Dude ranches in America have been growing in popularity for decades. Lured by superb mountain or desert settings, clear, sparkling air, and a gloriously varied round of outdoor activities, hundreds of thousands of tourists every year decide to spend time at charming dude ranches across the West. The history of such vacation destinations is the subject of author Lynn Downey’s engrossing book American Dude Ranch: A Touch of the Cowboy and the Thrill of the West.
Dude ranch owners have been offering the public the opportunity to enjoy these beautiful recreational spots since the late nineteenth century. Downey takes readers where it all began, the first recorded dude ranch in Medora, North Dakota, in 1881 and introduces them to a myriad of dude ranch guests that include United States presidents, well-known mystery writers, and movie stars. She highlights not only the men who owned and operated ranches, but the women who made contributions to the business as well. American Dude Ranch includes information about destinations in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona and notes the special features and activities at each ranch.
Downey artfully explains how deeply connected the culture and history of the America West are tied to dude ranches, and the underlying reasons some have for deciding to escape their lives in the city to ride fences, take pack trips across the scenic terrain, and fry bacon in the open. She also traces the influence of the industry from clothing to cooking and examines the portrayal of dude ranches in film and literature. American Dude Ranch is fun and enlightening.