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Silvies Valley Ranch


Article by Lynette Standley

Photography by Lynette Standley + Provided

My husband and I are both products of the West. Born in Moscow, Idaho, to be specific. He grew up fishing and spending time outdoors. I did the same, riding horses and going camping.

We decided on a ranch-resort experience in eastern Oregon, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. We hit the road through Highway 20 with high desert sage, juniper-covered hills and winding canyons until heading north on Highway 395. Our destination, nestled in the ponderosa pines, is a combination of the Old West, Scottish Highlands, and luxury living. The route was less than four hours, and it shortens to three with the Drewsy shortcut in the summer. There’s also a landing strip for small planes.

Silvies Valley

Golfers have known about this place for four years. Cowboys have known about it for decades. Seventy-one families homesteaded here over 200 years ago. Local veterinarian Scott Campbell acquired the 140,000-acre ranch in 2007. The Campbell family grew up just south of the valley in Burns. Brothers Scott and Jeff enjoyed successful careers as veterinarian and researcher, respectively, but Scott had a vision years ago of adding economic stability to his home county while reclaiming the riparian and grazing areas that had long been mistreated and forgotten. What has been a cattle operation for 150 years has evolved to also provide guests with a luxury ranch stay.

The scale and serenity of the land is breathtaking in its scope and beauty. Wild elk and antelope roam the native grasslands; we watched hawks, eagles, and migrating sandhill cranes heading back to Canada for the summer. Silvies River meanders through mountain meadows, filled with lush willows and native red-band trout, perfect for fly-fishing. Wildlife from black bear to bobcats roam this valley. During kidding season, newborn goats arrive around the clock.

The Campbell family reestablished the working ranch that now raises organic beef and goat. Both are staples in the Lodge for guests; in fact, most of what is served comes from the ranch. Herds of cows and goats are moved through the 150,000-acre ranch in an eco-friendly manner. In 2017 they added the resort with fly-fishing, target shooting, flights of Scotch before 7-course meals, and a rare reversible links-style golf course – only the second in the world behind the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland. Two 18-hole overlapping courses share fairways and greens, played in reverse on opposite days. There’s also the Chief Egan course and the challenging Gauntlet, seven holes in a rugged and hilly landscape. Goats trained as caddies wear specially designed bags they wear on a harness. “While a golfer may scramble to get to the green or traverse a ridgeline fairway,” says Campbell, “the goats are totally in their element.”

We arrived in time for lunch and ordered from their seasonal menu. Patrick jumped right into a ranch specialty with the pulled chevon (goat meat) sandwich. “It’s rich and tender, maybe a little like wild game,” he said after tasting it for the first time. They forage on the same thing as elk and deer, so that makes sense. Turns out chevon is the No. 1 protein in the rest of the world – lean, rich and plentiful. 

After lunch we unpacked in our luxury king-room cabin. It was spacious, beautifully appointed and had a spectacular valley view. Patrick propped up his feet and turned on the enormous TV to watch golf. But not for long – we had massage appointments in the spa. Exploring this new addition to the ranch in our robes and slippers, you wouldn’t know you’re on the rustic Oregon frontier with this kind of luxury. We found the fitness room, Olympic pool and sundeck before settling in the Quiet Room with wine and a fireplace to relax before our turn on the tables.

“That was one of the best deep tissue massages ever,” said Patrick afterward, adding that it included hot stones and hot towels to melt away any lingering stress. He followed his massage with a soak in the jacuzzi and the Finnish steam sauna.

How do you top that? You keep the party going with a Scotch tasting! We decided to squeeze that in before Cocktail Hour. Bartender-brewer-baker Jeff Campbell brought the Scotch to life. Who knew there could be so many “flavors'' from around that small island country? From the Highlands to the islands to inland rye fields, our taste buds were introduced to everything from medicinal phenol to brine or florals. Jeff shared entertaining stories and a deep knowledge of the spirit, and we reminisced about scenes of “Scotch setups'' in old black and white sitcoms.

For dinner that night, we enjoyed the daily seven-course pre-set menu. There was Jeff again! He explained the wine pairing he’d selected and began the courses: we started with chevon-loin medallions followed by a refreshing amuse-bouche. We enjoyed potato-leek soup and a spring mix salad. The superb main course was a reflection of the ranch: beef brisket sliced thin over a bed of tomato-caper pasta.

Patrick is an avid golfer and was anxious to explore the courses Saturday morning. In July 2017 the unique reversible links-style golf course was added to the resort. The course offers an uncommon parallel between traditional Scottish links and today’s world-class experience. The McVeigh family homesteaded here in the mid-1800s and brought with them their Scottish love for “target golf" and spirits. They farmed rye and herded goats throughout the valley. They would hit golf balls toward targets on their way out in the morning, and again on the way back home. That tradition continues today with the reversible design. Patrick already has a return trip scheduled to play the high-desert course, designed by Dan Hixson. (Also on our return to-do list are the Razor tours, and riding horseback with a ranger to share the cowboy experience and highlight the ranch’s environmental success.)

The next day we headed to the shooting range. Naturally Patrick and I were going to compete. Shooting a throwback Colt single-action and double-action revolver was a new experience for both of us. Two guns and a bucket of ammo kept us easily amused as we fired at near-range targets that spin or flip with each connection. I decided to let him win, but I’ll get a chance to redeem myself. Silvies’ summer range has an expanded offering: a larger footprint for rifles, black powder, and heavier caliber revolvers.

While this is a perfect weekend getaway, you can’t help but want to be a permanent part of it. Next in their evolution in the valley, Silvies Ranch is offering just that. The option of purchasing a year-round luxury home on the property is a new chapter in the ranch’s long history. I must admit, we envisioned ourselves sitting on our own deck, overlooking the ranch. Throw in golf, goats, spa and Scotch and my husband was hooked, just like those trout in Silvies River.