Soderberg Ranch Bunkhouse at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, CO 2020

Almost lost to modern development in the 1980s, Soderberg Ranch and more than 2,000 acres of Open Space were saved through the efforts of concerned citizens. Help ensure the ranch endures as an historic and cultural resource on this project! The ranch is surrounded by breathtaking outdoor recreation opportunities less than half an hour from Fort Collins, CO.

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PROJECT PARTNERLarimer County Natural Resources

SESSION DATES: September 7-11, September 13-18, September 20-25, and September 27 – October 2. (Session 1 has a Monday arrival time of 7:30am)
For Sessions 2-4, Please plan to arrive at our campsite no earlier than 5pm and no later than 7pm on the first day of your session. 

PROJECT DIFFICULTY: 

SITE INFORMATION:      Tent camping onlySite is RV/trailer accessible

COMPLIMENTARY HOOKUPS AVAILABLE!

**VERY IMPORTANT:** THIS IS A VERY POPULAR CAMPING AREA. VOLUNTEERS STAYING ON NON-PROJECT, WEEKEND DAYS (FRIDAY AFTERNOON THROUGH SUNDAY MORNING) MUST RESERVE THEIR OWN SITES AT HORSETOOTH RESERVOIR, OR PLAN TO CAMP ELSEWHERE. 

Dogs must be on leashes not longer than 10 feet at all times and are not permitted at the swim beach.

LOCATION:  We will camp on the banks of Horsetooth Reservoir, less than 30 minutes west of Fort Collins, and work just across the road at our Horsetooth Mountain Open Space jobsite. During this time of year, high temperatures in this area usually reach into the high 80s/low 90s, and at night the temperature can dip into the low 50s.

ABOUT VOLUNTEERING: HistoriCorps projects are free for volunteers! HistoriCorps will provide all meals, tools, training, and equipment, and a campsite. Volunteers are responsible for their own transportation to the campsite, sleeping equipment, work clothes and boots, and other personal gear. Most projects have one spot per session for a “Kitchen Helper” in addition to our project work volutneer spots. Scroll down to read more and register!

HistoriCorps does not charge for its volunteering projects. The majority of project costs are covered by our project partners and grants, but as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, HistoriCorps relies on donations to continue engaging volunteers to save significant historical sites across America for generations to come. Your donation of any amount will make an incredible difference! Increase your impact – make a generous gift today.

Project Site Description & History

Horsetooth Mountain Park is a stupendous and well-loved public resource less than 30 minutes from the college town of Fort Collins, CO. This park was owned by the Soderberg family until its sale to Larimer County in the mid-1980s. The Soderberg homestead, our project site, is in a prominent location near the reservoir. Watch the aspens turn over Horsetooth Reservoir on this project! Larimer County Natural Resources shares this history of settlement in the region:

“Now partially submerged under Horsetooth Reservoir, the town of Stout was once the main community in the Horsetooth Valley. Swan Johnson came from Sweden after his fiancée died, first living in Pennsylvania and then settling in the Horsetooth Valley area on the 700-acre Lesher Ranch. Swan lived in a two-story stone ranch house with a white porch west of what is now Dixon Cove. Around the turn of the century, his niece Wilhelmina, her husband John Soderberg, and their first of what would eventually be 11 children moved in with him. The water for the house was piped from a spring ¼ mile away, and the house was heated with wood and coal. On Swans ranch there were two stone quarries where flagstone was removed and sent to Ft. Collins and Denver for sidewalks. Stone from the quarries was also used by John Soderberg in building the old Ft. Collins Library (now the Ft. Collins Museum). The Soderberg children worked at the quarry, blasting and splitting the stone into smaller pieces. The quarries closed in the late 1930’s or early 40’s. The Horsetooth Valley also boasted gold and silver prospecting (though nothing substantial was ever found), cattle ranching, and agriculture activity (alfalfa, grain, hay, wheat, and corn).”

