Bison Ranch Is Short Drive To Rim Paradise

COVER STORY

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Bisontown and Bison Ranch -- a mere hour's drive east of Payson -- is a quick getaway, for the day or a weekend for Rim Country residents.

"You'll find a nice little town atmosphere here. When you come to stay at the ranch, you don't have to leave the property," Bill Lucey, manager said.

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The Dizon family did not expect Arizona to be more than desert. They enjoyed fishing in the Bison Ranch Pond.

Shop and eat in Bison Town

Wild Bill's General Store has everything a guest might forget or run out of, from fishing supplies to fresh produce to toothbrushes.

The Ranch Boutique and Purple Sage carry items to make cabins a bit homier.

Everything Under the Sun boasts a unique collection of handmade jewelry and just plain fun stuff.

The Chuck Wagon Grill features certified Angus burgers and steaks. "We have an awesome breakfast buffet," Lucey said.

G.K. Mack is the solo artist in the Wild Women Saloon from 8 p.m. to midnight, Friday, Aug. 31. He plays classic and modern rock, blues, R and B, funk and reggae music.

At Twinnie's Coffee Shop, patrons will find much more than a latte. In addition to a hot cup of java, Twinnie's offers baked goods, ice cream and high-speed Internet service.

A gazebo stands in the ample courtyard behind the shops. The area is open for picnics on the grass and cowboy barbecues.

Cabins, suites and a retreat

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Alice is the last buffalo at Bison Ranch. "We had to get rid of the herd because people were letting their children jump the fence to get a photo. Buffalos run 28 miles an hour. Most people can't run that fast," ranch manager Bill Lucey said.

"Bison Ranch is family-oriented," Lucey said.

There are 22, 1,100-square-foot cabins with all the amenities of home, including a large screen TV with satellite and a full kitchen. The Elk and Bear cabins sleep four in two bedrooms. Tariffs are $250 per night.

Guests also have a have a choice of one and two bedroom suites with electric fireplaces at the resort. Tariffs range from $119 - $169 per night through Oct. 22.

The resort offers state-of-the-art conference facilities and a billiard, chess and backgammon game room.

Guests can relax in the outdoor pool and spa.

Bison Ranch has a private retreat center. Its family center has 28 rooms and sleeps up to 136 people. Two of the rooms are handicap accessible.

The recreation room at the retreat center has sleeper sofas to accommodate an additional eight people, plus two pool tables, pingpong, foosball and air hockey tables and four TVs with X-boxes.

For more information check out Bison's Web page at: http://www.bisonranchonline.com/index.htm.

Trail rides and more

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Bison Ranch's Bisontown offers a variety of accommodations and attractions for its guests seeking an escape from the summer heat. There are shops and different places to eat, assorted recreational opportunities and more. Take the drive east of Payson and about an hour up the road you will find the destination.

Recreational amenities abound on Bison Ranch's 170 acres. They include a private fishing pond, horseback riding, basketball, tennis, hiking, bicycling, paintball, and water sports at nearby lakes.

The catch-and-release pond is stocked with trout, bass, catfish and perch.

"There are probably a couple of catfish in there that weigh about 10 pounds," Lucey said.

Guests may board their horses on site.

The stables offer one- and two-hour guided trail rides through the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest. The cost is $25 per person, per hour. For reservations call: (928) 535-6671.

Periodically there are stagecoach and hay rides available.

During the summer, the friendly Percheron horses are hanging out between shows and parades, waiting for visitors.

Rim lakes

Weekly fishing reports can be accessed by calling Game and Fish at (602) 789-3701.

Game and Fish has stocked Woods Canyon Lake each week this summer.

Anglers will find large and small mouth bass and brown trout in Willow Springs Lake .

Knoll Lake is more remote -- 20 miles down Forest Road 300 -- but less crowded.

Chevelon Canyon Lake is the largest lake in Rim Country. It is also the most difficult to access. Fishermen access it by driving 10 miles down Forest Road 300, then 10 miles down Forest Road 159. From the parking area, a one-mile hike is required to reach the lake.

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A totem pole helps guests find their way to an ice cream cone or a horseback ride at Bison Ranch.

Bear Canyon Lake is a deep lake, so fish stocked last have had a chance to hide and grow.

BISON CELEBRATES FIVE YEARS AFTER THE FIRE

At the end of each summer, during Labor Day weekend for the past five years, Bison Ranch hosts a festival.

On Saturday, Sept. 1, local and regional artists will display their creative wares and food vendors will offer taste treats to celebrants.

There will be activities for families and arts and crafts.

The band Mogollon will play in the courtyard from 8 p.m. to midnight.

"We hope to have 1,000 people wearing pink shirts to support finding a cure for cancer," Lucey said.

Half of the $10 festival admission goes to the Phoenix affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

"Everyone knows someone who has been touched by cancer. The cowboys and I picked Komen as our special cause," Lucey said.

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