Arapaho Ranch: An unbarred tour with the Alliance for Historic Wyoming

Over the summer, we were honored to host an unbarred tour (a special tour of a newly developed historic site, or a site not often open to the public) of the historic Arapaho Ranch. 

Organized by the Alliance for Historic Wyoming (AHW), the event welcomed more than 70 people from all over Wyoming and Colorado, and included a program of speakers funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. 

Welcoming Henry Real Bird, Mike Bies, and Thomas Tisthammer 

After morning coffee and pastries, Henry Real Bird of the Crow Nation (and Montana poet laureate) began the program with a recitation of his prose. A rare treat to see and hear, Henry recites his poems as parts of stories that unfold through both English and the Crow language. As a member of the audience, you feel as though you truly understand Crow, and you can see very vividly what Henry is evoking. 

Next up, archeologist and rock art specialist Mike Bies presented petroglyphs and pictographs recently documented on the Arapaho Ranch. It’s a true credit to Mike’s level of study that he’s able to understand (and share) the stories these images tell, made all the more enjoyable by his bright sense of humor and natural storytelling abilities. 

Rounding out the morning, AHW board member Thomas Tisthammer explained how a historic renovation and repurposing project is managed and how it progresses. This generated a great forum around historic preservation with other knowledgeable members of the AHW board, as well as additional historical preservation wonks in attendance. 

Exploring Arapaho Mansion and a new interpretive exhibit 

For lunch, we welcomed all 70 guests to spread out in the spacious rooms of the historic Arapaho Mansion. The mansion was built in 1918 in the style of an Italian Villa, designed to entertain large groups. Most of the mansion’s original furnishings, including a grand piano, are still inside, and many were recently restored with funds from the National Endowment for the Arts.

After lunch, our guests toured the campus of the Ranch Headquarters, then viewed a recently completed interpretive exhibit about the Arapaho Ranch inside the repurposed original Company Store (C-Store). (Click here to see the map of a self-guided tour of the site.)

Interpreting on-site petroglyphs with Mike Bies

To finish out the day, guests carpooled to a site on the Ranch to see some easy-to-reach petroglyphs (rock carvings) and hear their interpretation from archeologist and rock art specialist Mike Bies. 

Some petroglyphs tell mythic stories; some record hunting scenes or travel stories. At this specific site, the petroglyphs told a hunting story that included dogs, people, wildlife with horns, and a hunting trap commonly used before arrows and guns were known.

Everyone was on their way home by 4 p.m., bringing with them a wealth of knowledge about the Arapaho Ranch, historic preservation, ancient indigenous rock art, and the future developments of a Field School at the Arapaho Ranch.

We’d love to welcome you for a tour, too!  

Click here to contact us about setting up a tour for your organization, group, or class.

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The mission of the Arapaho Ranch Field Station is to facilitate place-based learning through transformative experiences, as well as preserve the history and culture of the people and the place.