Johnny Soderberg was born to John and Wilhelmina in 1912 and grew up in the Horsetooth Valley north of what was the town of Stout. His first job at 15 years old was farming and ranching for neighbors (the Butlers) who lived 4 miles away, for $30/month. As a young man, Johnny hunted deer with a 30-30 Winchester and trapped coyotes, skunks, and bobcats and sold the furs. At one point the Soderberg brothers had their own sawmill and harvested mostly ponderosa pine and some Douglas fir from Horsetooth Mountain. Later, after selling the majority of the ranch to Larimer County, Johnny and his brothers Carl, Harry, and Paul, purchased a ranch in Wyoming and Johnny would spend time helping his brothers hay on the Ranch for weeks at a time.

The Herringtons moved to the Horsetooth Valley in the 1880’s, and Mrs. Herrington was the original homesteader of the current “Soderberg Homestead Open Space” property. The original ranch was ~1,100 acres, and the Herringtons both ranched and grew hay. After selling the Lesher Ranch, Wilhelmina, and four of the children, Johnny, Carl, Harry, and Ellen, bought the “Old Herrington Ranch.” The 2,055 square foot ranch-style house on the property was built in 1889 and has been remodeled and additions made since. The homestead includes the ranch house, which features turn-of-the-century ranch architecture and several historic out-buildings. The original entrance to the house was on the north side across the stone bridge. When Johnny moved to the house in 1947, he added the front addition that includes what is now the kitchen. In 1986, the Soderbergs added a third addition including the garage, living room and east deck. The outbuildings on the property include what was formerly a dwelling house the Herrington’s and friends stayed in for short periods. This two-story plastered building, came to be called the “Herringtons Chicken House” because both the Soderbergs and Herringtons kept chickens there at one time. There is a stone garage built by Mr. Herrington for his Model T car that is located just north of the house. There is a wooden barn west of the chicken house built jointly by Mr. Herrington and Johnny in the late 1920’s and a log grainery to the west of the barn. A loafing shed built in the 1950’s is located out near Shoreline Drive. To the west of the house there is a stone well house that also was used as a cellar for storing food.

Virginia Rose Grigg, born in the Ozarks region of Arkansas, came to Pueblo, Colorado at age 18 to attend X-ray technician school. Virginia met Johnny through his sister Ellen and they were married in 1980 in Arkansas and returned to Colorado to live at the “Old Herrington House.” Johnny and Virginia had no children, but many nieces and nephews (interview, Johnny and Virginia Soderberg 1999).

The beautiful “turning of the aspens” will likely happen over the course of a couple sessions during this project! Expect wonderful fall colors as we restore the bunkhouse during the seasonal transition.

HistoriCorps volunteers had a blast working on one of the ranch building’s roofs in 2019!

Sunset over the reservoir is not to be missed!

The bunkhouse is made of beautiful red/pink flagstone that is often found in expensive homes, or on sidewalks in historic neighborhoods. Even though they weren’t aristocrats, the Soderberg Ranch faily had access to a quarry that permitted them to build with this fine material.

Horsetooth Mountain Open Space was once settled, but today is preserved as a natural and cultural resource for public benefit.

“In the early 1980’s, the Soderbergs tried to sell the ranch to State Parks; however the State declined and they decided to divide the ranch into 35-acre lots. To protect the ranch from development, citizens passed an initiative for a 6-month sales tax to purchase a large portion (2,027 acres) of the Soderberg Homestead as a county park. Johnny and Virginia retained 114 acres that included the house and outbuildings. In 1998, Larimer County Parks and Open Lands Department, through the existing Help Preserve Open Spaces Sales Tax, purchased the remaining 101.5-acre portion of the Soderberg Ranch as well as a life estate on 12.5 acres that include the house and ranch buildings. Johnny and Virginia lived in the Soderberg Homestead house until Johnny’s death in August 2001. Virginia moved to Ft. Collins in the summer of 2002. ”

Read the full history and resource management plan here.

