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About the Ranch

Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch - Historic Hotels Mesa Arizona
Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch - Bulldog Cliffs

Our History

Saguaro Lake Ranch has been owned by the Durand family since 1948 across three generations. The ranch was originally created out of the work camp built in 1928 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.

Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch History

When the dam was completed, Phil and Marie Lewis from Kansas purchased the work camp from Salt River Project. They negotiated a concessionaire permit from the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior to provide services to the public. The first marina was built on the dam's east side, and the work camp was turned into a fishing resort with a general store, gas station, restaurant and overnight cabin rentals.


Although the ranch started commercially as a fishing lodge, it soon became a popular guest ranch by offering an Arizona ‘destination vacation’ for tourists across the country to experience the Old West. Dude ranching reached its peak in the 1950s and 1960s with weekly rodeos, cookouts, and a lively string of 50 horses.


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. 


Our Mission

To provide a unique, historic, and affordable experience that leaves our guests wanting to share their lifelong memories with friends and family and return with future generations to come. We should go above and beyond to make them happy and strive to exceed their expectations.


We pride ourselves in curating a healthy, caring and honest work environment that leaves our staff feeling as though they are a part of the family. We want our team members to share our love for the ranch and its surroundings and expect them to work extremely hard. In return, the ranch has an obligation to significantly share in the fruits of that labor.

We are lucky enough to work in one of the most beautiful places in Arizona and should help steward it for future generations. This means being environmentally conscious in all that we do.

Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch - Historic Hotels Mesa Arizona

Story of our Logo

Written by Justin Durand, current owner of Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch.

During the heydey of guest ranching in the 1950s, the ranch was much further from the city limits. The Bush Highway was just a narrow washboarded dirt road. Most guests would ride once or twice a day so my grandfather always had a string of 40 or so horses. Occasionally, one of our horses would escape their pen and end up mixing with the wild horses in the area (who themselves all escaped from the nearby Yavapai Native American lands).


To make sure we knew (and could prove) which horses were which in those situations, my grandfather purchased the Saguaro brand from the Arizona Department of Agriculture. We stopped branding our horses many years ago but my father always kept the branding iron hanging on the wall above his office. 

In the last year of his life, my brother and I persuaded him to dust off the old brand, fire it until red hot and then scorch some old boards lying around the ranch for us to keep for posterity. It was those boards that inspired the image we use as our brand today.

Tonto National Forest in Arizona

Our Location

Tonto National Forest

The Tonto National Forest in Arizona presents a captivating blend of landscapes, from the distinctive Sonoran Desert cacti and expansive flatlands to the elevated terrains of the Mogollon Rim. This diverse ecosystem, spanning altitudes from 1,300 to 7,900 feet, provides plenty of outdoor recreational activities to be enjoyed all year round, including paddle boarding, kayaking, horseback riding and more. 

Saguaro Lake, a mere five-minute drive from Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, boasts a variety of attractions. Take a scenic 90-minute guided boat tour aboard the Desert Belle. Explore the waters with boat rentals at the marina and enjoy the stunning views over the lake from ShipRock Restaurant.

The lower stretch of the Salt River, below Saguaro Lake, runs along the ranch grounds. Controlled by dams like the Stewart Mountain Dam just upstream, the lower Salt River flows year-round and is one of the most scenic settings in our State, with abundant Arizona Upland Sonoran Desert vegetation and wildlife. The lower Salt River area is ideal for fishing, bird-watching or observing wildlife.

Observing wildlife along the lower Salt River river is most enjoyable when done at a relaxed pace. The springtime brings a flourish of migratory songbirds to the region, seeking nesting grounds. Visitors can expect to see species such as Anna's Hummingbirds, Vermilion Flycatchers, Black and Say's Phoebes, Gila and Ladder-backed Woodpeckers, Great Blue Herons, Bald Eagles, and an assortment of ducks which all add a melodic and colorful touch to the landscape.

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