Lilly and Harry Thompson settled on Saddleback Ranch in 1928 after the birth of their sixth child, James B. Thompson (Grandpa Jim). They moved to the ranch from McGregor, CO located a few miles west of Saddleback Ranch and built a “dugout house” into the side of the hill. It had dirt floor, dirt walls, and a log and straw ceiling, and one door and window in the front. Harry worked at the coal mine and earned enough to support his family while Lilly worked with the children on the ranch clearing the land of sagebrush and shrubs with a grubbing hoe with the hopes of someday farming.
It took him five years to save enough money to purchase land down to the creek so the family could “legally” transport water to the house up on the hill. Over the next few years, they managed to purchase more land adjacent to the land they already owned. The two girls and four boys in the Thompson family rode horses 2.5 miles to the Eddie School over the hill each day. Lilly and Harry were determined for Jim to go to high school and decided that the best way for him to do that would be to move him to the town so he could be acquainted with other children his age, and so they moved him to Steamboat Springs to live with the Etzler family, distant cousins to his parents.
Jim made it through school to the age 16 (almost 17) when he left town against his father’s wishes to work for the oil company, the only work available at the time. He enrolled in the military and later returned home to help his aging father take care the family ranch. It was at that time he started his very successful career in real estate. He bought and sold ranches everywhere, there wasn’t a piece of property or development in Steamboat Springs he didn’t have his hands in. He married Betty Wright in 1944 and raised six children, Jean, Luanna, Nancy, Harry, Todd, and Teresa. In 1958, he purchased the McDermott ranch which included his parents’ homestead on Trout Creek. By 1968, Jim had bought and pieced together neighboring ranches accumulating a total of 5,750 acres, and he renamed the ranch Saddle Mountain Ranch.
In 1993, after the ranch was sold and bought out of the family, Luanna, the second oldest daughter to Jim Thompson, and her husband Wayne Iacovetto (son of Helen and Angleo Iacovetto of Steamboat Springs, CO) bought the back side of the ranch excluding the Saddle Mountain headquarters and re-named it Saddleback Ranch. The third generation owners with their three boys raised beef cattle on the ranch in the summer and operated a feedlot in Eaton, CO in the winter. In order to help the ranch make ends meet Luanna pioneered into the tourism business after seeing the movie City Slickers and offered cattle drives and horseback rides. In 1998, the family sold the John Wayne Feedlot in Eaton, CO and moved to Saddleback Ranch full time.
The new agri-tourism business allowed them to purchase more land at the same time supporting ranching operations. Each year, Saddleback Ranch grows as we are always looking at ways to improve our business and adding new attractions. We are very proud to say that Saddleback Ranch is a fourth generation family owned and operated business, we take great pride in our heritage and our way of life. We are extremely thankful the agri-tourism business has given us the opportunity to keep our ranching traditions alive and greatly appreciate the opportunity to host your family and friends on our ranch.