News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Book celebrates 50 years of Black Butte Ranch

Black Butte Ranch is marking its 50th anniversary this summer — and a key element of celebration is a new book “Black Butte Ranch: There Is A Place,” featuring essays on the history of the Ranch by Katy Yoder.

The 88-page volume, rich in historical and landscape photographs, was coordinated by legendary Oregon photographer Rick Schafer.

Yoder was a natural choice to create the keepsake collection of essays. She is a professional writer (including freelancing for The Nugget Newspaper) — and she’s got a powerful family connection to the Ranch. Her father, Robert Muir Graves, designed the iconic Big Meadow Golf Course at Black Butte Ranch in 1969, opening it in 1970.

“The first time I came to Black Butte Ranch I was probably nine years old, and it was far from being done,” she recalled.

Yoder, under Schafer’s guidance, knew from the beginning that the project would be “very image driven.” Historical images provided by the Three Sisters Historical Society and from her father’s collection helped her shape the narrative.

It was very important to Yoder that the narrative went deeper than the half-century of the Ranch’s existence as a resort.

“History started in geologic time and included the indigenous people whose land Black Butte Ranch is on,” she said. “I want to honor the true history of this area, not just start with Euro-Americans who came through in the 1860s… It was part of what I needed to do if I was going to do the project — honoring the land that Black Butte Ranch is on and hopefully a little bit of what that means.”

To recount that early history, Yoder interviewed Northern Paiute Wilson Wewa of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, a descendant of Chief Paulina for whom Paulina Springs on the Ranch is named.

“I was surprised at how much activity there was on that land,” Yoder said. “It gave me a deeper appreciation for the story that was there. It wasn’t always pretty. Everything’s more complicate than you think.”

After the Ranch was developed as a resort, it became a beloved destination for generations of Oregonians — some homeowners, some second-home owners, some visitors.

“I interviewed a lot of different people who are homeowners and people who have been coming to the Ranch for a long time,” Yoder said. “They are so welcoming, and so wanting people to come and share the experience of the Ranch. I just loved hearing them talk that way.”

Black Butte Ranch has had a tremendous impact on the vitality of Sisters. Developer Brooks Resources originally created the town’s Western theme and injected considerable economic energy into the community. BBR has always supported the local schools and is a major employer in the area. People from Sisters go to the Ranch to enjoy live music, dining and horseback riding.

Yoder noted that many people have grown up in Sisters, worked summers at Black Butte Ranch — and stayed on to make a career there.

“And they love it,” she said.

Yoder said that she was astonished to discover the amount of volunteer time and effort Ranch residents put in to enhancing the Ranch, especially in creating habitat to make it more and more welcoming to local wildlife.

Distilling the history of a beloved place down to 88 pages of text and photos was no easy task.

“The biggest challenge was trying to figure out what to leave in and being very sorry for all the things I had to leave out,” she said. “The book could have been three-times bigger for all the content I had…. Getting it down to an essence was challenging. I tried to tell a complete story. You can never do that perfectly, but I was happy with what I was able to include.”

“Black Butte Ranch: There Is A Place” is available at Black Butte Ranch and at Paulina Springs Books in Sisters.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

Author photo

Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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