Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Kinsley Ranch Resort

One word said it all: Kinsleys--the biggest, most interesting and downright irresistible roadside attraction on US 89 from Mexico to Canada. Over 30 years, Otho Kinsley created a mini-western-theme-park at Arivaca Junction.  Kinsley had a restaurant, bar, dance hall, rodeo arena, service station, air strip, swimming pool, lake, cotton farm and even a jail guarded by African lions.  Tucsonians, tourists and local folks flocked to Kinsleys for food, fun and festivities.
When he wasn't playing with his lions or managing his personal empire, Otho Kinsley was a widely known water witch and well driller.  If his well drilling business was slow, Kinsley prowled ranches far and wide looking for every outlaw horse he could find.  If they don't buck, bite, kick, and sail over 10-foot fences, they're weren't worth a plug nickel in Kinsley's book. Rodeo promoters in Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona knew Kinsley's wild horses and meaner-than-mean bulls could put on a show.
Unlike tourist attractions along Route 66 and other major American highways, Kinsleys Ranch Resort didn't need advertising or billboards placed miles in advance.  Kinsleys sold itself by word of mouth and whenever word got around about a rodeo people poured in from all over, as the 1957 Arizona Highway aerial photo above shows. Kinsleys began in 1930 and sold in 1961.
Of Kinsley Ranch Resort's many features, the lake was probably the most surprising.  Big enough for power boats, the lake proved very popular for canoeing and even feeding the local geese.  A large well pumped groundwater into a swimming pool, which overflowed into the lake which in turn overflowed to irrigate the Kinsley Ranch Resort cotton fields.
The above 12/30/2017 photo shows Kinsley Ranch Resort lake dry and filled with weeds.
Looking southwest across the former Kinsley Ranch Resort lake toward Kinsley's long famous Cow Palace Restaurant, it's hard to imagine the lake's motor boat hey day.
Now a local legend, the Cow Palace Restaurant is all that's left of the once sprawling Kinsley Ranch Resort.  After a multi-year, merry-go-round of owners, Cow Palace is once again popular today and  appears to be stable and well managed. For many fine photos of Cow Palace taken 12/30/2017, see:
Here's another view of the now dry Kinsley Ranch Resort lake looking toward the defunct Longhorn Grill.  The two pipes at right carried the lake's overflow into the furrows of the Kinsley ranch Resort cotton farm. For additional photos of the area see:
Perhaps someone thought a location across the road from the popular Cow Palace would be a good place to build another large restaurant.  As of 12/30/2017, the Longhorn Grill was closed and for sale.
For more photos of the Longhorn Grill exterior, see:
The Google Map screen clip above shows the "lay of the land" today.  May #1 is Old US 89; #2 is the Kinsley Ranch Rodeo arena; #3 is Arivaca Road; #4 is Cow Palace; #5 is the lake (now dry); #6 is Longhorn Grill and #7 is Exit 48 of I-19.  The dance hall was located just south of the rodeo arena (#2).  Kinsleys Ranch Resort did not offer formal overnight accommodations.
Above is the wider aerial view (looking south) that appeared in the March 1957 issue of Arizona Highways magazine.  Kinsleys was located on the very far south edge of Pima County.  In fact, the Santa Cruz/Pima County line is marked by the fence that lies just to the very south edge of the lake in this photo.

Credits & Sources:

All modern "now" photos were recorded on December 30, 2017 by US 89 Team Charter Member John D. Grahame.  Grahame also recorded the photo of Otho Kinsley and the lion as it appears hanging on a wall inside the Cow Palace restaurant. To view all of Grahame's photos visit:

The aerial photo is credited to "Western Ways" and is from the March 1957 issue of Arizona Highways magazine.

The Kinsley Ranch Rodeo arena photo at the top of this article is located here:  Photographer and date are unknown.

The photo of the old cars and power boat at Kinsley Ranch Resort lake is from the Tucson Citizen/Arizona Daily Star.  Photographer and date are not listed.  Source:

Information for the narratives below each photo came from a variety of sources, primarily including:


This blog and the other online resource of The US 89 Team may contain copyrighted material, the use of which may not always have been specifically Authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available for educational purposes, and as such this constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Act. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed an interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

No comments:

Post a Comment