The story of the Longhorn Ranch on New Mexico Route 66

I rode through the remains of what’s left of the Longhorn Ranch, and somehow I connected to this place.     There’s not much left;   A really bitchen old school sign, a burned down complex whats left of a motel and some trucks.   I think the far end of the ranch is a strip club.   You could tell this place had a heyday at some point:  There’s some ghosts here, and I wanted to know it’s story…

The Story of the Longhorn Ranch New Mexico Route 66
The Longhorn Ranch.    This place was an icon back back in a the day, and a major stop along Route 66.

7 miles east of Moriarty, the Longhorn is a bit out of place:   it appears to be a motel, and out in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico.   Other than that, there’s not much left.   What happened?

But there’s a story here:   the more I dug into it, the more it made sense and was a story I could relate to.

William Ehret was a patrolman in Lincoln County New Mexico in the late 1930s, and soon became a state Police Captain.     Known by Bill to his friends; he was looking for something different.   Being a policeman is exciting, but it also means time away from your family, long days on the road a ruthless boredom at times.    Bill had a whole state to cover, but mainly patrolled a town a whole county of several cities, all with a whopping population of the time of about 14,000 people in a county of almost 5,000 square miles.

But there appeared to be opportunity ahead, and Mr. Ehret saw that.   Bill saw that people were starting to travel west toward California, and Californians had the chance to Travel east.    Route 66 had just changed it’s alignment from heading north into Santa Fe only 2 years ago, to cutting right across the center of the state  More and more people were driving Route 66.    Bill saw an opportunity, and a chance to try something new, which appealed to him.   Just 80 miles north of Lincoln County, there was opportunity.

Bill Acquired a good sized piece of land, and at the age of 38 he started building this Longhorn Ranch with his 20 year old son.  It was the golden age of travel, and America was just starting to stretch it’s legs.   Captain Ehret was going to be part of that.   He went to work and started building the Longhorn Ranch.

It started out as a 10 stool cafe, with a single counter and a curio shop.     It expanded to include a gas station to invite even more travelers from the mother road.

The Longhorn Ranch Route 66 New Mexico 1940s
The Longhorn Ranch Route 66 New Mexico 1940s.    Bill put out his shingle, and people started stopping for gas, food and whatever else he could get into his store.

He started collecting taxidermy and western regalia (some historic) from all over the west and the enterprise soon included a garage, Museum and a 15 room Hotel.    It eventually included a cowboy town, Indian dancers and Stagecoach rides.    It became a main attraction on route 66, with the motto “where the west still lives.”

1940s postcard from the Longhorn Ranch
1940s postcard from the Longhorn Ranch
“welcome, light and set a bit”

Bill saw his son who helped him build the place get married here in 1955, 15 years after they’d built it together.   He was 53 years old, and like all pioneers he was looking to the next adventure.  He’d conquered this portion of route 66, and had his eye toward other dreams.    He sold the land within that year and went on to the next challenge.

But the Longhorn Lived on, under new management, with the same flair it had before.      It had grown in reputation, and was one of the Largest and most vibrant tourist attractions along Route 66.

Stagecoach Rides? I’d have been all over this when I was a kid….

Bill Died in 1972 at the age of 70.    He was an active Methodist, had several grandchildren and was an active and beloved member of his community.   His son died in 2015.

The longhorn continued to thrive until the 70s, when interest in cowboy towns waned, cars could make it to Albuquerque without stopping, and Captain Bills little spot on route 66 got Bypassed by the interstate.    There’s not much here now, just a few hundred yards off the highway.   Most of it is burned down, but the memory remains of a man who helped build on the Legend of all the things we love about route 66.  It’s people like Bill who made route 66 what it was (and is), living the American Dream and putting their shingle out to make something happen.

Stop by when you’re in the area.   It’s still a bitchen little stop along route 66.

Much Respect.

