Settling the West

Published on May 25, 2022

The 70 Ranch - Colorado and the West

When she took on a project detailing the history of the 70 Ranch — a 14,000-acre ranch near Kersey, Colorado — author Dana EchoHawk was unsure of what to expect.  Through her research and in meeting and talking with the many people who lived and worked on the ranch, an important story evolved, and it’s one that is crucial to better understanding how Colorado and Weld County developed.

“I think [the book] exemplifies the history of Colorado as it relates to agriculture and ranching,” Echohawk said. “Each decade of history that occurred since the ranch was founded had stories within it that were common and told the story of not only but was happening in Colorado but in other western states.”

“The 70 Ranch: Colorado & the West” profiles one of Colorado’s most unique and perhaps unknown ranches. Beginning her journey in 1870 and chronicling the ranch through 2015, EchoHawk explains through short and informative chapters how the ranch along the South Platte River was developed through a series of different owners and families, each with their own personalities and advancements, some of which are still impacting Colorado to this day.  While she’s written about and researched many different aspects of Colorado history, learning about the accomplishments of each owner was surprising and something she didn’t expect when she started writing the book.

“What I recognized that surprised me was that many of those owners were connected in very important ways to the rest of Colorado,” she said. “[One owner] Frank Benton, he was involved in the first committee that started the National Western Stock Show.”

Aside from the book’s focus on history, it also profiles the towns of Hardin, Orr, and Kuner — each of which show  another side to the ranch. In informative chapters full of first-hand accounts of life on the ranch, EchoHawk shows how it not only impacted Weld County, and Colorado, but was a big part of many people’s individual lives as well. While she enjoyed examining the history of the ranch and learning through the writing process, she said the most rewarding aspect of writing the book was the conversation, input and enthusiasm received from people eager to contribute.

“The people and their stories,” EchoHawk said when asked about her favorite part of the writing process. “Once the word got out that I was doing the book the phone calls and the support and the visits were just tremendous. The people are so tied to their own history.”

To bring readers forward to today’s 70 Ranch, EchoHawk also spends time in the book’s later chapters discussing the impact of oil and gas and various other environmental issues.

Aside from being an author, EchoHawk is an affiliate faculty member teaching history at Metropolitan State University. She’s worked on various resource guides dealing with mining history in Colorado and spent time working in southwest Colorado, detailing the history of the San Luis Valley.

Although unsure of what to expect when she first began working on the history of the 70 Ranch, she said the research differed greatly from her work in southern Colorado and spoke to the diversity of the state overall.

“A lot of what was happening in the northern part of Colorado was surprising to me when I started this research,” she said. “Totally different cultures.”

More information about Dana EchoHawk and her work can be found on her website at

Review of The 70 Ranch: Colorado and the West

Whether a longtime resident of Weld County or new to the area, you know Weld County is built on agriculture. 

“The 70 Ranch: Colorado & the West” by Dana EchoHawk provides an in-depth history of one of Colorado’s most unique and perhaps unknown ranches that has contributed largely to the development of agriculture in West. Understanding the challenges faced by early settlers as well as  their ingenuity and drive to survive goes a long way in better understanding the make-up of present-day Weld County.

Still in operation today, the 70 Ranch, located near Kersey, Colorado, along the South Platte River, has an interesting history. EchoHawk’s book begins by explaining the different Native American tribes who settled on the land before it was the 70 Ranch and before the arrival of trappers following the Homestead Act of 1862. Upon their arrival, settlers had difficulty learning how to adapt to the barren land, referred to by early explorers as “the Great American Desert.” Reading through the struggles, readers can learn how irrigation was developed, and how the land was later considered as a prime grazing opportunity for cattle, sheep and eventually hogs.

Learning what to do with the land was just one of the challenges for early settlers and owners of the 70 Ranch, as they were also exposed to the elements of living on the land in the “Old West.”  Early in the book, readers are told stories about adventurous cattle roundups, cattle rustling and cowboy posses. Additionally, early owners had to find ways to protect the ranch and livestock. For example, in the late 1800’s, owner George Peasley, to eliminate the problem of wild wolves and coyotes eating livestock, organized a wolf-hunt which intrigued sportsmen throughout the country as well as local media. This is just one example of early challenges owners of the 70 Ranch had to deal with, but readers can find many more interesting stories tucked away in short and informative chapters.

Profiling ranch history from 1870 through 2015, EchoHawk not only provides intimate characteristics of the ranch’s many owners but also provides detailed histories of the towns that were brought to life along the ranch, thanks in large part to advancements that brought the railroad to the area. Chapters five, six, and seven profile the towns of Hardin, Orr — now Kersey — and Kuner and include quotes and information from people who lived in the towns and participated on the ranch.

The ranch has also seen its time in the limelight. In the 1970s, it served as the set for the NBC television mini-series “Centennial," based off author James Michener’s novel about the area. Most recently, former Colorado Rockies first baseman Todd Helton purchased a part of the 70 Ranch and named it the 17 Ranch — after his jersey number for the Rockies.

The book also touches on more recent history and somewhat controversial topics such as the operation of a hog farm from 1988 to 2000. Additionally, the ranch’s exploration into oil and gas drilling, and numerous water rights issues are also highlighted.

EchoHawk’s book focused on the history of one of Weld County’s most significant ranches, provides unique insight on how developments in both benefitted the county and the state of Colorado.  Full of interesting historical stories and engaging insight from those who’ve lived or worked on the ranch, “The 70 Ranch: Colorado & the West” is a read that will deepen understanding of the challenges of settlers owners and their families and explore how their advancements positively impacted Weld County and Colorado.

More information about the 70 Ranch can be found by visiting