The open space and mountain parks around Horsetooth Reservoir attracts hikers, anglers, climbers, cyclists, and other outdoor lovers from around the country.

Scope of Work

Volunteers will work alongside expert field staff to learn the skills necessary to preserve the historic stone bunkhouse at Soderberg Ranch.

  • Remove failing mortar – 20%
  • Repoint mortar where needed – 60%
  • Repair wood elements including decorative gables and siding – 20%

If we finish our primary scope of work, we will:

  • Repoint mortar on the ranch’s other buildings as necessary

We started work on the bunkhouse’s mortar in 2019 – and were thrilled to be invited back to finish in 2020!

Volunteering Safely During COVID-19

MASKS All volunteers are required to bring at least six reusable, washable face masks. Volunteers will wear two masks each day (one for camp, one for the jobsite). They will be washed once throughout the project. Masks are required for when working less than 6 feet apart, or in an enclosed environment.
GLOVES All volunteers are required to bring their own work gloves.
HEALTHY ARRIVAL Volunteers will only join projects if they are not experiencing any symptoms of illness, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, muscle aches, or other symptoms of COVID-19 as identified by the CDC. Volunteers will not plan to travel to or through areas highly impacted by COVID-19, nor outside of the US, within 14 days before their project begins. Volunteers will affirm that they do not believe they have been exposed to a person with a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19, are not waiting to be cleared as noncontagious following a diagnosis, and have been following all recommended guidelines as much as possible by practicing social distancing and taking other precautions. Volunteers will travel to the jobsite alone, or with someone they live with (such as a family member) who has also shown no signs or symptoms of illness.
IN CASE OF INFECTION Any volunteer or staff member that developes COVID-19 symptoms must immediately self-isolate and leave the jobsite. If the individual is physically unable to do so, staff will follow Wilderness First Aid guidelines for medevac.
FOLLOWING HISTORICORPS PROTOCOLS All volunteers are required to abide by and practice the health and safety protocols that HistoriCorps staff are implementing.
CREW SIZE CAP All volunteer crews will be “capped” at a maximum of six volunteers.

Volunteer Logistics, Policies, and Advice

We’re so glad you’re interested in joining this project! If you’re new to our community, review the Volunteer FAQ first! Please note the following logistics and policies:

  • Volunteering with HistoriCorps is free! We will provide all meals, tools, training, equipment, and a campsite or shared indoor lodging. Dinner is not provided on the first night.
  • Volunteers are responsible for bringing their own gear, sturdy work clothes and boots, and appropriate sleeping equipment. Check the average temperatures before you start packing – the nights and mornings may be colder than you anticipate! Then, read this advice about how to stay warm when tent camping in colder places.
  • Campsite accessibility varies by project. Some projects can accommodate tents only; others can accommodate medium-large RVs. Please review the project site description above for more information, and if you’re still not sure, email volunteer@historicorps.org for help.
  • If this project does not offer showers, you might want to consider bringing a solar shower or research other methods to clean up after the work day
  • Volunteer crew sizes generally range from 4-8 volunteers, with two HistoriCorps staff that lead and train volunteers in the work.
  • Volunteers are asked to arrive after 5pm and before 7pm on the first day of their session. If you would like to request special permission to arrive early, please email volunteer@historicorps.org.
  • Safety is one of HistoriCorps’ top priorities, and volunteers can contribute to a safe working environment by ensuring their physical fitness is adequate for the work. See above for this project’s scope of work and difficulty level. Please, call us if you are not quite sure if a project is a good fit for your skills or fitness level. We may be able to suggest a project more suitable and enjoyable for you.
  • Dogs are generally allowed to accompany their humans to jobsites (actually, we love having dogs join us around the campfire!). However: HistoriCorps also follows the rules and regulations of our project partner. If the project partner does not permit dogs onsite, then HistoriCorps is no exception. Please ask HistoriCorps or the project partner directly if you have any questions about whether Fido is welcome.

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