More than 150 years of Colorado ranching history and a part of its future were preserved in December 2013 when CCALT, in partnership with The Trust for Public Land (TPL), completed an effort to protect 650 acres of the Hutchinson Ranch in Chaffee County.
Protection of the Hutchinson Ranch was made possible by funding from Great Outdoors Colorado, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Chaffee County.
Originally homesteaded in the 1860s by Joseph Hutchinson, the ranch has been passed down through six generations, making it the oldest family-owned ranch in the Upper Arkansas Valley.
The Hutchinson family worked to permanently protect nearly the entire ranch. The easement will allow them to transfer the operation of the ranch to the sixth generation of Hutchinsons and will provide the family with the financial resources they need to continue to work the land.
Abby Hutchinson, granddaughter of the family’s patriarch, Wendell “Doc” Hutchinson, will continue to manage the ranch and is excited to have an opportunity to carry on her family’s ranching legacy.
“The Hutchinson Ranch project truly embodies the mission of CCALT, which is to protect Colorado’s agricultural land, heritage and families for future generations by conserving working rural landscapes. We are excited to see the completion of this important project, and to have been able to help the Hutchinson family achieve their conservation goals. To have provided Abby Hutchinson with an opportunity to carry on the family’s rich ranching heritage in the Upper Arkansas Valley is very gratifying,” said Chris West, CCALT Executive Director.
The Hutchinson family is extremely proud of its heritage in the Upper Arkansas Valley. Joseph Sykes Hutchinson and Annabel McPherson Hutchinson first homesteaded the earliest portion of the ranch in 1868, more than eight years before Colorado statehood. Joseph came to Colorado in 1866 after being wounded at the Battle of Vicksburg during the Civil War. By the 1870s, the Hutchinson ranching operation had grown to more than 5,000 head of cattle that ranged over much of Colorado.
Born in 1924, Wendell was the oldest of three boys of Mills Hutchinson and Myrtle Burkart. He lived and worked on the ranch for the majority of his life except when away at college and WWII. “Doc Hutch,” as many knew him, served for 29 years on the Salida school board, as well as many other organizations, including the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District Board and local bank boards. He was also a Chaffee County 4-H Livestock Club leader for 16 years. He was very proud of the fact that the Hutchinson family arrived in the valley in the 1860’s before the roads, railroad, or even statehood.
“If ranching teaches you anything, it is the need to be flexible. In order to preserve the ranch legacy, we needed every ounce of that flexibility in order to keep this ranching heritage alive, said Art Hutchinson. “Pursuing a conservation easement was our best option, and our family appreciates greatly all who helped make this preservation effort become a reality.”