With a history that dates to the 1860s, the Empire Ranch is one of the oldest working cattle ranches in the region. Its lineage includes ownership by such notable Tucsonans as Edward Nye Fish (a wealthy businessman who ran a number of shops), and rancher Walter L. Vail (Vail, Arizona, is named for Walter and his brother Edward). The Empire Ranch was used during the filming of numerous features, such as Red River (1948), Gunfight at the OK Corral (1957) and Monte Walsh (1970).
Today, the ranch is publicly owned, overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), with the Tomlinson family leasing the land for grazing. The private non-profit Empire Ranch Foundation works with the BLM to help preserve the buildings and enhance the educational and recreational opportunities for the general public.
There are free, docent-led tours of Empire Ranch every second and fourth Saturday of the month, 11 a.m.-noon. On April 4, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., there will be a Spring Trail Ride, with horseback and wagon tours of the property, as well as music, lunch, raffles and more. For information call 888-364-2829 or visit Empireranchfoundation.org.
TOP: West view of Empire Ranch House, circa 1923; LEFT: Margie, Dusty, Bill and Tom Vail on “Molly” with dog “Buttons,” 1923; Frank Boice roping horses, circa 1940s. Photos courtesy of Empire Ranch Foundation.