Keeffe found creative inspiration and spent much of her life.

Ghost Ranch Welcome Center

Ghost Ranch History

  • During the Triassic time period, we would have seen dinosaurs roaming through jungles and swamps along a seacoast. Contrast that terrain with the multicolored canyons and cliffs, plains and grasslands, and streams we see today.
  • The ranch’s archaeological record predates adobe walls and kivas. Hearths and other sites found on the property are dated 6,000 BCE, or 8,000 years ago.
  • More modern times saw cattle rustlers hide their stolen property on the land.
  • A working ranch became a Dude Ranch in the 1920s.
  • Georgia O’Keeffe came to the ranch in 1934 and bought 12 acres at the edge of the ranch in 1940.
  • Arthur and Phoebe Pack bought the 21,000-acre ranch in 1936.
  • New Mexico’s state fossil Coelophysis was found at the ranch in 1947.
  • The Packs donated Ghost Ranch to the Presbyterian Church in 1955.
  • The National Ghost Ranch Foundation was established in 1972.
  • Several movies used the ranch for their setting, including Indiana Jones, Cowboys and Aliens, City Slickers, and Silverado, to name a few.
  • In 2018, the Presbyterian Church transferred operations of Ghost Ranch to the Foundation.
  • The year 2020 marked the 65th Anniversary of Ghost Ranch.

What to do and see

The ranch offers several tours: some on a shuttle bus, some on horseback, and others traversing one or more of the nine trails on foot.

We chose the Georgia O’Keeffe Landscape Tour. Our mask-wearing group climbed aboard the bus. The tour guide’s skill in telling stories about O’Keeffe and the history of the ranch while driving down a dirt road amazed me. Maybe navigating dirt roads with no traffic made it look easy.

Our tour guide holds up a photo of O’Keeffe’s painting of the dead tree

She pointed out subjects of O’Keeffe’s paintings and passed around laminated photos of them for us to compare to what we saw.

Without the tour guide, we can see what O’Keeffe might have seen

I could almost see O’Keeffe standing in the middle of the desert with her easel and paints and brushes as she captured an image on canvas.

Standing in front of another painting subject of O’Keeffe’s.
What do you see in the shape of the mounds?
O’Keeffe’s summer home is not open to the public
Colors shift from muted to bright, depending on the sun’s light

After our tour, we visited the Florence Hawley Ellis Museum of Anthropology and Ruth Hall Museum of Paleontology to see the ancient artifacts from Paleo-Indian culture through contemporary pottery and weaving from local Pueblos. Although small, the museums had informative displays, which kept us busy for about an hour.

Museum building
Example of Indian Rug sold in federally licensed trading posts established after the American Frontier Wars ended in 1890
Indigenous farmers placed Corn Mother effigies—representing nourishing qualities of mother earth—in their fields
Black and White pottery found around Piedra Lumbre Valley
Paleo-Indian display of bison head, a modern atlatl and spear, and various spear points.
Museum’s Courtyard

Besides tours and museums, Ghost Ranch is a place for relaxation, reflection, and spiritual rejuvenation through its many retreats and workshops offered during the year. Visitors can hop on a horse for a guided trail ride on the property and, in the summer, jump in the pool to cool off.

Not sure if the Georgia O’Keeffe Cottage was a meeting place or overnight rental

Various “simple and rustic” accommodations are available, ranging from private rooms with baths to communal living spaces and shared baths, to tent and RV camping facilities.

Meals are served cafeteria style in the Dining Hall. Since we didn’t see any other places nearby to grab a bite to eat, we bought meal tickets for lunch at the Trading Post.

Eat inside our outside at the Dining Hall

Wrap up

I hope to return to Ghost Ranch, spend a few days, and perhaps sign up for a retreat or workshop. I’d also like to wander around on the trails and explore more, ride a horse, or go to the nearby lake and paddle board. It was too hot the day of our visit to do much more than ride around in an air-conditioned bus and walk through the museums. I’d also like to take the tour of the O’Keeffe House and Studio in Abiquiu. It’s open with limited reservations available.

Next up: Our last Chama, New Mexico, episode will feature a quick peek at Heron Lake State Park and Echo Amphitheater.

Safe Travels

6 thoughts on “Summer 2021 Tour Chama, New Mexico Episode 2: Ghost Ranch

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