16 thoughts on “The story of the Longhorn Ranch on New Mexico Route 66”

  1. Thanks for the nice road report. I’ve been thru there and missed the Longhorn. Next time I’ll be on the lookout..

  2. I came across you blog while doing some researching some old photos that were given to me after my grandfather passed last year. these are OLD OLD, frail black and whites, of a man on a stagecoach,with a faint glimpse of a building behind–being able to really only make out “Longhorn Ranch” I decided to google and came to your site. With your help I was able to piece together what this was! I cannot even find pictures such as the one I have on google either! based on what I can only guess its the real photo of what the old linen postcards painted it to be. Oklahoma native and very familiar with Route 66 this just so cool. Thanks!

  3. Ashley, I’d love to see those Photos. I’d keep them offline if you didn’t want them public, I’d just love to learn more about this place —- Is that a possibility? Email mrzip66@gmail.com

  4. I am the last resident here at Longhorn Ranch. I ‘ve lived here for 8 years and used to cook the food for the restaurant and bar. Unfortunately , both closed down in 2017 and a fire devastated the motel a year earlier.
    People stop almost everyday to photograph the motel sign outside the house which was once the motel office.
    Thanks for your post. It’s nice to know people still take interest in places like this.

    1. Hey Lisa, rock the hell on, and thanks for the post. I think the key to our future a lot of times, resides in our past. If you have any pictures of the old place, I’d love to see them. mrzip66@gmail.com Thanks for chiming in ma’am!

    2. Lisa, we just stopped, wondered if someone lived there and indeed took pictures. Doing Route 66 and having a blast. I’m from Fargo, ND

  5. I also came across this blog because I just had my grampa’s slides transferred to digital format and found a pic of gramma in front of a hotel in the middle of nowhere so I googled it! Very cool story thanks for the background info

  6. I came across a yard sale in Corrales N.M. held by the grandchildren of Bill. ( and bill’s son’s wife). turns out they were selling tons of stuff. but one thing caught my eye it was a very old large Indian drum. the older lady informed me that her husband had just passed away ( Bill’s son ) and it came out of the old Longhorn trading post. needless to say I purchased it for it’s history. As I spoke with them further it turns out he was a doctor and had passed away and they were moving out of the house in Corrales. Unfortunately I knew nothing of the history of the longhorn. or I would have asked more questions.

    1. Grew up in Edgewood where my family had the 101 Gift Shop and Trading Post until we were bypassed by I-40. Really dug your story on Longhorn as we went there many times during this time and later in the 70’s when we had a gas station in Moriarty. Got my kicks growing up on Rt 66! Thanks Cary Humphrey

  7. I recently had old reel to reel film converted to DVD and I have footage of my brother and me as kids at the Longhorn Ranch riding the stagecoach and the Indian dancers on a stage. It truly is in the middle of nowhere! Our family would have been en route from Fort Worth to Albuquerque. Probably mid 50’s. So glad you put this info on the web so I could google it!

  8. Lived there some 50 years ago. Rememberin mom and dad running the restaurant. Remember bad storm came thru and lightning hitting the stage coach and blew a hole in the bar’s roof. Still have fond memories of the place.

  9. Just got some home movies after my parents passed. I was selected as the keeper of the slides and 8mm movies. Just had them converted because I had no way to view them.I thought the stage coach was from tombstone but my Mom made a note on the film box the Longhorn Ranch. I found your site. Thank you so much. I will be looking this up when we make our trip up Route 66.

  10. I purchased a unique round turned wood bank from an antique store in Ohio, stamped Longhorn Ranch New Mexico. Curiosity had me google name, whereupon I found this fascinating history.

    Having visited New Mexico during a road trip, including parts of Rt 66. I spotted many forgotten towns.

    John

  11. In 1984, my father dug a water well for the El Vaquero Restaurant, which at the time was owned by a guy named Merv Gemmer, along with the motel and the remains of the Longhorn Ranch, which was pretty much rubble by then.

    That was a long time ago, obviously, but the restaurant/truck stop was actually quite popular. A lot of the knowledgeable truckers would stop there rather than the much larger Rip Griffin’s in Moriarty. Merv made some of the best enchiladas I’ve ever had (a daily meal for Dad and me while the well was being dug).

    That, by the way, was an incredibly arduous job. As I recall, Dad had to make several runs at it before he got a good strike. The big byproduct was a long-term friendship with Merv, one that continues to this day. They’re a couple of old, resilient men.

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