Guests vandalize, trespass and poach at MacGregor Ranch in Estes Park

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Earlier this month, Estes Park’s MacGregor Ranch posted a slew of trail camera photos showing trash, graffiti, farm fence destruction, and even poaching by guests this summer.

A ranch representative says these issues make the education and preservation efforts of its board, employees and volunteers feel wasted and worthless in a community the MacGregor family helped shape.

Summer 2022 guest vandalism at MacGregor Ranch.  Leaving the official park trail onto private farm property is considered by the state of Colorado to be trespassing in the second degree.  Doing so on farmland with the intent to commit a felony, i.e. vandalism or poaching, is a class 4 felony. (MacGregor Ranch/Courtesy Photo)
Summer 2022 guest vandalism at MacGregor Ranch. Leaving the official park trail onto private farm property is considered by the state of Colorado to be trespassing in the second degree. Doing so on farmland with the intent to commit a felony, i.e. vandalism or poaching, is a class 4 felony. (MacGregor Ranch/Courtesy Photo)

“We met with the Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) Chief Ranger on August 15,” said Morgan Morris, MacGregor Ranch office manager. “They have been very responsive to our concerns, requests and concepts for moving forward. We look forward to working with them more closely to improve the situation.”


Poaching of this elk likely occurred in the fall or winter of 2021 at MacGregor Ranch.  Carcasses of two poached moose were found in the spring of 2022. None of the moose carcass was used, and the antlers were cut from the skulls of both moose.  (MacGregor Ranch/Courtesy Photo)
Poaching of this elk likely occurred in the fall or winter of 2021 at MacGregor Ranch. Carcasses of two poached moose were found in the spring of 2022. None of the moose carcass was used, and the antlers were cut from the skulls of both moose. (MacGregor Ranch/Courtesy Photo)

The graffiti was found in several areas on the eastern edge of the Black Canyon property, near the Gem Lake Trailhead area.

The trailhead parking lot and property about a mile at the trailhead for Twin Owls are owned by the National Park Service. Among these pieces of land is the MacGregor property, which is labeled on trailhead maps as a conservation easement area.

“Hikers going off trail is a very common thing and at some point there was a misconception of where MacGregor Falls is,” Morris said. “Hikers head down Black Canyon Creek, to suffer flood damage, rather than continue further up the official trail to the actual site of MacGregor Falls. Or they go to the private road only for a wider road until they reach the RMNP limit.”


Even though there are clear “No Trespassing” signs, a fence, and then continuous signage as you enter the road, hikers still manage to stray off the trail, either accidentally or without heeding the signs.

Leaving the official park trail onto private farm property is considered by the state of Colorado to be trespassing in the second degree. Doing so on farmland with the intent to commit a felony, i.e. vandalism or poaching, is a Class 4 felony.

“The poaching likely occurred in the fall or winter of 2021,” Morris said. “Two poached moose carcasses were found in the spring of 2022. None of the moose carcass was used and the antlers were cut from the skull of both. It is strange that someone is illegally trophy hunting in an area that triggered additional statewide regulations and penalties with the Samson Law in 1998.”

As some locals will surely remember, Estes Park was once home to a large moose that often visited the town and nearby areas. The moose was nicknamed Samson and became a favorite with the locals, much like Kahuna in RMNP.

Samson weighed in at 1,000 pounds with a beautiful rack of seven-by-nine-point antlers. In 1995, 35-year-old Lakewood resident Randal Francis illegally hunted Samson for trophy purposes near a cabin at the entrance of the Rocky Mountain YMCA, sparking outrage and controversy in the city and throughout the state. .

As a result, Colorado passed the ‘Samson Law’ to deter illegal poaching by imposing extremely severe fines (up to $25,000) on those who illegally hunt animals.

“Our message is the same as any other private landowner in the state: If you want to access areas of MacGregor Ranch, contact the organization for written permission,” Morris said.

History of the MacGregor Ranch

“All remainder, residue, and reminder of my property of whatever nature and description, and wherever located, I hereby give, advise, and bequeath in trust, notwithstanding, to my hereafter appointed trustees, for the purposes hereafter more specifically designated hereinafter,” reads the Last Testament of Muriel Lurilla MacGregor. “It is my will that my ranch be maintained and retained to the extent possible, and that my cattle herd be preserved and maintained to the extent possible, and that the net profits from the production of my ranch and cattle herd are used for charitable purposes. and educational purpose.”

According to Morris, the MacGregor ranch has been organized by the last MacGregor of this lineage to be preserved as an example of high mountain ranching.

“The main priority raised by Muriel is the preservation of the land as an active ranch; additional funds raised by this operation will be used for charitable and educational purposes,” said Morris. “Fortunately, the Muriel L MacGregor Charitable Trust is a 501c3 non-profit organization, which allows all donations to the ranch to be tax deductible and allows us to operate our museum for historical educational tours even though the cattle operation is not owned by the ranch. done generating additional income.”

Tours take visitors through one of the original MacGregor homes, converted into a house museum, and further through the property to explore other original buildings, all of which are nationally registered as a MacGregor Ranch site. national historic.

The Ranch is not a National Park, but Rocky Mountain National Park purchased a conservation easement from the Trust in order to continue to preserve the surroundings of the ranch and keep this area as natural as possible for wildlife in areas not used for the cattle.

The ranch remains privately owned, but the easement in the Black Canyon area ensures that no additional construction will take place.

The various RMNP trails leading through MacGregor Ranch were agreed upon during and after the initial documentation of the conservation easement.

Established trails will take you to MacGregor Falls, MacGregor Mountain, and around Lumpy Ridge to other locations. It is not necessary to walk down the dirt road to access any of these places. The roads near the park boundary are for ranch use.

There may be vehicles and equipment traveling on these roads.

“Remember that if you strive to stay on the trail at RMNP for the sake of conservation, do the same while traveling through the easement at MacGregor Ranch,” Morris said.

Tours of the ranch property can be booked on the website, macgregorrancho.org. To contact the ranch by phone, call (970) 586-3749.