First fires, then floods, and now a pandemic. The Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs has faced quite a bit of adversity in its journey to reopen to the public but the day has finally arrived. The Flying W opened for business on July 10 with much (socially distanced) fanfare and a lot of optimism about what lies ahead. This enduring, much-loved Pikes Peak region attraction has undergone an extensive renovation since the Waldo Canyon Fire burnt the property to the ground in 2012 and now it’s back and better than ever, serving up a safe Old West experience to Colorado Springs visitors (and quite a few locals).
What’s New at the Flying W Ranch?
With a reopening that has been 8 years in the making, the Flying W Ranch has been working hard to rebuild its traditional favorite attractions as well as new buildings and new preventative measure to help stave off damage in the event of future catastrophes.
One of the most important projects conducted by the Flying W over the last 8 years has been to restore the land after the Waldo Canyon Fire. With the destruction of fire comes some pretty tough after-effects like flooding (which damaged the property after the fire), erosion, mudslides, unchecked invasive plants and so much more. When the ranch decided to rebuild, it wasn’t simply a matter of holding a community barn raising. The attraction installed logs for erosion control on the hillside, planted seed and spread mulch, planted new saplings to help give the forest a hand in recovery and increase erosion control and removed many of the noxious weeds that had taken advantage of the devastation and run wild across the property.
The Flying W Ranch Foundation has been instrumental in implementing these changes which benefit the ranch and the community at large by protecting the city’s drinking water and the property of its neighbors from pollution and damage. Owner Leigh Ann Wolfe also allowed the city to build multiple debris ponds on Flying W property to protect nearby schools, businesses and neighborhoods. In May of 2017, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported that she gave the city 114,000 cubic yards of gravel from those ponds, earning high praise from stormwater manager Tim Mitros:
On the less technical side of things, the ranch has also added a new, 8,000 square foot dining hall — twice the size of the old hall. It will work well for nights when the weather isn’t great for the traditional starry night setting of the chuckwagon supper. The outdoor area has also been expanded with new log tables and benches made from trees damaged in the fire.
There’s another new addition that has fans of the Flying W buzzing, but this one is of the human variety. For the first time in the history of the Flying W Wranglers, they have added a cowgirl to the traditionally all-male singing group. Cassy Weil will bring her incredible vocal and instrumental talents to the five-person group, entertaining guests nightly. In a recent interview with the Colorado Springs Gazette, former Flying W bandleader David Bradly (who retired after 8 years leading the group) sang Weil’s praises, as well as those of the Flying W for expanding the group.
Weil has been the lone lady in several other cowboy groups so she’s more than up for the task and everyone is quite excited.
Flying W Fan Favorites Remain
With so many changes, guests of the Flying W Ranch might be a little concerned that some of their favorite amenities have disappeared. While the rebuild and the current COVID-19 pandemic have certainly had an impact, guests can still count on the ranch holding true to its most beloved attributes.
Guests will still be able to enjoy a delicious chuckwagon dinner complete with biscuits, beans, smoked meats and lots of banter. The Flying W Wranglers will still entertain with the sweet strains of the same cowboy jams that once drifted across the hills when the attraction was a real working cattle ranch. Brides will delight in capturing photos with their grooms against the stunning backdrop of the Rocky Mountains and the ranch’s rolling foothills. Children will still get the chance to explore the ranch, the trails, and the original train (which was protected from fire damage) and meet the friendly animals and cowfolk who make it all so special. In short, the Flying W Ranch is still the same home on the range away from home that everyone has known and loved for decades. Welcome back!