Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Worlds Largest Ranch - King Ranch - Kingsville, Texas - March 12, 2018

"It's good to be the King"
(Mell Brookes - History of the World Part 1) 

The King Ranch - Kingsville, Texas

Yesterday (March 12, 2018) we made the trek over to Kingsville, Texas to tour the King Ranch. The ranch has vast holdings in Texas. In fact, the ranch is larger than the state of Rhode Island.  Yes, larger.  I'm not sure what I was expecting during this tour but for $55 a couple I guess I was thinking red carpet. 

We chose our tour time for 2 pm so that we could tour the King Family Museum in the town of Kingsville before the ranch tour. The museum is filled with vintage photos of ranch hands and cattle, luxurious carriages, and of course a Ford F- 50 "King Ranch" edition pickup truck. As an aside, be sure to get museum tickets if and when you visit the ranch it is a bit cheaper.

The museum also houses a branding iron collection as well as a well preserved and impressive hand and long gun collections, saddles from around the world and vintage photos of the ranch and ranch hands taken in the 1950's. No photography is allowed inside the museum so burn those memorable images into your brain before you leave.

We arrived at the Ranch's visitor center about a half an hour prior to the tour departure. The visitor center is a small building on the ranch where you check in and watch a one half hour film to provide information and background about the ranch. There's also a gift shop and (most important) restrooms to visit before you start on the 90 minute tour.

The ranch itself covers a land mass of 825,000 acres and (as stated above) is larger than the state of Rhode Island. The family also owns a 20,000 acre property in Florida.

The Texas property is the home of 35,000 cattle and over 200 Quarter Horses. King Ranch is one of the largest ranches in the world today. They are heavily involved in quarter horse production as well as breeding.

First established in 1961, the main South Florida farm is in the Everglades Agricultural Area, a highly productive farming zone characterized by organic soils, abundant rainfall and mild winters. Originally developed as a cattle operation, the farm covered some 42,000 acres. Over the years, the land holdings have been pared down to 20,000 acres and converted entirely to farming activities. Today, King Ranch – Florida is involved in sugar cane, sod, sweet corn, green bean and specialty lettuce production. Additionally, King Ranch is the largest juice orange producer in the United States. Additionally, the early and ongoing commitment to growing quality rangeland grasses has a modern counterpart in King Ranch’s highly productive sod operations in Florida and Texas.

So, how did this all begin ?

The story the tour guide told us was that Richard King was an Irish immigrant who lived in New York.  As a young man, his parents died and he was apprenticed to a jeweler.  Not liking the work, he stowed away on a boat to Alabama and eventually made his way to Texas.

In 1853, Captain Richard King purchased a creek-fed oasis in the Wild Horse Desert of South Texas, sparking generations of integrity, preservation, and innovation.

Over the course of over 160 years, King Ranch led some of the first cattle drives, developed the Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle, bred the finest Quarter Horses, and produced champion Thoroughbreds—all under its iconic Running W® brand.  (source: King Ranch literature)
(This is the King Brand - Shown here for demonstration only)

By the end of the war between the states, King Ranch had grown to 146,000 acres – supporting thousands of head of cattle.

Getting these cattle to market was a real challenge, though, as some one thousand miles of dangerous wilderness stretched out between Captain King’s cattle and the midwestern railheads where they could be sold.

Captain King’s domesticated longhorns were some of the very first hoof stock to comprise the early northward Texas cattle drives. Around this time, Captain King registered a brand that has since taken on mythic significance in the taming of the West – the famous “Running W”.

Richard King’s sense of adventure was rivaled only by his vision and ability to seize on new business opportunities. In addition to tirelessly working to improve the ranch, he invested in building railroads, packinghouses, ice plants and harbor improvements for the port of Corpus Christi. He was keen on creating the infrastructure that would get his product to market in the most efficient way possible. (source: King Ranch literature)

Today’s King Ranch is a major agribusiness with interests in cattle ranching, farming: citrus, cotton, grain, sugar cane, and turf grass. In addition King Ranch sells luxury retail goods, and provides recreational hunting opportunities. All of this authenticity is a true testament to Captain King’s integrity and commitment to the land. King Ranch is the United States largest producer of cotton.

The Tour

While I enjoyed the tour it was both at once, too short and too fast.  At 2 pm we boarded (herded) into a cramped tour bus to begin trip through the ranch. 

Aside from being rushed through the tour, it is a fascinating place. Please enjoy the photos we took along the way.

On the King Ranch Visitors Center lawn

One of 500 water sources on the Ranch

Long Horn Cow

The King Ranch House

(Credit for the photo below: Dallas News)

The Main House is now 100 years + old. It is 37,000 square feet and has seen several renovations over the years, the most recent in the 1990's.  It features 27 rooms, a dining room that will seat 50, 26 fireplaces, 17 bedrooms and 19 Bathrooms. There is no kitchen in the house and all the cooking was done outdoors in an adjacent building.

The King Ranch boasts some of the best Birding in America

Turn of the Century Bridge leading to the Main House

The King Ranch is famous for it Quarter Horse Breeding Program

A Hunters Paradise

Long Horns

Mexican Buzzard Crested Caracara - "Vulture with a Tuxedo"

Lets talk Turkey

The only wooden structure left on the Ranch - featured in the Ford Truck ads

You will have to weigh the cost versus the benefits of this tour. I think the tour was fine but we felt terribly rushed. Photo ops were many but you were always moving and had to be prepared to set up and take your shots quickly.  Still, there is the uniqueness of this place, the peacefulness and the excellence in land stewardship that is around every turn. If you have a day while in south Texas, perhaps you should visit the King Ranch.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you got to visit the ranch, Charlie and Martha! Indeed, it is quite a place, and immensely influential in Texas and the nation. The Walled Kingdom has lots of "secret history" that is quite colorful and local lore. Who knows how much of it is true, but there is no doubt the KR officials work hard to control their history. One example is here:
    FYI, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of KR, saying their was no conflict of interest for their employee (and eventual manager and heir, Kleberg) to serve as the attorney for the woman that was suing the KR.

    Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the often bizarre and colorful stories of folks working the ag production fields on and off the ranch in the time I was down there. Conversations were always hushed, with frequent looks over their shoulders, as there was (and is) no denying the power of these families, although it is certainly positive for Texas.


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