The Guadalupe River Ranch Resort & Spa
A Place to Lose Yourself and Find Yourself at the Same Time!
By Leonora Volpe
That is how I felt while taking my short visits to the Guadalupe River Ranch Resort & Spa. I hadn't realized there was a resort so close to San Antonio. I found them surfing the web one night. I had been seeking a quiet, classy, yet laid back resort that would allow me to get away without being FAR AWAY. Maybe it could possibly have beautiful country views and HORSES TOO! Was I asking too much? Since it was a quick ride over (about 30 minutes from De Zavala at IH 10) I ventured out to explore my new finding. As I drove up to the entrance through cattle guards I obeyed the speed limit and started to look around. I felt I had entered a different world. Sheep, goat, cattle and horses all having their freedom and natural habitat. As I got closer to the ranch I saw The Quail Canyon Spa on the left and to the right were horses, horses, horses. I stopped at the information desk to ask for a tour. They handed me a key to a cottage to view and a map and encouraged me to look around. To my surprise they had no TVs in the rooms. What a delight. I was greeted by a group of people walking around with various items for a scavenger hunt. They said their company invited them to the ranch for a retreat. They were having a blast. It was about lunchtime and I could smell the food. The restaurant was very inviting so I walked in. There is a fireplace, a couch to lounge on, an outdoor buffet and a beautiful dining room.

The ranch has its longhorns and horses along with a variety of small animals for the children to visit. You have a lot to choose from like horseback riding (lessons in English, western or trail riding), canoeing, mountain biking, tennis, exercise, go to the sport court or try their rope challenge course. I saw Tanji Patton do the course on TV a few years ago. Maybe you would just relax on a hammock or swing. While I relaxed on my swing I took in the sweeping view of the rolling hills and really didn't want to leave. Since no one bothered me I lingered and relaxed. The Guadalupe River was right below me. I saw people going down to the river with fishing pole in hand and I saw some fishing at a pond on the drive in. There was no doubt in my mind I would be back, especially to visit the horses. I have my own horse and wanted to bring him with me the next time. I was also intrigued by my new discovery and wanted to learn as much as I could about the ranch.

Here is the story of the ranch.

Researching its conception I found out that this was once the home of Olivia de Havilland who starred in the movie "Gone With The Wind".

The ranch is a total of 376 acres. After Olivia de Havilland sold the ranch because a rock hit her big black Packard it became a turkey ranch. Anther owner built the cut stone cottages in order to turn the ranch into what is euphemistically called a "chicken ranch" with girls and gambling, but was soon closed down.

After many years of this beautiful acreage unused, loaded with judgments, along with so many problems no one would venture to purchase it. In 1977 a fifth generation Texan named Walter Starcke stumbled onto the ranch while looking to purchase 5 acres of land on the Guadalupe. The ranch was in a state of total disrepair, broken windows, collapsed septic systems and weeds in the driveway. Having started the Old Restoration Society in Key West, his appetite for restoring old buildings hooked him again and he couldn't resist the challenge of bringing the ranch back to it's former glory to what Texas Highways Magazine calls the "Grand Dame of the Hill Country". Starcke's original intent was to create an artists community because only artists with vivid imaginations could see the possibilities of the ranch. As an income source for the art community, Starcke set up Guadalupe Hand Print Fabrics and Eron Howell who is still a member of the management team, became his partner to run the company and design the fabrics. However the ranch was too big and demanding for the project to work. That is when he decided to turn it into a retreat. A place where you could relax, be safe and free from distractions of the city. Without any promotions and only by word of mouth, over the next few years the ranch became successful and busy enough to warrant and afford experienced chefs and professional help.

The beauty of nature, attractive accommodations, good food and a caring staff is what I found the ranch to be. I also was fascinated with the beautiful collection of horses and horse paintings. I asked who might be the artist and found it to be one of the owners Eron Howell. She was the original designer of the fabrics and is now displaying her art. The passion in the paintings and the passion for her horses drew me back to the ranch for another visit. I had the pleasure of meeting Eron and my daughter fell in love with her dog Alex, a beautiful black and white King Charles Spaniel. I asked her if sometime in the near future I could bring my horse on a retreat with me. She had never considered that but started thinking it could be a possibility. I thought if I was to have a massage so should my horse. In fact she has a woman that gives horse massage on occasion to her horses. She treats all her horses as if they were her children. Well for all those who need a little rest and relaxation there is a full spa at the ranch. Something my daughter and I took advantage of right away. We had a "Mommy Daughter day" with lunch in cozy sunlit garden room. It was the most natural setting for the day. They didn't have to hide the noise or create a mood "it was already there". Hopefully soon we may be able to have a horse and owner vacation that both will benefit from. Imagine you and your horse with a beautiful change of scenery walking the trails on the Guadalupe and then having a therapeutic massage. I guess I'll have to check back with Eron on the possibilities. It is definitely worth the trip to check it out. If you have visitors from out of state and they don't want to travel far to see Texas, send them to the Guadalupe Ranch. It's a Get Away But Not Far Away. It's a great place to share your passion of horses with friends and relatives on very calm horses. Need a meeting and want to make an impression? Call ahead for lunch or possibly utilize one of their large meeting rooms. Pamper your business associates at the full service spa or maybe just you and your spouse. Take the kids and you don't have to worry. They have lots of fun and games for all the ages. To sum it up I am glad I found a place close to town yet appealing to all my senses. Especially the HORSE SENSE!

If you want to take a tour just call them and say Leonora sent you! 1-800-460-2005 for information or reservations. Watch for Eron Howells artwork featured under our Equine Artist section.

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