Five Reasons to Love Tanque Verde Ranch for Your Spring Getaway
“People who want to experience the traditions of the cowboy come out to have a good time and ride the horses.” – Wrangler Legend Joe Valdez, Tanque Verde Ranch
The best reason to love Tanque Verde Ranch for your spring getaway is the authentic western ranch experience.
Ranchers arrived in the area east of Tucson, Arizona in the 1800s and called it tanque verde, green tank in Spanish, for the large body of artisan water containing green algae.
Tanque Verde Ranch covers 60,000 acres set along the Rincon Mountain Range and adjacent to the Saguaro National Park.
My husband Eddie and I went there to ride horses and enjoy the western landscape. Eddie had some experience with horses growing up. His cousin Sonny lived just down the road in Elgin, S.C. and owned Goff Farms. They boarded and trained quarter horses for big racing events in Florida and other places. During that time, Quarter Horse Journal rated Goff Farms #17 best horse trainer. Eddie and Sonny practiced barrel racing for fun and helped prepare the horses for racing.
As for me, I’d had no experience with horses. Thankfully, Tanque Verde Ranch is prepared for guests at all levels of horsemanship, or none!
Tanque Verde Ranch offers horsemanship lessons and riding experiences every day of the week.
We met Wrangler Legend Joe Valdez, referred to by Tanque Verde Ranch as “a true cowboy.” Joe started working at the ranch in 1976. He’s become an icon, as much as cowboy boots with spurs and hats with stampede strings. Even though he claims to be semi retired now, we noticed him leading guests on horse rides into the desert as often as three times a day. Joe told us that the wranglers emerged out west in the U.S. in the 1800s. That’s the time when cowboys drove large herds of cattle across the plains. In those days, when teenage boys went looking for work, ranchers hired them as wranglers to care for the herds of saddle-broken horses called remuda. The cowboys used the horses on the cattle drives.
Joe recalled that his Grandfather migrated from California to Arizona in a covered wagon to settle land that was granted to him for farming and ranching. It was not far from Tanque Verde Ranch. As Joe was growing up, long cattle drives were in the distant past but horses were a way of life. As a kid, he often rode horses to school with his thirteen brothers and sisters. His older brothers worked as bronco busters and competed in rodeos. “Getting hand-me-down horses from my brothers was good,” Joe said. “Trained horses will take care of a kid.” When WWII came along, two of Joe’s brothers served in the war, U.S. Marine Corps and Navy. Joe continued to work with horses and later joined the Rodeo Club at the University of Arizona.
“There’s been a lot of change,” admits Joe. Now, he says, “Tanque Verde Ranch offers all the amenities of a luxury resort.” But he’s quick to point out that some things will never change, like sunrise in the desert, his favorite time to ride.
Managing Wrangler Marty Orenstein explained that Tanque Verde Ranch has 120 horses selected especially for their ability to work well with guests. And, he adds, “Tanque Verde is also a working cattle ranch with a herd of 600, which makes it a true dude ranch.”
As we talked with the wrangler team, we learned what it takes to become a wrangler today. Marty explained, “I can teach anyone to wrangle that has a people attitude and riding experience.” Even when it’s second nature, he said that you learn something new every time you get on a horse. Newest team member Lewis agreed. He’d worked with horses all of his life but said he jumped at the chance to work at Tanque Verde Ranch for the experience of working with the herd and the beautiful setting.
Like wranglers of the past, these modern day wranglers take care of everything from caring for the horses to ensuring great rides for guests. And yes; there are female wranglers. Ashley taught us how to ride a horse until we could successfully lope, well; at least a little. Dillinger explained that some of the horses are like teenagers. “They want to play,” he said. “And if you don’t take charge, they’ll stop to eat vegetation all along the trail.”
There’s so much to do at Tanque Verde Ranch! In addition to horse riding, there’s falconry, archery, mountain biking, kids camp and more. See the weekly activity schedule at Tanque Verde Ranch. You’ll be hard pressed to fit it all in!
Other reasons to love Tanque Verde Ranch for your spring getaway.
The nature center provides guided walks and lectures. It’s the best way to learn about the desert. Humans have used desert plants and animals for centuries for everything from food to medicine.
One of the main attractions is the giant Saguaro cactus. Saguaro National Park protects a small area of the cacti, which is found in the Sonoran Desert from Southern Arizona to Northwestern Mexico. The best time to see it bloom is from the end of March through the beginning of April. Each flower lasts for only a day, just enough time to attract the attention of honey bees.
Other plants include mesquite trees, prickly pear, creosote plants and more. Rub pieces of the creosote plant between your fingers and you’ll get the smell of the earthy, fresh weather before a gentle rain. The smell is called petrichor and the whole desert has that pleasant smell during the monsoon season.
There’s an abundance of wildlife too. We walked carefully through snake habitats to take pictures of western diamondback rattlesnakes. They are camouflaged well in the desert. Wild javelinas look for morsels of food on the ground after a cookout. Don’t feed them though! Feeding wildlife gets people into trouble.
Another reason to love Tanque Verde Ranch for your spring getaway is the mild temperatures. Peak season is December through February when the temperatures are between 72 and 61 degrees. But March through May is not bad either, when temperatures are between 72 and 89 degrees. And it’s not as busy then. We often felt that we had the desert to ourselves.
Food and Beverages.
Enjoy a wide variety of mouthwatering southwestern cuisine in the Tanque Verde dining room. Some of our favorite foods included “shroom” burgers; beer-battered fish tacos; spinach crunch salads; and roasted prime rib. We also loved special drinks such as prickly pear margaritas and the extensive wine list. Special mealtime events include the Walking Horse Ride to Breakfast and evening Cowboy Cookout with live entertainment.
Although listed as “an upscale ranch with modern amenities,” Tanque Verde is a ranch with a history as colorful as the surrounding landscape. Founded when Arizona was a Territory, it’s long history includes outlaws, hangings, shootings, and entertainment, just what you’d expect in the wild west. Storytellers describe ghosts that still haunt the ranch to this day.
The original corral and ranch house includes the card room, living room, and Dog House Saloon. Now there are pools, hot tubs, and more. Eddie and I lodged in one of the original guest houses, modernized with internet service. We also indulged in End of Trail massages at the Tanque Verde Ranch Spa.
For more stunning scenes of Tanque Verde Ranch go to Tanque Verde Ranch Arizona at Marie’s Gallery.
To book your getaway package go to Tanque Verde Ranch.
When Eddie and I began searching for the perfect western ranch experience, we had no idea that we would find a place as beautiful as Tanque Verde. We found everything we could’ve imagined and more! There is nowhere else in the United States to see the giant Saguaro cactus, which can grow to more than 39 feet tall, and it’s right there! And we especially enjoyed the warm hospitality of the staff and other guests.
This year, much prayed for monsoon rains brought at least temporary relief for the draught conditions that threaten the desert environment in Arizona. Our hope is for perfect monsoon seasons every year for the iconic Saguaro cactus, other desert flora and fauna, and people of Arizona.
…there is something about the desert air
after the rainfall;
a clean smell, a calm, and the
of foggy clouds
that obscure the tops of mountains
as whole days become heavy with a
cool blue wetness.
for a short while the world is peaceful
and young again…
~Ken Sekaquaptewa and Candy St. Jacques
“Arizona Quotations: Rain & No Rain” The Quote Garden™