Ranch History

The ranch’s history is unique and somewhat mysterious. Kenneth MacDonald, the founder, was kidnapped as a baby, less than a year old, with his nanny and taken on board a ship to Australia. He never knew his real name or anything about his family or native country.

His nanny died at sea and he was raised by an Australian family who taught him the sheep business. When he was twelve years old he sailed with a sheep-shearing crew to California to shear for the summer. At summer’s end, the crew sailed home with his wages, but without him. He went to work for sheep ranchers in California and in about 20 years he owned several bands of his own sheep.

In time, he walked his sheep from California to Rawlins, Wyoming, and began to ride circle looking for a place of his own. He found what he sought under the red wall and put together the Willow Creek Ranch in 1882. Through inheritance, it remained in the same family until its sale to the present owners, the Vieh family.

Fort Houck and Indian Petroglyphs

On the ranch is the foundation of old “Fort Houck”, originally built as a “road ranch” to house a post office and small contingent of troops to protect a marching road and stage coach route. It was a way station for the stage between Barnum and Arminto, Wyoming.

The high walls and caves of nearby Buffalo Creek Canyon still contain the names and dates of soldiers stationed at the fort, plus numerous Indian petroglyphs. A Sioux Indian trail crosses the ranch, and was once part of the Army wagon road. There is evidence of Indian campsites with teepee rings still intact.


Will Taylor Pioneer Homestead

The dilapidated remains of several old pioneer homesteads are scattered throughout the ranch, so we have re-created a “Pioneer Homestead Experience” on the Will Taylor homestead site.

The original old log cabin still stands and a new log cabin has been built on the site and furnished much like it would have been a hundred years ago. This means no electricity and no indoor plumbing. A log outhouse and outdoor shower add to the authenticity. There is no sign of human existence for miles, just magnificent views of the south slopes of the Big Horns, and miles of prairie and canyons to view from the front porch swing.

You can explore the Indian campsites on the benches behind the cabin, climb to the top of Cow Springs Butte to view a vast panorama of countryside, and ride horseback to your heart’s content. We will saddle the horses in your corrals each day and take you exploring in the nearby canyons, and perhaps move cattle in the surrounding pastures or spend hours trout fishing.

You will be able to experience life for a short time as our forefathers did, but survival will not be a problem for you as it was for them.