We had the good fortune of connecting with John Benell and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi John, can you talk to us a bit about the social impact of your business?
We are changing lives everyday as we strive to make every guest feel the peace and serenity of the Arizona Sonoran Desert and escape the busy life. Our ranch motto is “easy Living.’

The Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch is located by Saguaro Lake, on the banks of the Salt River, in the shadow of the majestic Bulldog Cliffs – life is simple. Sun-filled days, exciting adventures, idyllic star-lit nights and good company combine to create a vacation, destination wedding, or corporate event that will live long in the memory. Our 20 rustic cabins with panoramic views of a wilderness made famous by the writings of Zane Grey, and outdoor activities to suit everyone, make our property a true oasis in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?

The Historic Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch was created out of the work camp built in 1927 to facilitate the construction of Stewart Mountain Dam between 1928 and 1930. The main lodge functioned as the mess hall, ice house, and commissary for the construction crew. The workers lived in cabins lining the roadway to the new dam. The dam is the last in a chain of four reservoirs that provide flood control and irrigation to the Phoenix Valley. When the dam was completed, Phil and Marie Lewis from Kansas purchased the work camp from Salt River Project, and negotiated a concessionaire permit from the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Interior to provide services to the public. The first marina was built on the east side of the dam and the work camp was turned into a fishing resort with a general store, gas station, restaurant, and overnight cabin rentals. Phil and Marie added the touches that still give Saguaro Lake Ranch its charm today. The native river rock walls and fireplaces were built by several local artisans, originally from Mexico. Heavy reinforcing steel from the dam was used for curtain rods, and indoor plumbing was added. Western motif Monterey oak furniture was purchased for the rooms and remains today as a timely reminder of that period. During the 1930s the Lewis family constructed the horse trails that surround the ranch. They developed more than 20 trails; some penetrating the Goldfield Mountains wilderness, others climbing the Bulldog Cliffs that overlook the ranch or exploring desert washes and canyons next to Saguaro Lake. Although the ranch started out commercially as a fishing lodge, it soon became a popular guest ranch by offering an Arizona ‘destination vacation’ for tourists from across the country. The attractions it offered back then differ little from those that still draw guests today: the scenic beauty of the quiet rural setting, the fine winter climate, and the western ranch atmosphere, as well as the variety of outdoor recreation opportunities in the Salt River Recreation Area and the Tonto National Forest. Today the ranch is still owned by the Durand family – the family that bought the property from the Lewis’s in 1948. Three generations have managed the ranch – John and Dottie Kissinger, Steve and Susan Durand, and sons Justin and Kevin Durand.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Kayaking the Scenic Lower Salt River: There is no better way to enjoy the cool water, escape the summer heat, and marvel at the beautiful wilderness that is the Tonto National Forest than to go kayaking on the Lower Salt River! Launching right here at the ranch you will paddle down the Salt River below thousand-foot cliffs and beside majestic saguaros in the Sonoran Desert. You could see wild horses, deer, great blue herons, osprey, bald eagles, and other native wildlife. This is scenic float with just enough ripples to get you wet. You can choose to take the bypass or go through a class one rapids. Once you reach the trip exit point we shuttle you back to the ranch in an air conditioned van. We also now are Offering Paddle Boarding and group rafting trips from the ranch! Sit, stand, kneel, or even lay down. The options for experiencing the Lower Salt from our paddle boards are plentiful, and can be suited for all different types of outdoor enthusiasts. After receiving an orientation on safety and paddling, you’ll start your float right here at the ranch. You’ll be free to explore the unique river ecosystem, home to otters, wild horses, javelina, roadrunners, saguaros, vermilion flycatchers and so much more. Once you reach the trip exit point we shuttle you back to the ranch in an air conditioned van. *For more wildlife viewing and less river traffic book earlier morning trips.

Website: SaguaroLakeRanch.com

Instagram: SaguaroLakeRanch

Twitter: Saguaro Lake Ranch @ SaguaroRanch

Facebook: Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, Mesa AZ

Yelp: Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch

Other: Tripadvisor – Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch Booking.com – Saguaro Lake Ranch Airbnb.com – Scenic Guest Ranch

Image Credits
Saguaro Lake Ranch

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