Mar 5, 2024 - News

Scoop: Company tied to Walmart heirs buys dude ranch near Buffalo National River

A photo of people riding horses overlooking a lush valley with cabins in the distance.

Horseshoe Canyon Ranch. Photo: Courtesy of Arkansas State Parks

A company with ties to Walmart heirs Steuart and Tom Walton purchased Horseshoe Canyon Ranch in Jasper, near the Buffalo National River.

  • Land records show a limited liability company with an address the same as the brothers' Runway Group holding company paid $3.53 million on January 8 for 630 acres and nearly a dozen buildings.

Why it matters: Anxiety shot through Buffalo River communities when it became widely known the Runway Group polled residents about their opinions on a possible change of its status to a national park and preserve.

About 1,200 people attended a town hall meeting in October to oppose the change even though there's been no official proposal.

Behind the scenes: Runway wouldn't confirm the purchase, the price or the acreage but said Ropeswing, its hospitality arm, recently became the ranch's management company.

  • A receptionist that answered the ranch's phone on Tuesday told Axios that former owners Barry and Amy Johnson had sold the property.

Catch up quick: Despite lack of a proposal on the river's status, fears were exacerbated when the Madison County Record reported that another LLC tied to the Walton family purchased land at the headwaters of the Buffalo, south of Kingston.

State of play: Horseshoe Canyon Ranch offers rock climbing, hiking, zip lining, archery, horseback riding and floats on the Buffalo National River.

  • The site will be the second stop on the six-day Arkansas Graveler bike ride across the state.
  • Buildings in the purchase include a hay barn, an office and several guest cabins.

Flashback: The Madison County Record first reported rumors the Waltons would possibly purchase Horseshoe Canyon Ranch were circulating in rural communities around the river.

What they're saying: "The local team who has made it a welcoming adventure destination over the last 14 years will continue to run operations," Emmanuel Gardinier, who heads Ropeswing operations, said in an email.

What's next: The new owners will host an open house for local residents soon, Gardinier said.

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