OTO Dude Ranch

James Norris (Dick) Randall, “The Man who put the ‘Dude’ in Dude Ranching,” worked as a cowboy before heading to Yellowstone National Park in 1888. There, as a stagecoach driver for tourists, he soon recognized the business potential of outfitting hunting adventures for wealthy easterners and European aristocrats. In 1898, while Dick continued to work as a guide, he and his wife Dora purchased squatters’ rights to this land along Cedar Creek, in the shadow of the Absaroka Mountains. The ranch had a one-room log cabin with a dirt floor and sod roof and a corral. Soon wealthy hunting clients began sending their kids to the OTO to work as cowboys for the summer, the start of the Randalls’ dude ranching business. To accommodate the growing number of guests, the Randalls added to and upgraded their facilities into the 1920s. The new buildings evoked the rugged, frontier West through the use of native materials; a fine example is the 1921 grand lodge, which features a rubblestone foundation and unfinished log walls. The OTO’s consciously rustic style extended beyond its architecture. From 1912 to 1934, the Randalls promised western accommodations and pack trips long enough to give a person “the feel of the mountains.” During the OTO’s heyday, guests escaped the pressures of modern life while enjoying good food, horseback riding, ranch work, and music in the evenings. The Randalls retired in 1934, when former guest Chan Libby took over the operation. The OTO closed permanently in 1939.



10 miles northwest of Gardiner on Cedar Creek Road, Gardiner, Montana ~ Public